Rubber Hockey - February 2024

Page 1

Liv-ing it up with North Dakota

From Yorba Linda to Anchorage

The NAHL’s Kenai River Brown Bears have announced that forward Dylan Contreras has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey for the University of Alaska Anchorage. Contreras, 20, is playing his first season with the Brown Bears and third in the NAHL. The Yorba Linda native began his NAHL journey in the 2021-22 season with the Corpus Christi IceRays where he recorded 25 points in 55 games. Contreras returned for another year last season and increased his presence on the scoresheet, tallying 32 points (eight goals, 24 assists) in 56 games. “I am very honored and excited to announce my commitment to continue my education and play NCAA D-I college hockey at the University of Alaska Anchorage. I’d like to thank my family, teammates, and coaches for all of their support and help along the way,” said Contreras. Contreras joined the Brown Bears for the 2023-24 campaign


rado for the NAHL’s New Jersey Titans, EHL’s New Jersey Bears, and ACHA’s U.S. Naval Academy. Needless to say, Mikolajczyk is a very busy man. “We have a good bunch of players but a very small roster,” said Mikolajczyk of his CC team. “The program had been dormant for five seasons prior to the players bringing me in. There had been some coaching and

The NCHC has announced that its Rookie of the Month is North Dakota defenseman Jake Livanavage. Livanavage tied for the NCHC lead among defensemen scoring in January with eight points in eight games, while tying for second among rookie scoring. He dished out seven assists during the month, which tied for fourth among all NCHC skaters, while chipping in one goal from the blue line. Livanavage posted a plus-6 plus/minus in January, tying for fifth in the NCHC, while not committing a single penalty all month. The Gilbert native recorded points in six of eight games during the first month of 2024 to help UND to a 6-1-1 record. He dished out an assist each night in a sweep of Alaska to start January. Two weeks later, he recorded a three-point weekend in a win and tie at St. Cloud State. Livanavage tallied two assists in the series-opening win on Jan. 19, while he scored a game-tying



Chris Mikolajczyk is currently in his second season coaching Colorado College’s ACHA team. Photo/Michelle Mikolajczyk

Helping grow the game in Colorado

BY MATT MACKINDER COLORADO HOCKEY HUB Chris Mikolajczyk is originally from New Jersey, but moved to Colorado four years ago and has been serving in a number of hockey roles since then. Mikolajczyk is in his second season as head coach for Colorado College’s ACHA team after previously coaching two seasons at Doherty High School. He also scouts in Colo-






Rampage alum Rakosky banking on time with NCDC’s Jr. Rangers leading to future college hockey opportunity BY MATT MACKINDER COLORADO HOCKEY HUB Seth Rakosky was born in Oklahoma but after moving to Colorado in 2016, saw his game take an upward turn with the Colorado Rampage. He’s now in his second season playing junior hockey after spending the 2022-23 season with the NAHL’s Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks and the majority of this season with the NCDC’s Connecticut Jr. Rangers. “I was drafted in 2021 by CJR and Danbury in the NAHL,” Rakosky said. “I played last season and started this season in the NA at Danbury. While at Danbury, CJR always kept in touch so when I left Danbury, I felt it was the best place for me to go play. I wanted to go somewhere where they wanted me, and when I spoke to Coach (Jim) Henkel, I had that feeling. The NCDC is considered one of the top junior leagues, and CJR has always had a good program. I also wanted to stay on the East Coast to be around more colleges.”

Seth Rakosky found his game playing AAA youth hockey with the Colorado Rampage. Photo/provided by Seth Rakosky This season has been one of adjustment for Rakosky. “I have started to get in a really nice groove and rhythm with my team’s systems and players,” said Rakosky. “After leaving the NAHL, I realized how the style is a lot different so learning a whole new system was dif-

ficult, but I adapted quickly. Playing under Jim Henkel has really helped develop my game. I hope to keep a steady groove going.” Back home in Edmond, Okla., hockey was a family sport. “My family was involved in hockey, my older brother was playing, so

it was easy for me to want to play,” Rakosky said. Then came the move to Colorado eight years ago. Rakosky played for the Rampage through his first year of 18U hockey. “I have had a lot of great coaches that have influenced me in so many ways,” said Rakosky. “Whether that was Andrew Sherman, my coach the first year in the Rampage program, or CJ Yoder, Tyler Shipstad, Pat Bingham, Mario Puskarich or Luke Fulghum and Brett Clark my final season, each had a skill set that I benefited and grew from as a player and individual. In addition, trainer Jon Eng was a mentor and friend that inspired me in many ways off the ice. “I really enjoy the in-state rivalries that each team has. The ‘04 age group was always so strong and competitive and definitely made it a lot of fun to play in the state of Colorado growing up.” Looking ahead, Rakosky has reachable goals in mind. “To play college hockey,” he said. “I’m planning on majoring in something in the science or business field.”

Aspen native, CC goalie Mbereko grabs monthly NCHC honors The NCHC has announced that its Goaltender of the Month is Colorado College sophomore Kaidan Mbereko. Mbereko was rock-solid in net for the second straight month, backstopping CC to a 6-2-0 record in January, with the six wins the most of any NCHC goalie. He also led the NCHC with 234 saves in January, 36 more than any other goalie, while ranking second with a .921 save percentage during the month. Mbereko posted a 2.52 goals-against average, which was fourth in the NCHC this month, while he finished the month on a fivegame winning streak, tying his career long. The Aspen native did not allow more than two goals in any of his final five games in January and gave up only 10 goals over his last six

games of the month. He posted 30plus saves in half of his January starts, including 38 in a 2-1 overtime win at then-No. 12 Western Michigan on Jan. 27. Mbereko also stopped 34 shots in a 3-2 overtime win at Minnesota Duluth on Jan. 13 and made 33 saves in a 6-4 win at then-No. 9 Minnesota on Jan. 7. He limited Miami to only one goal on Jan. 19 and again surrendered only one goal each game in the overtime sweep at Western Michigan to close the month. Mbereko was twice named NCHC Goaltender of the Week in January. He first earned it after combining for 67 saves in a split at UMD on Jan. 12-13, and won it again following the WMU series, when he totaled 61 saves with two goals allowed. Mbereko now leads the NCHC

Kaidan Mbereko has been a wall in net this season for Colorado College. Photo/Ashley Huss/Western Michigan Athletics with a .915 save percentage on the season, while ranking fourth in the conference with a 2.52 GAA. He is 15-8-1 in net this year, with the 15

wins tied for tops in the NCHC. During his youth hockey days, Mbereko played for the Aspen Leafs and Rocky Mountain Snow Kings.



Follow Rubber Hockey 24/7 online! ARIZONA RUBBER - Facebook: ArizonaRubber X/Twitter: @AZRubberHockey Instagram: @azrubberhockey

CALIFORNIA RUBBER - Facebook: CaliforniaRubber X/Twitter: @CARubberHockey Instagram: @carubberhockey COLORADO RUBBER - Facebook: ColoradoRubber X/Twitter: @CORubberHockey Instagram: @corubberhockey

Words from the publisher...

