September was an introduction, a true trial by fire for the Northern Cyclones to the talent-rich National Collegiate Development Conference.
By Joshua Boyd
The fire singed them a bit, as they came out of September with just one win in their first seven NCDC games. They learned much from those introduction pages and wrote a whole new story in October, going 7-1.
“Things are going better. The team is coming together and the team is starting to evolve,” said head coach Bill Flanagan. “The players have a better understanding of what it takes to win in this league. We brought in a lot of inexperienced kids who had never played junior hockey before. Night in and night out, they’re getting to be more consistent. That extends off the ice – they understand what they have to do, how they need to take care of themselves, with what they’re eating.”
Goaltending has made a huge difference, especially ’97 Drennen Atherton, of Winter Haven, Fla.
He and Czech import Tomas Kardinal (’99) posted back-to-back shutouts to end the month against the New Jersey Rockets and Syracuse Stars, respectively.
Atherton entered November undefeated at 5-0 (he also played part of a sixth game), and he had a .960 save percentage.
“He’s been the mainstay and he has really solidified our goaltending,” said Flanagan. “He played for us as a 16U and 18U player. He left and wanted to pursue a Tier-2 opportunity, and then returned to us. It’s nice to have a homegrown player winning for you.
“He is a very cool and calm goaltender with no holes,” said Flanagan.
“He’s a very athletic kid who has been very solid for us. He has some [college] interest, and that will just continue to build as he plays well.”
Captain Sage Englund continues to lead in just about every way, including offensively. He had 12 points in the eight October games, putting him at 20 points in 15 overall games this year.
“He continues to be our most consistent player up front. He’s a terrific leader on and off the ice,” said Flanagan, of the ’97 from Scottsdale, Ariz. “The Division 1 schools are taking notice. He’ll be a good player [at the next level].”
November is even busier than October for the Cyclones, as they’ll jam 10 games into the first 19 days of the month before a 12-day break between game action.
Read past Northern Cyclones articles in our archives: