MNJHL

Minnesota Junior Hockey League: A new champion arises in Marquette

Minnesota Junior Hockey League: A new champion arises in Marquette

By Jon Volker

It was an off-season of uncertainty heading into the 2013-2014 season for the Marquette Royales.

Minnesota Junior Hockey League,MNJHL,Dells Ducks,Bill Zaniboni,USA Junior HockeyIt was unknown to the Royales what league they would call home.  Finally, on June 10, the Minnesota Junior Hockey League announced a new member. The Marquette Royales would replace the Chicago Bulldogs in the Great Lakes Division and bring the league to 16 teams once again.

Fast forward to April 2014 and the Royales have quickly become one of the top destinations in the Minnesota Junior Hockey League, winning the Busch Cup in their first year in the league.

They are set to play in the Tier-3 Junior Hockey National Championships from April 3-7 in Simsbury, Conn. Minnesota Junior Hockey League,MNJHL,Marquette Royales,USA Junior Hockey

“I think the biggest surprise was how evenly matched the teams, especially the top five to six, were in each division,” said assistant coach Cliff Cook. “Also, coming from a very physical Western States Hockey League the last three seasons, the MNJHL was more of a skill league, so our physical style surprised some people.”

After just one season, Cook and Royales head coach Mike Stanaway have catapulted the Royales into the forefront of Tier-3 junior hockey. The Royales rank 15th out of 145 teams in Tier-3 junior hockey according to myhockeyrankings.com. They also defeated the Dells Ducks in overtime to win the title game for the MNJHL.

“I’m not sure we were overly surprised, just based on the fact we knew the talent we had. Nearly half our roster had played for Mike Stanaway and I before, so we were confident in what the veterans would bring,” said Cook. “It was up to the new guys to buy in, and they have.”

“I’m not sure we can put into words what it means,” Cook added. “It’s obviously incredibly exciting for the organization, but what it’s meant for this hockey-mad town is huge.”

Marquette’s division at Nationals includes the Helena Bighorns (American West Hockey League champions), the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (Eastern Hockey League runners-up) and the Junior Bruins (USPHL Premier champions).

“By winning the MNJHL Bush Cup, we put ourselves into what I would say is the toughest division at Nationals,” said Cook. “Helena only lost one regulation game this year. Any top team coming out of the EHL is going to be good, so we know the Jr. Monarchs are strong. The Junior Bruins have proven they are, if not the best team in the country, one of the best. But you can’t predict results.”

The road to the National championship won’t be easy for Marquette, but they have already proven that they can beat the top teams in the nation with that win over the Dells Ducks.

“We will continue to play the style that got us here,” said Cook. “For better or worse, we stay with the philosophy that we’d rather have teams adjust to us rather than the other way around. Now, having said that, throughout a game or series we can tweak things as needed, but we have confidence in our talent and work ethic to put us in position to win each night.”

This season has already been a success for the Royales, but winning at Nationals would set themselves up with even more success in the seasons to come.

“Success is always a great recruiting tool, along with Coach Stanaway’s ability to get players into NCAA programs,” said Cook. “All 13 of our ’93’s are leaving Marquette with college offers. That says a lot.”

If you’re interested in joining the Marquette Royales for the 2014-15 season, the Royales will be hosting their second annual Open Tryout Camp on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., July 18-20. Go online to www.marquetteroyales.com to pre-register.

 

Read past Minnesota Junior Hockey League articles in our archives:

Our February 2014 cover feature, “It Starts Here.”

Wooster Oilers within striking distance of Great Lakes Division leaders

Dells Ducks standing tall at Thanksgiving

Wisconsin Rampage: Finding their way in a tough Great Lakes Division

Wisconsin Rampage: Finding their way in a tough Great Lakes Division

Although the Wisconsin Rampage’s struggles in the win column have continued, the players and coaching staff are liking the team first play on the ice.

“The players really have stepped up their game recently. We’re seeing more blocked shots, better defensive play in our zone, and all together a better attitude inside the locker room every game now,” said head coach Mark St. Martin II.

“The stats, and our record are misleading for this team. The team is learning by failing right now. I have no problem with that at all. We have a lot of young or inexperienced players, and it’s only failure if you fail to learn from your mistakes,” he added.