I always call this time of the hockey season the “dog days.” It’s after the new year, we are well into February, and while there are still plenty of games left, we’re closer to the finish line that we are the starting line. Teams have started to look at and prep for state tournaments, some feel they have a shot at nationals, and others are simply looking to finish the season strong and begin to build for next season with

an eye on spring hockey. In my opinion, this is where each season starts to turen bittersweet. The season is a grind, a long journey. Nowhere Matt Mackinder near a sprint. That gets said more times than not over the course of the season. I have always thought that it’s tough for some players and families to realize that once this season ends,

there is a chance they’ll never see this season’s teammates again as everyone could possibly go their separate ways, Such is life, but from what I have seen after nearly 27 years in this business is that hockey players never forget teammates. They become sisters and brothers. They stay in touch. And they never forget. So as we head into the fun time of the hockey season, keep giving it 150%, keep a positive attitude, and keep enjoying the game and hav-

ing fun. At the end of the day, those three things are all that matters. All the best on a great conclusion to the season and keep smiling. Time goes by too fast to do anything else. That said, remember to keep supporting Rubber Hockey! Contact me any time at (248) 890-3944 (call/text) and by email at Looking forward to hearing from you!



Lafayette product, Thunderbirds, RoughRiders alum Morton earns monthly CCHA accolades The CCHA has announced that its Forward of the Month is Minnesota State grad student Sam Morton. Morton paced all conference skaters in goals (6), goals per game (0.75), shots (38), shots per game (4.75), power-play goals (2) and plusminus (+6) in January, while ranking second in points (9) and face-off wins (82). Leading the Mavericks to a 5-1-2

record in the month, the Lafayette native registered at least one point in five of six contests, including two multi-point outings. Closing out the month on a fivegame point streak, he also recorded three blocked shots at the defensive end of the ice. Back home, Morton played for the Colorado Thunderbirds and Rocky Mountain RoughRiders.

For more, visit the Colorado Hockey Hub at!

Sam Morton has been a key player this season for Minnesota State as the Mavericks look to finish strong. Photo/Perry Laskaris





Thirteen teams collect championship banners from IE Tournament Series MLK Challenge BY MATT MACKINDER The Inland Empire Tournament Series’ third event of the 2023-24 season, the IE MLK Challenge, ran Jan. 12-15 with more than 70 teams competing at LA Kings Icetown Riverside and Ontario Center Ice. A total of 13 teams brought home championship banners at the conclusion of the exciting weekend. 8U A East Champion: San Diego Jr. Gulls Runner-up: Los Angeles Jr. Kings The Jr. Gulls scored often in bringing home the championship with a 13-5 win. 8U A West Champion: Jr. Reign Runner-up: Arizona Hockey Union Silver In a tight title game, the Jr. Reign edged the AHU squad 4-3. 8U A South Champion: Los Angeles Jr. Kings (Beaudoin) Runner-up: Anaheim Jr. Ducks Offense was the name of the game as the Jr. Kings picked up the championship win with an 11-8 win over their SoCal counterparts. 8U B East Champion: Flagstaff Northstars Runner-up: Las Vegas Ice Warriors In a matchup of northern Arizona vs. Nevada, the Northstars came out on top 9-4 to secure the title. 8U B South Champion: Arizona Hockey Union White Runner-up: Jr. Reign Goals were again aplenty as the Knights outscored the Jr. Reign 9-6 to bring home the championship banner. 8U B West Champion: Arizona Hockey Union White Runner-up: Anaheim Jr. Ducks This competitive game went down to the wire, with the Union taking down the Jr. Ducks 4-3 for the title. 10U B Champion: Arizona Hockey Union Silver Runner-up: Anaheim Jr. Ducks

Kanoa Weir scored two goals and Connor Knowles and Luke Pelekoudas each had a goal and an assist as the Knights doubled up the Jr. Ducks 4-2 to claim the championship. Coleston Myers added two assists and Zacharia Diaz made 16 saves for the win in goal. Ryan Coulter

Garland chipped in two assists and Raymond Doucette finished with 11 saves for the win in the crease. For Empire, Matias Silva had a goal and an assist and Wyatt Scogin scored. Carter Stevenson and Kodiak Brown combined on a 24-save performance in net.

recorded both goals for the Jr. Ducks and Albert Chavarria finished with 21 saves between the pipes. 10U A/BB Champion: Jr. Reign Carlsbad Runner-up: Empire Hockey Club Jace Copple scored four goals and added an assist to pace the Jr. Reign to an 11-2 win for the championship. Sophia Weber and Hudson Jones each tacked on two goals with an assist, Preston Floss had a goal and an assist, and Camden Kobus and Kirill Ignatev scored one apiece. Nicholas

12U A Champion: Jr. Reign Runner-up: Anaheim Jr. Ducks The Jr. Reign took the 7-1 win on the strength of four goals and an assist from Spencer Wills. Gavin Ordaz went for two goals and an assist and Isaiah Ignacio added a goal to back Jayden Kehrier’s 13 saves in net. Drew Salazar scored the Jr. Ducks’ goal and Benton Sherrill finished with 25 saves in goal. 12U B/BB Champion: Jr. Reign Riverside

Runner-up: Mammoth Stars It was all offense for the Jr. Reign, who defeated the Stars 10-2 to secure the championship banner. Michael Herrera posted a hat trick, while Dominic Enea-Gonzalez netted a pair and Nathan Burton scored twice with a trio of helpers. Jacen Mower and Shikai Hong each had a goal and two assists, with Bentley Porche and Andrew Ito also scoring. For Mammoth, Noah Gaffre and Blaise Pondella found the back of the net. 14U A/B Champion: Jr Reign Carlsbad Runner-up: Empire Hockey Club Brian Duffy’s hat trick lifted the Jr. Reign to a 6-2 win in the title game over the Empire Hockey Club. Isaias Torres added a goal and an assist, Sebastian Hernandez also scored, and Jayden Peterson finished with 18 stops for the victory in goal. Pine Wade added two assists. Seth Heinrich had a goal and an assist for Empire, Kyle Cantelletta also scored, and Simeon Gillett and Ethan Cantrell combined to make 24 saves in goal. JV Champion: Cherry Creek Bruins Runner-up: Boise Premier Hockey In a battle pitting a Colorado high school team against a squad from Idaho, the Bruins downed Boise 3-2 in a shootout. to bring home the banner. Brozek Bulatovic and Ilias Kalergis both went for a goal and assist for the Bruins. For Boise, Preston Graves had a goal and a helper and Jayce Rogers also scored. Varsity Champion: Jr. Reign 18U AA Runner-up: Heritage Eagles This close contest saw the Jr. Reign edge the Eagles 2-1 in overtime for the championship. Troy Smith posted the game-winning goal, while Jeremy Loosmore scored in regulation. Kyle Gassman scored for the Eagles, another high school team from Colorado. For spring season events, visit Monarchy Hockey at



Arizona, California, Colorado products chosen for monthly USPHL awards The USPHL and NCDC have announced their monthly awards for January, with six players with California ties bringing home the honors. Pueblo Bulls forward Hunter Hayes and Ogden Mustangs forward Dimitri Voyatzis are NCDC Mountain Division Forwards of the Month, while Bakersfield Roughnecks blueliner Emile Rodrigue is the Pacific Premier Division Defenseman of the Month, Charlotte Rush forward Yianni Tsatsoulis is the Southeast Elite Division Forward of the Month, and Northern Cyclones forward Josh Bruno and Islanders Hockey Club forward Eamon Navin are New England Elite Division Forwards of the Month. Hayes, an ‘04 from Lodi, put up the NCDC’s best points-per-game average for the month of January, as his nine goals and four assists for 13 points in eight games worked out to be 1.63 points per game. Hayes has been a great addition for the Bulls, who are pushing hard to potentially seal up a playoff spot. They entered February in fourth place in the Mountain Division (the last available playoff spot), but are being chased closely by the fifthplace Idaho Falls Spud Kings. Hayes’ output, which includes 25 goals and 14 assists for 39 points in 37 games, will be key for the Bulls down the stretch towards the end of the regular season in mid-March. Hayes wasn’t just potent on the offense, he also was clutch for the Bulls in the faceoff circle, winning 105 of 164 draws in January for a 64% success rate. He also led the team in shots on goal with 39, which gave him a very impressive shooting percentage of 23 percent. Back home, Hayes played for the Golden State Elite Eagles and St. Mary’s High School. The owner of the NCDC’s longest scoring streak this year (16 games, Sept. 23-Nov. 17), the 2003-born Voyatzis was also on fire during January when he put up points in six of the seven games in which he ap-

Clockwise from top left, Hunter Hayes, Dimitri Voyatzis, Emile Rodrigue, Eamon Navin, Josh Bruno and Yianni Tsatsoulis. peared, giving him a 2-7-9 line over the seven games. This has helped the Fountain Valley native put up 44 points in 35 games this year, and Voyatzis is also sixth all-time in Mustangs history counting their time both in the USPHL/NCDC and prior to that. He has 169 points through 131 games in a Mustangs jersey since 2020. The captain of the Mustangs was also the leader for forward ice time (19:17 per game in January) and his 152 accurate passes also led the team’s forward corps. During his youth hockey days, Voyatzis played for the Anaheim Jr. Ducks. Rodrigue, an ‘04 from Saguenay, Quebec, certainly travels a long way to be part of the Roughnecks – more than 3,100 miles from his home – but

he makes it worth it every trip. During the month of January, he put up nine goals and added 10 assists for 19 points in just 10 games for the Roughnecks. That month helped him already bypass his 202223 scoring, in which he posted 29 points. He now has 40 points for this season through 37 games. His 23:18 of ice time per game led the team in January, as did his 54 blocked shots. Prior to the USPHL, Rodrigue played high school hockey for the Kern County Knights (LAKHSHL). Tsatsoulis, a 2004 birth year out of San Clemente, had a massive January when he registered five goals and added 11 assists for 16 points in six games, over which the Rush went 4-1-1-0. That 2.33 points per game average was among the best in all of

the USPHL Elite. The second-year Rush veteran has again eclipsed the 40-point mark and now has 41 points in 22 games for the season. His plus-9 rating for January led all Rush forwards. In California, Tsatsoulis played for the San Diego Saints, Anaheim Jr. Ice Dogs and Santa Margarita Catholic High School. During the month of January, Bruno, an ‘04 from Glendora, put up 11 goals and eight assists for 19 points. In so doing, he also made Cyclones history to hit the 110-point mark for his career and become the all-time leading scorer in Cyclones Elite history. His 19 points are just part of the 42 points he’s posted for this season over the 24 games he’s played. Bruno first started playing for the Cyclones in 2021-22 with their USPHL 18U team, where four other of his current teammates also played alongside Bruno that year. During his youth hockey career, Bruno skated for the Empire Hockey Club, Orange County Hockey Club and Los Angeles Jr. Kings. An ‘06 out of San Francisco, Navin has been a great find for the Islanders. He joined the IHC out of the Golden State Elite Eagles, a Tier II nationals competitor last season, and recently provided a 2-13-15 line in eight January games as a rookie junior player. That also pulled him up to just shy of a point per game average for the season, as he has registered 35 points in 36 games so far. He is joined on the IHC by fellow former GSE standout Luca Tartaglia. Also back home, Navin played for the San Francisco Sabercats high school team. Colorado wise, Tampa Bay Juniors blueliner Lucas Gonzalez is the Florida Elite Division Defenseman of the Month. Gonzalez, an ‘04 out of Longmont, put up a strong month with a 3-8-11 line in nine games, while also skating an average of 19:50 per game for

See USPHL on 11


CONTRERAS Continued from Page 1 and made a strong impression early, netting four goals and dishing an assist in his first four games. Contreras is tied with Nicholas Stevens for the most points on Kenai River’s roster with 34 through 37 games. “Dylan has been a great addition to our organization this season, both on and off the ice,” said Kenai River head coach Taylor Shaw. “He is a dynamic player but an even better person. We are excited for him and his family on this accomplishment. The entire organization and Kenai/ Soldotna community are looking forward to watching him continue his journey in Alaska.” During his youth hockey days back home in California, Contreras played for the Anaheim Jr. Ducks and Orange County Hockey Club.

LIVANAVAGE Continued from Page 1 goal in the third period of a draw the next night. He closed out the month with three assists in a sweep of thenNo. 4 Denver to earn NCHC Defenseman of the Week honors. Livanavage played a key role on North Dakota’s power play this month, helping UND finish with an

Yorba Linda’s Dylan Contreras is starring this season for the NAHL’s Kenai River Brown Bears. Photo/NAHL 11-for-23 mark. Defensively, he blocked 11 shots in January, tying for ninth in the NCHC. Livanavage now has points in 11 of his last 14 games, while compiling 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in 26 games this season. In Arizona, Livanavage played for the Arizona Hockey Union, DYHA, Jr. Coyotes, and Arizona Bobcats.

Jake Livanavage celebrates a recent goal. Photo/Russell Hons




Jr. Kings alum, Lomita native Sansbury garners monthly Atlantic Hockey award Sacred Heart junior Hunter Sansbury has been named the Atlantic Hockey Defensive Player of the Month. Sansbury played in all 10 games the Pioneers played last month and piled up 30 blocked shots, far and away the highest total on the team and the nation’s best in the month as well. He also contributed five points (goal, four assists) and 26 shots on goal at the offensive end of the ice, with the latter number ranking third on the squad. He blocked at least four shots on four separate occasions in January. The Lomita native was at his best in SHU’s home-and-home series with Holy Cross on Jan. 19-20. At home on Friday night, he established a new career high with seven blocks

in a 2-1 OT win. Sansbury equaled the new career best with seven more blocks on the road the very next night. Sansbury capped the month with the 100th game of his collegiate career Jan. 27 against Yale at CT Ice. He has played in all 27 of Sacred Heart’s games this season and is second among team blueliners in scoring, with four goals and eight assists for 12 points. Sansbury leads not just Atlantic Hockey, but the entire country, with 76 blocked shots. It is Sansbury’s second career selection as Atlantic Hockey Defensive Player of the Month (Feb. 2023). During his youth hockey days, Sansbury played for the Los Angeles Jr. Kings and at St. John Bosco High School.

Hunter Sansbury celebrates a clutch goal earlier this season for Sacred Heart. Photo/Josh Gee



USPHL Continued from Page 8 the Florida Division-leading Juniors. That was good for second on the team, and his plus-7 rating last month was good for second among the Tampa Bay defense. Gonzalez split his time between the Premier and Elite last season and has been a great staple for the Juniors who are on a five-game winning streak. He has 31 points in 37 games this year. During his youth hockey days, Gonzalez played for the Hyland Hills Jaguars. Two Arizona players also bagged accolades as Utica Jr. Comets defenseman Jackson Lukrofka is the New England Premier Division Defenseman of the Month and Bakersfield Roughnecks netminder Connor Dumesnil is the Pacific Premier Division Goaltender of the Month. Lukrofka, an ‘05 from Scottsdale, has been huge for helping the Jr. Comets on both the defensive and offensive sides of the coin in January. His plus-9 was tied for second on the team last month, and he also put up two goals and nine assists for 11 points in 10 games.

Jackson Lukrofka That gives the first-year junior player out of the North Shore Academy a total of 26 points in 33 games. Back home, Lukrofka skated for the Jr. Coyotes and Desert Mountain High School (AHSHA). Dumesnil, a 2004 birth year out of Phoenix, was everything the Roughnecks needed him to be as the Roughnecks try to remain in a playoff spot for the upcoming postseason in

Connor Dumesnil March, where just one Pacific Division team will win and make the trip to USPHL Nationals. In 300 minutes in January, he stopped 119 of 127 shots for a .937 save percentage. He also had a 1.60 goals-against average and a 4-1-0-0 record. Two of those wins were from shutouts (including a huge 39-save performance against Las Vegas).