The Rampage were 6-22-0-3 and were unable to crack the win column in December. They were able to enjoy a three-game sweep of the St. Louis Frontenacs, defeating them 6-3, 6-5 and 7-4.

The Rampage gave the Illiana Blackbirds a run for their money with an extremely close contest of 6-4 on Nov. 16, which included an empty-net goal by Illiana.

“The boys really fed off the energy of the fans that game,” said assistant coach Mike Argyris. “We were away. It was their first rivalry game, and I am very proud of how they controlled themselves, and how they played.”

Despite the results on the scoreboard, the results have been there in terms of scouting and recruiting by colleges.

“One of the many positives to this season is the ability to move players to become student-athletes next year,” St. Martin added. “We have talked to multiple universities and colleges about our players, and are excited to be announcing commitments in the near future.”

Robert Kalata, a ’95 from Park Ridge, Ill., scored 10 points in seven December games to put him now at 22 points in 29 games. Griffin Mason (’95, Barrington, Ill.) has continued his great play, including a four-point game on Dec. 20, another 6-4 loss to Illiana.

Anthony Casaletto, a ’94 from McHenry, Ill., had a strong December with six points in seven games that month to give him the scoring lead at 32 points in 31 games.

Devin Panzeca, a ’97 from Lake Zurich, Ill., also had a seven-point in December for 22 points in 29 games overall.

Defenseman Mike Howard has continued his offensive play with 22 points in 29 games, including eight power play goals and six power play assists.

If you are interested in playing for the Wisconsin Rampage, please contact head coach Mark St. Martin II at 262-498-7974 or markstmartin89@yahoo.com or general manager Jim Pfaffinger at 815-355-1713 and rampagegm@comcast.net.

 

Read a past article on the Rampage in our archives:

Defensemen, goaltenders a mainly new crew

 

Tri City IceHawks: In the middle of a fierce Great Lakes Division battle

Tri City IceHawks: In the middle of a fierce Great Lakes Division battle

The middle of the Great Lakes Division of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League was a menacing wilderness with three points separating four teams between third and sixth.

The Tri City IceHawks got into the heart of this battle by winning seven of their last eight games between Nov. 23 and Dec. 15.

The IceHawks went 8-9-3 from the start of the season to Nov. 22, so their late November through December run was certainly a turnaround.

“I think we held our own through the first half of the season,” said head coach George Daniel. “I am not ready to say we are ahead of expectations, because I believe we let some points get away from us. A team goal we have is to have home ice for the playoffs and we are still a point or two away from reaching that goal.”

Daniel came to the IceHawks this year following a stint as assistant coach for the major junior Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit. He brings a lot of the ideas of preparation at that level to the IceHawks.

“Preparing yourself as an individual to play junior hockey has been one of the issues I have really focused on this year,” said Daniel. “Being in the OHL, you are around high-end athletes who you teach what to do away from the rink to prepare for hockey as a career and, although that may or may not happen for our players, you have to believe in that same approach.”

With his contacts from his time coaching with the Compuware Midget team, he has been able to talk up his players with NCAA and North American Hockey League coaches.

Josh Blum leads the team with 41 points, and Zachary Bourcier is right behind him at 40 points. Blum’s 41 points was good for 10th in Great Lakes Division scoring.

“Josh is one of those guys that has a nose for the net, that uncanny ability to score on different shots as well as from anywhere in the zone,” said Daniel.

“We really have been led up front by Blum, Bourcier, Joe Hawkins, Josh Colleaux and Ryan Murray,” Daniel added. “On defense, Dylan Borowski and Nick Pines have been our backbone for most of the season, both quarterbacking power play units, and killing penalties.”

Nicholas Allen was the Great Lakes Division Goaltender of the Month in October. Harley White won his last three starts, as well.

Minnesota Junior Hockey League: Wooster Oilers within striking distance of Great Lakes Division leaders

Minnesota Junior Hockey League: Wooster Oilers within striking distance of Great Lakes Division leaders

By Troy Bennett

The team from Ohio’s heartland is keeping pace right behind the leaders in the Great Lakes Division of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League.

Despite losing nine of their last 13, the Wooster Oilers are still above .500 hockey and are within view of division leaders Marquette, Illiana and Central Wisconsin.

Before the skies of November turned gloomy, the Oilers were serving notice in the division with a 12-7 record.