Lucas Gonzalez For the season, the second-year Roughneck has a 12-8-0-0 record and a .922 save percentage. During his youth hockey days, Dumesnil played for the Jr. Coyotes, Arizona Bobcats, and Pinnacle High School (AHSHA). -- USPHL Staff

Jr. Sharks alum Celebrini pins down monthly Hockey East honors Hockey East has announced that Boston University freshman forward Macklin Celebrini is the Rookie of the Month. Celebrini tied for the national lead among all players with eight goals in January, adding two assists for 10 points and the third-best mark in Hockey East. The Vancouver, B.C., native began the month with three multi-point efforts and registered at least two points in four of his seven games. He netted three power-play goals, fourthmost in the NCAA, and won 52% of his faceoffs. His 46 shots were second in the NCAA. During his youth hockey days, Celebrini spent time with the San Jose Jr. Sharks. Celebrini is also a top-rated prospect for this summer’s NHL Draft.

Macklin Celebrini has turned into an impact player this season for Boston University. Photo/Matt Woolverton



Fort Collins’ Miller uses Team Colorado AAA girls program as springboard to ‘perfect fit’ NCAA D-III commitment to Arcadia BY MATT MACKINDER COLORADO HOCKEY HUB It was only a matter of time before Kaylee Miller made her NCAA college commitment. Recently, the Fort Collins native and Team Colorado 19U AAA standout decided on Arcadia University, a Division III school located in the Philadelphia area. “They started scouting me after nationals of my second-year 16U season,” said Miller. “As I started to learn more about the school and coaches, it seemed like a perfect fit. Arcadia is a prestigious school for its academics and sports and that immediately drew me to it. The coaching is also excellent. and I am honored to be coached by people like them. “I have always wanted to get good grades in school, so being able to go to a university like Arcadia is very exciting.” Miller said she is currently planning on studying criminology in college. Back home, Miller started skating

Kaylee Miller takes the ice prior to a recent game for Team Colorado’s 19U AAA team. Photo/Be Feral Media at the age of four. “I’ve always loved being on the ice, but I didn’t start playing hockey until I was 12,” Miller explained. “The hockey community has always been amazing, and I love being on a team with so many amazing girls. I

love playing hockey and the adrenaline I get when playing.” Miller’s first program was NCYH, and she played there for two years on a rec team and then an A-level team. “After that, I was contacted by Team Colorado 14U AAA,” said

Miller. “They needed a goalie to play for them and I accepted. The next year, I tried out for Team Colorado 16U AAA but didn’t make it, so I played on the Rocky Mountain Lady RoughRiders’ AA team. That was a great learning experience for me to not make a team, and I am grateful that it happened. I then tried out for Team Colorado again the next year and ended up making it. I am now currently playing on the Team Colorado 19U AAA team. For the past three seasons, I’ve worked with Mark Sample at In The Crease and he has been key in my development as a goalie. Also having Vanessa Taylor as one of my coaches last season was inspiring since she played AAA hockey herself.” One goal down, Miller says there are more to come. “I’ve reached one of my biggest goals in hockey by being accepted to play for Arcadia next season and I plan to play there all four years,” Miller said. “I’ve also thought about possibly coaching someday. After college, I would like to join the FBI.”

Redlands native, Wave, Orange County Hockey Club product Kramer tabbed for monthly EHL award in EHLP division The EHL has announced that New England Wolves forward Harrison Kramer is the EHL Premier Forward of the Month. The 2006-born Redlands native had an outstanding month for the Wolves, putting up 17 points on nine goals and eight assists. His best performance came in a 10-3 win over the Adirondack Jr. Thunder where Kramer had seven points (five goals, two assists). Through 30 games this season, Kramer has 46 points (24 goals, 22 assists) and continues to be key for the Wolves, currently in third place in the New England Division with a 1413-3-0 record. Back home, Kramer played for the California Wave and Orange County Hockey Club.

Harrison Kramer recorded 17 points last month for the EHLP’s New England Wolves. Photo/Dan Hickling/ Hickling Images



Colorado Springs native, Rampage, Krivo alum Barr finding success with NA3HL’s Bighorns BY MATT MACKINDER COLORADO HOCKEY HUB All it took for Gavin Barr was a simple phone call. A Colorado Springs native, Barr played the 2022-23 season for the Colorado Rampage 18U AAA team and was tendered by the NCDC’s Boston Jr. Bruins, only to wind up this season with the NA3HL’s Helena Bighorns. “On my drive back home from Boston, I received a call from (Helena coach) Damon Hanson and the rest is history,” said Barr. “I am very grateful for the opportunity that Coach Damon and the Bighorns owners have given me. I believe everything happens for a reason, and I wasn’t meant to be in Boston. I am loving Helena. “From the moment I got to Helena, everyone has been so welcoming. My teammates are amazing, and we have such a good bond. I continuously feel supported by my teammates, coaches, and the owners. Helena has a winning mindset and culture. All the way from the fans to the owners. The team receives so much support from the Helena community with the same goal in mind, winning the Fraser Cup. Helena is truly an amazing place, and it comes with the best fans in junior hockey - a packed house every Friday and Saturday night for game time.” And although he loves to be in his home state of Colorado, living in Montana hasn’t been a huge struggle for Barr. “It feels like home when you are always surrounded by mountains and in a great city like Helena,” Barr said. “This has been my first time living with a billet family, and I am so grateful for my billet parents Doug and Jen. They make me feel like I am part of their family. I am also lucky enough to live with my billet brother Garrett Bogan, who has been like an older brother to me. Garrett is also

Gavin Barr has found a junior hockey home this season with the NA3HL’s Helena Bighorns. Photo/Steve Robinson from Colorado Springs, and I have been fortunate enough to play hockey with him since we were young.” Growing up, getting immersed in hockey for Barr was a way of life. “My aunt and uncle owned a couple of Skate City facilities in the Denver area, which started my love of skating,” said Barr. “I began playing roller hockey at the age of four in Colorado Springs. I always enjoyed watching my cousin Brenden play ice hockey, and I gave it a try when I was seven and fell in love. I have been grateful enough to have traveled to so many great cities within the U.S. and Canada playing hockey and have met some amazing people along the way. “I am a huge Avalanche fan. I got the opportunity to skate with the Avalanche during warmups when I was 10, which is a memory I will never forget. I will always enjoy watching the Avalanche take a run at the Stanley Cup.” Once he delved into competitive hockey, Barr started with the Ram-

page, playing Mites when he was seven years old. “After my first season of Mites, I ended up playing for the Krivo School of Hockey Elite,” Barr said. “While playing for Krivo, I lived in Colorado Springs and commuted up to Denver usually at least four days a week for a 6 a.m. practice. I ended up playing for Coach Andrei until I was 11. At that point, I was given the chance to come back and play for the Rampage again from 12U AAA up until the end of my first year of 18U AAA. “I have been fortunate to have some amazing coaches throughout the years who have made a huge impact on my hockey progression. Coach Andrei Krivokrasov helped me become the skater I am today and instilled in me that hard work is not optional, which is something I live by every day. CJ Yoder has coached me on and off since I was four in both roller and ice hockey. I still feel I learn so much from CJ even to

this day, as I have now been lucky enough to be a teammate with CJ on his pro roller hockey team, the Colorado Springs Thunder. Pat Bingham, who coached me during my 15U and 16U seasons, as well as during summer training, taught me truly how to become a better 200-foot player and has been a mentor to me. Additionally, Andrew Sherman, the owner of Colorado Rampage, has given me so many great opportunities and has helped me become the best version of myself. I feel that I am truly blessed for everything that Andrew has done for me over the years. With my move into junior hockey, Coach Damon continues to push me every day to be a better player while also being completely supportive with my future goals.” Looking back on his youth hockey days, Barr said his years growing and developing will never leave his memory. “My time in Colorado was great, and I will never forget the time I have spent with Krivo School of Hockey Elite and the Colorado Rampage,” said Barr. “I have made so many great memories and friends during my years playing hockey. One of my most memorable moments was winning Silver Sticks with Krivo in Sarnia, Ont. More recently, winning the regional tournament in 2023 with the Rampage advancing us to nationals was a great way to end my first 18U season.” Approaching the stretch run with the Bighorns, Barr said he has started to look at the near and not-so-near future. “A short-term goal for me would be to win the Fraser Cup with the Helena Bighorns this year and bring a banner back to Helena,” Barr said. “My long-term goal is to continue to play hockey in my future and eventually play NCAA Division I college hockey.”

For more, visit the Colorado Hockey Hub at!



Colorado youth hockey grad Smith developing overall game with USPHL powerhouse Rush BY MATT MACKINDER COLORADO HOCKEY HUB

Zach Smith wound up playing this season in Charlotte, N.C., by way of Las Vegas and his hometown of Elbert. Smith is playing his rookie season of junior hockey in 2023-24 with the Charlotte Rush, a perennial contender in the USPHL. “I went out to the Global Las Vegas Showcase in late June and coach Trevor Jewell reached out to me after the showcase and I corresponded with him for a few weeks,” said Smith, who now lives in the Falcon area. “I talked with my parents and we all thought it was a good fit for me, so I decided to sign. It is a very structured organization and the culture here is phenomenal. I was also drawn by the championship pedigree. I also loved the fact that it was veteran-owned and operated, coming from a military family with my mom and dad both serving. “It’s been great. I got paired with a great billet family. My billet dad is in the Army, so it reminds me a lot of home, but with all that said, it still comes with its hardships. I miss back

Zach Smith is finding his role with the USPHL’s Charlotte Rush. Photo/Charlotte Rush home a lot still. It’s a lot getting used to, especially since this is the first time living away from home.” Smith said he developed his love for hockey when his family moved to Colorado. “I got started playing hockey when

I was four when I first moved to Colorado,” said Smith. “My dad played hockey growing up in North Dakota and passed it down to me and my two older brothers. Watching my two older brothers play, I kind of just grew up around the rink. College hockey played a huge factor in my love for the sport growing up. Always having a University of North Dakota game on the TV and being able to watch them live when they came to play CC and DU made me fall in love.” On the ice, Smith started playing for the Colorado Springs Tigers and then moved to the Colorado Rampage. “Then I got my chance to play on my first AAA team my second year of Bantams with Monument Hockey Academy,” Smith said. “Alongside of that, I played my junior and senior year at Air Academy High School. I also played in the High Plains Hockey League for the Front Range Rangers where we ended up winning the state championship. A lot of coaches helped me out over the years. A couple of them that come to mind are my AAA coach George Pagonis and my High Plains coach Josh Cronk. They both taught me to push myself

hard every day to make me a better hockey player. They helped me find my role on the ice and what I needed to do to push my team to be the best. “I think my biggest takeaway from playing in Colorado will be all the great trips up in the mountains with my teams over the years to play up in Vail and Aspen. Those were always fun trips. Also one of the biggest memories I probably will never forget is my team’s journey to winning the state championship, one of the greatest moments in my life.” Looking down the line, Smith has achievable goals, on and off the ice. “One of my short-term goals is to play at the college level,” said Smith. “I’ve always wanted to attend the University of North Dakota, but if hockey takes me elsewhere, so be it. I’ve always wanted to major in economics or business management. “A long-term goal of mine is to play at some level of professional hockey whether that be in the SPHL or somewhere over in Europe. I also have wanted to get my commercial driver’s license so I can drive semis and create my own business. I have also always wanted to move to Montana and raise bison on a ranch.”

Jr. Kings product, Manhattan Beach native Shane takes home monthly ECAC Hockey honors For the third time this season, Cornell junior goaltender Ian Shane has been named ECAC Hockey’s Goaltender of the Month. Shane, who was previously named the conference’s top goaltender for his play in October and November, backstopped the Big Red to an unbeaten record in January (5-0-1) while compiling a conference-leading 1.45 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage that ranked second in ECAC Hockey, only behind Yale’s Jack Stark (.948). In the Big Red’s first pair of games in January, Shane guided Cornell to a two-game sweep of then-No. 11-ranked Arizona State at Mullett Arena in Tempe, Ariz., combining to save 34 shots while yielding just three goals against a potent Sun Dev-

ils offense. Upon the Big Red’s return to Lynah Rink in Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell saw its win streak increase to four games as the Manhattan Beach native collected 37 saves in its weekend sweep of Princeton and then-No. 3-ranked Quinnipiac. The last weekend in January, Shane recorded his 10th career shutout in a 2-0 victory over Harvard that increased Cornell’s win streak to five games and snapped its seven-game winless streak to the Crimson. The shutout tied Shane with Laing Kennedy for the seventh-most blankings by a Cornell goaltender. The following night against Dartmouth, Shane stopped 28 shots in

See SHANE on 16

Winning weekly and monthly awards this season has become the norm for Cornell’s Ian Shane. Photo/Lexi Woodcock/Cornell Athletics




SHANE Continued from Page 14 Cornell’s 2-2 tie with Dartmouth. It was his most stops since making 35 saves in the Big Red’s 2-1 victory in the biennial Red Hot Hockey contest at Madison Square Garden against then-No. 5-ranked Boston University. During Cornell’s current eightgame unbeaten streak, Shane has posted a 5-0-3 record with a 1.38 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage. Over his 68 career appearances between the pipes for Cornell, Shane has a 38-18-8 mark with a 1.71 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. Shane’s career goalsagainst average currently stands as

RUBBER HOCKEY the fourth-best figure in NCAA Division I hockey history, trailing former Big Red netminder David LeNeveu (1.29), former Michigan State standout Ryan Miller (1.54), and Cornell Athletics and Hockey Hall of Famer Ken Dryden (1.59). During his youth hockey days, Shane starred for the Los Angeles Jr. Kings.

For more, check out the California Rubber website at CARubberHockey. com!

RoughRiders, BHC product, Broomfield native Lindstrom navigating way through first foray into junior hockey in ‘23-24 BY MATT MACKINDER COLORADO HOCKEY HUB

Jake Lindstrom is learning the ropes during his first journey into junior hockey. Since the start of the 2023-24 season, the Broomfield native has suited up in three leagues, but has found his niche with the EHL’s New York Apple Core franchise. “I had a great training camp and start of the season with the (NAHL’s) New Jersey Titans,” said Lindstrom. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t very consistent, and things didn’t work out. I later joined the (NCDC’s) Jersey

Hitmen a couple months into the season. This is where I found Lenny Caglianone, the coach of the New York Apple Core. I decided to head to New York and play for Lenny, who has helped my junior career tremendously. “Living away from home has been a little bit of a rollercoaster moving from so many different places. Although where I’m at now has been one of the best houses I’ve stayed at.” Lindstrom said he started playing roller hockey when he was four years