Head coach Valentino Hernandez says that “hard work combined with consistent execution of team strategy” were important components contributing to the solid start.

December finds the team on the flip side of the impressive record that they enjoyed at the beginning of the season. The bumpy ride the last few weeks saw the Oilers on the road playing nine of their last 12 away from the friendly confines of Alice Noble Ice arena.

It’s safe to say that the Oilers are looking forward to putting the last few games behind them and focus on the beginning of the second half of the season.

Having only seven returning players from last year’s squad, the Oilers coach states that the attention will be on the basics as the team moves forward.

Minnesota Junior Hockey League,MNJHL,Wooster Oilers,Valentino Hernandez,USA Junior Hockey“As long as we keep it simple, we will finish strong the remainder of the season as our returning players and first year players are making steady progress this season,” said Hernandez.

Helping the Oilers return to their winning ways will be veterans Josh Eubank (35 points), Kyle Hickman (30), Jimmy Jenkins (26) and Preston Mackert (18).

Assisting the vets with point production will be newcomers Dillon Kelsey (38 points), Remington Reynolds (32), Austin Graf (21 points), Rubin Chavarria (19), Henry Hunsaker (14) and Jake Greathouse (14).

The Oilers have enjoyed steady goaltending from Daniel Kemter (.882 save percentage) and Creighton Furber (.864).

Additionally, Jason Watts, Daniel Stenzel, Brian Grant, Bradley Sneed and Addison Collins will be called upon to continue their steady defensive play.

The Oilers enjoy a 66 percent win percentage while at home. A continued impressive home record could help the Oilers make their run at the top of the division as 12 of their last 15 games are on home ice.

The Oilers will face all of the teams (Marquette, Illiana, and Central Wisconsin) ahead of them in the Great Lakes Division before they close out the season.

 

Read past Minnesota Junior Hockey League articles in our archives:

Dells Ducks standing tall at Thanksgiving

Marquette Royales keep ripping through Great Lakes Division

MnJHL – Junior Hockey: Tenders, Drafts, Protected Lists and Standards

Minnesota Junior Hockey League: Dells Ducks standing tall at Thanksgiving

Minnesota Junior Hockey League: Dells Ducks standing tall at Thanksgiving

By Troy Bennett

Currently ranked fifth in the Junior Tier-3 national rankings, the Dells Ducks are making their mark in the Minnesota Division of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League.

The Ducks have an impressive 20-4 record and have won seven of their last nine games.

The Ducks have outscored their opponents 136-55 and have allowed the least goals of any team in the Minnesota Junior Hockey League.

The stingy goals against average is anchored by veteran netminder Rob Meadows.

Meadows has backstopped the Ducks for 17 games this season, has a 13-4 record and enjoys a .907 save percentage. In addition, rookie goaltender Mike Ambrose owns a 6-0 record with an .880 save percentage.

The work ethic and leadership starts with captain Jake Stima and assistant captains Joey Bower, Colin Cross and Layne Martin.

“[The record thus far] has been a statement to our players’ work ethic,” said head coach Bill Zaniboni. “The growth and development of these kids on and off the ice has been very exciting.”

ducks logo white back-1The Ducks’ home ice appears to be something of a good luck charm as they have won nine out of 10 homes games this season. Apparently, being on the road doesn’t bother the Ducks either as they have won 75 percent of the contests away from Poppy Waterman Arena.

Zaniboni is very pleased with the line of Ian Wood, Brady Hefner and Danny Roe. This line alone shares 77 points between them this season.

The impressive play of defensemen Jacob Stima, Bradley Hefner, Jeremy Szczurek and Mike Sullivan has been instrumental in the overall success of the team in the 2013-2014 campaign.

Zaniboni knows that the future success of the teams lies within.

His constant mantra “We can only control ourselves” couldn’t be more fitting. The coaching staff and team know that the rest of the league will be trying to knock the Ducks from their spot atop the Minnesota division.

The Ducks welcome the Steel County Blades for a three game series at home starting on Dec. 13. The Blades will no doubt be looking to avenge a 7-2 loss to the Ducks back on Nov. 2.

 

Read past Minnesota Junior Hockey League articles in our archives:

Marquette Royales keep ripping through Great Lakes Division