Carbondale native, Aspen, Rampage alum Jacober enjoying ‘amazing experience’ with NAHL’s Grit BY MATT MACKINDER COLORADO HOCKEY HUB Wilder Jacober has always had high expectations of himself. After playing last season in the USPHL, the Carbondale native challenged himself to move up the junior hockey ladder for 2023-24, and that ended up with Jacober playing for the NAHL’s first-year Colorado Grit franchise. “After falling short of playing Tier II juniors last season, I was obviously exited when I heard the NAHL was coming to Colorado,” said Jacober. “I was invited to the pre-draft camp

and played well and received the invite for main camp. After main camp, I was unfortunately not invited to training camp, despite playing well. Fortunately for me, some things shifted in the roster, and I was invited back to training camp to try and work my way into the lineup as a day-today player. I’ve been with the Grit ever since and have had an amazing experience in a great organization. “It’s super exiting and special. As a kid growing up in Colorado, all you dream of is playing near home at the level you want. My goals don’t stop with junior hockey, but it feels pretty special to play at a high level and be

close to home.” Growing up, Jacober skated his first several years with Aspen Junior Hockey before making the jump to AAA hockey with the Colorado Rampage, where he played the rest of his years before heading to the USPHL’s Provo Predators last season. “Aspen Junior Hockey was a huge part of developing and where I fell in love with the game,” said Jacober. “When I was 13, I understood in order to pursue hockey as a career or fulfill my goals, I’d have to move on to AAA hockey. I don’t believe you always have to rush moving up in the sport, but this was the right time for

me. I played for the Rampage the rest of my youth career. From Andrew Sherman, the owner, all the way through the organization, it was nothing short of amazing learning from every coach and or player. I grew so much throughout being a part of Rampage. From off the ice to on the ice, it was the biggest growth period in my life. “Playing in Provo was a great experience, and I was able to develop my game a ton.” Jacober explained how hockey has been his passion for as long as he can

See JACOBER on 22



MIKOLAJCZYK Continued from Page 1 financial issues in the past where the program had been suspended and then was reinstated just as COVID hit and then was shut down again. The players have done a great job of getting the program up and running again. Being a club, it’s all on their shoulders and they are literally starting the program from the bottom up all over again. We’ve been over .500 in both of my seasons to date and that’s all on the players and their efforts. “CC is a very small, selective admission school. Not the easiest to recruit for.” In New Jersey, Mikolajczyk coached high school hockey from 1997 until heading out to Colorado in 2020. “I was fortunate enough to be 1-1 in the state championship game, serving under two excellent head coaches,” said Mikolajczyk. “I was also the director of hockey operations for the College of New Jersey’s ACHA Division II program for four seasons, where we won two league titles in that timeframe. After TCNJ, I moved on to assisting the Naval Academy with their ACHA D-I program, where I remain today. We moved to Colorado after our son Brendan graduated high school as we had an empty house at that point. Coincidentally, our son Brendan chose Colorado State for his education, where he graduated in 2022.” With Colorado College’s NCAA D-I team having marked success this season, Mikolajczyk is hoping that has a trickle-down effect on the ACHA program. “To be honest, it’s not a huge effect on us,” said Mikolajczyk. “We obviously get to play and practice in a first-class NCAA D-I facility (Ed Robson Arena), but for the most part, we don’t cross paths with the big team much other than in the arena hallways here and there. Recently, the D-I team purchased new game jerseys which allowed them to give us their older set of jerseys, so that was a huge help. Our ACHA team’s total budget is less than what I was paid as a director of hockey ops at

Chris Mikolajczyk looks on during a recent game with Colorado College’s ACHA team. Photo/Michelle Mikolajczyk TCNJ, so every little bit helps us. “On a side note, it’s great to see the success that Gleb Veremeyev is having. I coached against Gleb in New Jersey high school hockey. In fact, his team upset my team one season in the state playoffs. Each time I see him, I remind him I’m still unhappy about that.” Mikolajczyk said his three scouting roles are three different sets of circumstances as the three programs “are very different in terms of athletics and academics.” “The New Jersey Titans of the NAHL are players with goals of playing NCAA D-I hockey,” explained Mikolajczyk. “Those players stand out fairly quickly in Colorado and are usually into the league a bit earlier than most. They typically come from the Tier I AAA programs and may not be playing high school hockey due to Tier I rules or time constraints. They may even finish high school online. Here in Colorado, I focus on the 16U AAA and 18U AAA programs of the Thunderbirds, Rampage, Roughriders, and Tigers for those players. NAHL players play, practice, train, and travel as close to NCAA D-I programs as you can get. The Titans also have several other junior clubs where they can also place players for further development. These players come from all over the country and Europe as well. “For the New Jersey Bears program, we have both a big club in the EHL and a development club in the

EHL Premier league. The EHL is the main feeder league to NCAA D-III schools, especially in the northeast. There are even the odd players that make a D-I program, the ‘late bloomers,’ if you will. The EHL is a very good league, and works off the model of having the parent EHL teams usually in the 18-20 year-old range and the EHLP teams in the 16-18 year-old range. There are exceptions each way, of course, but the organizations that focus on development of their players will typically have this setup. These players are also focused on either NCAA D-III or top-level ACHA hockey. There are ACHA D-I programs with NAHL players on their roster, so it shows the level of commitment needed even for a top club team. The EHL allows players to strike a bit more of a balanced daily workload, as many of the players are either still in high school or will take a college class or two and work a small part-time job as they prepare to move on to NCAA D-III or ACHA D-I. The Bears have a really nice setup where the rink also has an independent top cross-fit training complex under the same roof of the facility. EHL players also come from all over the country and Europe as well. If you check the rosters of all the EHL teams this season, most have 1-2 players from Colorado on their roster. By far, the majority of AAA and top AA players that come to this league can go on to play in college, especially ACHA hockey if they are

committed and perform.” Mikolajczyk noted that the U.S. Naval Academy “is a whole different animal.” “Of the three programs I work with, it’s the only organization that focuses on academics first, then athletics, for obvious reasons,” Mikolajczyk said. “The academy has several ACHA teams, and players are placed where they fit. The ACHA D-I team won their league the last few seasons and had a nice showing at nationals. The program starts with the success of the student-athlete first. If players don’t have the qualifications to enter the academy, then scouting them for hockey is almost a waste of time. Of the three programs, it’s the only one where they exclusively send me the specific players to go watch based on their initial applications and qualifications. Much like the Air Force Academy and the U.S. Military Academy, the Naval Academy wants leaders first and hockey players second. That being said, the USNA is a top-notch ACHA D-I program. In fact, they are a signature away from being an NCAA D-I program, and that transition would be seamless as all the facilities and infrastructure is in place already, including a league. These student-athletes are a very unique combination and the work ethic is top notch. “When players graduate and go on to become fighter pilots and Navy SEALs, it’s not hard to see why.” In his short time in Colorado, Mikolajczyk has coached a handful of players that have moved on to higher levels of the game. “The two Colorado players that come to the top of my head right now are Garrett Bogan and Chase Chapman, both of whom played for me at Doherty,” said Mikolajczyk. “They are both great kids, excellent students, and exceptional leaders. I tried to get both of them for the EHL Bears program I represent, but they carved their own junior hockey paths, and good for them. They’ve both been successful in their pursuit, Garrett with the Helena Bighorns of the NA3HL and Chase with the Wausau Cyclones of the NA3HL. “I know both will be highly suc-


MIKOLAJCZYK Continued from Page 18 cessful should they choose to play for a top college club program.” And while he hasn’t been around the Colorado youth hockey landscape as long as others, Mikolajczyk has seen it grow in his four years being involved. “The Palmer Lake Outdoor Classic has really had an effect in this tri-lakes area,” said Mikolajczyk. “I


player, Andrew DeRubis, as he chases a dream of playing professional hockey in the Netherlands. My son Brendan has been a big help as well, having played hockey with his USA Hockey District team in Gavle, Sweden, and later living in Stockholm for six months while studying abroad. The hierarchy of professional hockey in Europe is extensive and there are more opportunities that you may realize in the smaller countries. My own son’s career ended due to injuries and after getting a degree in kinesiology,

he now focuses on helping athletes with strength and conditioning goals as he awaits grad school decisions for next fall. Brendan was fortunate enough to work with both NCAA and NHL players this summer at the University of Denver. We’re a nice 1-2 punch right now, but I know it’s only temporary. “I’m not an advisor, I don’t charge anybody anything, I simply try to connect the players to the programs through the long-time personal relationships I have back east.”

Jake Lindstrom is seeing regular time this season with the EHL’s New York Apple Core team. Photo/Dan Hickling/Hickling Images

er,” Lindstrom said. “One coach that has stood out for me was Neil Runbeck. He was my coach during Pee Wees at Boulder and one of my favorite teams I’ve been a part of. I’ve been skating with him for around 10 years doing lessons during the season and the summer. Another coach was my 14U RoughRiders coach Matt Huckins. That was one of my most challenging years and he was a tremendous help to my hockey career. “I definitely miss playing for BHC and the RoughRiders. I created unbelievable memories and they have helped me become the hockey player I am today.” Moving forward, Lindstrom’s goals are reasonable and attainable. “One of my short-term goals is ending the season with really good numbers,” said Lindstrom. “Some of my long-term goals are playing college hockey at a great school academically and hockey wise.”

always see the young kids playing hockey on the frozen Palmer Lake every time I drive by. That’s a huge benefit to the local Tier I and Tier II organizations, for sure, as more kids look to play organized hockey.” Going forward, Mikolajczyk has immediate and long-term goals in the coaching and scouting realm. “In both, my goals are the same - I’d like to help players get as far as they can in this beautiful sport,” Mikolajczyk said. “I’m currently assisting another former Doherty

LINDSTROM Continued from Page 16 old and after a couple years, made the move to the ice. “I got into hockey because of my parents,” said Lindstrom. “It was around when the Nordiques moved to Colorado that my parents became huge fans of hockey. Neither of them knew anything about hockey growing up, although I started to watch the Avs when I was young and definitely got me into hockey.” Growing up, Lindstrom played for the Boulder Hockey Club until he was 13 and then spent time with the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders until he was 15. For his 16U and 18U seasons, Lindstrom billeted in Connecticut and played for the Elite Hockey Academy. “All of my coaches have played huge roles in growing me as a play-


After NCDC stint in Idaho, Castle Pines native Robinson staying out west, fine-tuning game with NA3HL’s Bighorns BY MATT MACKINDER COLORADO HOCKEY HUB Cai Robinson began the 202324 season with the NCDC’s Idaho Falls Spud Kings before joining the NA3HL’s Helena Bighorns around the Thanksgiving holiday. The Castle Pines native said there are positives to both organizations. “The opportunity for Idaho Falls arose in my previous season playing out my last 18U year (with the Colorado Springs Tigers) where I was offered a tender and followed

that through the summer to play for them,” said Robinson. “I then decided to ask for a trade where Helena saw me on the wire, and I decided to head over to them for a chance at the Fraser (Cup). “Both are/were great places to play with a lot of support from the local town.” Robinson also said leaving home for junior hockey has been a smooth transition.

See ROBINSON on 23

Cai Robinson is seeing his game grow with the NA3HL’s Helena Bighorns. Photo/Steve Robinson





USPHL Premier expanding to Canada for 202425 season with new division in Ontario, Quebec BY JOSHUA BOYD USPHLPREMIER.COM The Largest Junior Hockey League In The United States, the USPHL Premier, will become not only larger but even more international than its first foray into Canada during this 2023-24 season. An entire new Ontario-and Quebec-based division will be joining in 2024-25, with five teams being announced right from the start and additional announcements expected in the coming months as negotiations continue with some of Canada’s top junior organizations looking to become part of the United States Premier Hockey League. The USPHL Premier of 2023-24 is a 61-team league with a completely national footprint in the United States, ranging from Maine to Miami, and Seattle to San Diego. The addition this 2023-24 season of College Universel Gatineau, located in Gatineau, Que., saw the Premier add its first Canadian team to the league membership. College Universel Gatineau will be joined in the new Canada Division by Somang Laurentides Lanaudiere (SLL) Hockey, Hawkesbury Knights, Kingston Wranglers, Montreal BlackVees, and College Universel Sherbrooke. During the 2024-25 season, these teams will generally only face each other throughout the season (44 games per team), with the exception of playing in different USPHL Showcase Series events. The Canada Division teams are joining a United States Premier Hockey League that, including all its tiers and conferences, has sent more than 8,000 players to college hockey at all levels, and more than 250 players to the pro levels. Several current NHL players cut their teeth in the USPHL, including Tage Thompson (P.A.L. Jr. Islanders), Jordan Harris (Islanders Hockey Club), John Marino and Ryan Donato (South Shore Kings) and Joey Daccord (Boston Junior Bruins), with many more preUSPHL alumni of Member Organi-

zations also currently playing in the NHL. “A Canadian Premier division truly makes the USPHL international and this alone shines the light even brighter on the largest and best Tier 3 junior league in North America,” said USPHL Commissioner Bob Turow. “The ownership groups are experienced, strong and proven, and will be added to shortly.” Below, we are excited to introduce each of the exciting new members of the USPHL Premier and its new allCanadian division for 2024-25. Montreal BlackVees The BlackVees will play at the arena hosted by their academic partner College St-Jean-Vianney. The BlackVees are a proud organization with a history dating back 25 years. This proud history features many illustrious alumni including NHL players Laurent Dauphin (selected in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft) and current New York Islander Julien Gauthier (a first round selection in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft). In recent years, the BlackVees have also sent players to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (six), the Tier II Canadian Junior Hockey League (15) and to U.S. junior leagues (20). “Our varsity program annually places between 12 to 15 players to junior levels and all these players will now be able to play within the organization, in our own USPHL Pre-

mier Montreal BlackVees team,” said President Claude Fortin. The BlackVees will be coached by former Florida Panther Francois Cloutier, who will be joined by a staff with QMJHL and BCHL experience. Over the past four seasons (excluding two COVID seasons), the BlackVees have won two regular season championships and one league title. “We are currently first in the North American Prep Hockey League, as well as first in the NAPHL Division of the USPHL Elite conference,” said Fortin. “We build teams that play hard and we come to play. Our organization is pumped about joining such a high caliber league in the USPHL Premier. We promise that the BlackVees will host its players in the best environment a student-athlete requires and that the BlackVees will become a league standard.” Hawkesbury Knights The Knights will hit the ice in the Ottawa River town of Hawkesbury, Ont., which lies almost directly between Ottawa and Montreal, with the new team run by former NHL defenseman Shawn Anderson. “I am very excited about joining the USPHL Premier Division as an owner-operator. It is the right league for many of the players here in the Quebec/Ontario regions that are just one year away from Tier II hockey,” said Anderson. “I look forward to working with my other Canadian col-

leagues in representing the USPHL Premier across the border.” Anderson played professionally in the NHL, minor leagues and European leagues for 18 years, before opening his own hockey-specific training business in 2004. This encapsulates his ownership of the Canadian Tier II Hawkesbury Hawks and also the Le Sommet Faucons prep team. The latter is part of the USPHL Elite’s North American Prep Hockey League team. Anderson is a huge believer that all the credit goes to the players that have moved on to junior and professional hockey through his programs and teams. The Knights, playing out of the Robert-Hartley Sports Complex in Hawkesbury, will be announcing their staff in the coming months after multiple interviews with some of the region’s top hockey people. Somang Laurentides Lanaudiere HC The USPHL is also pleased to welcome Somang Laurentides Lanaudiere (SLL) HC, an academy program that is enjoying its 10th anniversary in 2024. “USPHL membership means that Somang will now have the ability to seamlessly accompany players from the 16U level through juniors, creating even more pathways for players to achieve their hockey dreams,” said Michael Bujold, a co-director of Somang Hockey. “It will also make it possible for more players from the world over to discover our beautiful region on the North Shore of Montreal. With a staff composed of highly qualified professionals from both the coaching and managerial standpoint, Somang expects to hit the ground running and ice a competitive team from Year 1 in our home base on the North Shore of Montreal. Hockey fans, buckle up because it’s going to be an exciting ride! “SLL Hockey is excessively proud to be part of the new Canadian division of the USPHL Premier, a dénouement that it has long seen as the

See CANADA on 23



JACOBER Continued from Page 17 remember. “I was introduced to hockey at a very young age by my dad, who was a ski racer,” Jacober said. “He grew up ski racing and started playing hockey in college and he found a love for the game so when I was born, he would bring me out to the pond. From the age of three, that’s all I’ve wanted to do. “I have so many amazing memories from hockey in Colorado that it’s impossible to list them. From growing up at the rink to making so many lifelong friends, it’s been the majority of my life to this point, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The amount of learning and experience you can gain from the sport is, in my opinion, equal to an education through school. From family, coaches, friends, etcetera, there are so many memories to be had.”

Wilder Jacober made the jump for the 202324 junior hockey season to the NAHL’s Colorado Grit. Photo/Kristy Lourance Photography

And he intends to keep the memories flowing, too. “It’s crazy to say, but my shortterm goal is to commit and play hockey at the NCAA Division I level,” said Jacober. “It’s been the biggest goal thus far in my life and to think it’s a short-term goal is bizarre. With 25 games left in the season, the window is closing fast. It’s all I’ve ever dreamed of, but whether or not it becomes a reality, the amount of work and time I’ve put into the sport will never be a waste of time. The lessons and principles I’ve learned from being an athlete and hockey player are so much bigger than the game itself, and it has given me everything I know. “Long-term goals, I hope to be successful. Successful in the term of waking up and doing what I love, whether it’s still related to hockey or not, I believe this sport has given me the tools and work ethic to be able to accomplish what I’d like.”

Quebec-born Rioux developing game with Thunderbirds, gaining valuable junior hockey experience with NAHL’s Grit BY MATT MACKINDER COLORADO HOCKEY HUB Playing this season with the Colorado Thunderbirds’ 16U AAA team, Sheldon Rioux impressed enough to earn a call-up earlier in the season from the NAHL’s Colorado Grit. He impressed there, too, and recently signed a tender with the Grit for the 2024-25 season. “It goes back to last spring when we heard of the Colorado Grit ID Camp,” said Rioux, originally from Val-d’Or, QC, and now living in Aurora. “I thought it would be great local experience and competition. It’s not everyday that you can have that level of hockey without having to pay for travel. We originally thought it would only be a weekend thing. “After a good ID camp, I was invited to the main camp where I preformed really well. I had the opportunity to continue with the Grit at the beginning of the season but because of school, I decided to stick with the Thunderbirds for a second year to build my confidence and gain more

Sheldon Rioux fends off a defender during a recent game for the Colorado Thunderbirds. Photo/Andrea Miller

trust. The Grit were very supportive of my decision and said they would offer me games along the year, which they did in November and December where I had the opportunity to play my first six junior games. They are a great organization and when they offered me to tender for them at the end of January, I did not hesitate one second.” Rioux knows that a tender isn’t a guarantee, and plans to be ready for whatever next season brings him. “I will be honest that my goal is to get drafted and play in the USHL next year but if it doesn’t happen, playing for the Grit in Greeley would be awesome,” Rioux said. “Having said that, there is no guarantee as the Grit will continue to get better and competition will be tough to make the team, and I don’t want to take anything for granted, but If I have the opportunity to play for the Grit, it will be an honor. I already had the chance to play in front of the crowd in Greeley and this is something I am

See RIOUX on 25


CANADA Continued from Page 21 next natural step in its emergence as a force to be reckoned with not only on the local hockey scene, but also on the international stage,” Bujold added. Somang has come a long way from its roots of four players signing on for 2014, to become a leading destination for promising international and local players. “Somang’s unwavering focus on development and advancement has already led to many of its alumni going on to play in some of the highest leagues available including Major Junior, USHL, NAHL, NCDC, EHL, and OJHL at the Junior level, the NCAA and ACHA at the collegiate level, and professional leagues in Germany, France, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Belgium, Japan, and Great Britain.” Kingston Wranglers Celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2024, the Wranglers’ ownership group RELM Sports hosts nearly 30 sports tournaments across Ontario, manages spring and summer teams and provides hockey development programs out of its base of Kingston, Ontario. RELM Sports was founded after a rebrand of a previous tournament company and today is led by its owner Ryan Thompson. “We’re eager to bring Junior Hockey back to Kingston as the Wranglers join the USPHL Premier hockey league next season. This marks a significant chapter for our organization, and we’re committed to fostering talent and contributing to the local hockey community,” said Thompson. Coming in as head coach is Mark Major, a native of North York, Ont., who was drafted 25th overall in the second round of the 1988 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins. After a 15-year playing career, he has dedicated his time the past two decades coaching in Kingston and making a positive impact on young athletes. “Through his coaching, Mark has not only helped his players develop

their hockey skills, but also instilled in them important values such as teamwork, discipline, and sportsmanship. His passion for the game and commitment to his community have made him a true role model for aspiring hockey players and coaches alike,” said Thompson. Assistant Coach Dave Mullins has been an on-ice officials assignor, travel program administrator, and coach of six All-Ontario champions and one Jr. C league championship team. At the junior level, he’s coached the Amherstview Jets (Provincial Junior League), and in youth hockey, he’s worked in Napanee Minor Hockey, Cobourg Minor Hockey, and Greater Kingston Minor Hockey. College Universel Sherbrooke The new College Universel Sherbrooke team will be run by the same management that is currently running the USPHL Premier member team from College Universel Gatineau, including College Universel Sports Director Marco Pietroniro and Hockey Director Alex Gagnon. For its first year, the new team will play out of Bishop University and the Thibeault Sport Complex, both in Sherbrooke. The team’s staff will be hired during the upcoming off-season. The basic tenets will be followed by both Universel teams in terms of recruiting, development, advancement and education. College Universel Sherbrooke (and Gatineau) will continue to look for players in Europe, Canada and the eastern U.S. while they attend multiple summer events and work with different advisors. They will also run two selection camps for their Gatineau and Sherbrooke teams. Development will focus on each player’s confidence, self-evaluation and creativity. College Universel will work with teams at all levels – NCAA and USports (Canada’s interuniversity sports governing body), as well as pro hockey teams in North America and Europe for player placement. Education is extremely important, with players being able to pursue an IB High School Diploma, a Pre-University/CEGEP Diploma and keep themselves open to opportunities either in

Canadian or U.S. universities. College Universel Gatineau The College Universel Gatineau is the one individual out of these six Canadian Division teams that is currently playing in the USPHL Premier. “We are currently in our first USPHL season. We are competing well and have been competing and placing players within many junior leagues including the USPHL levels for several years now,” said Universel Sports Director Marco Pietroniro. “We strongly believe that developing the USPHL Levels within the Quebec and Ontario provinces will provide a strong option for athletes to achieve NCAA or USport College Hockey options.” College Universel was created in Montreal, Que., in 2013. It expanded into Gatineau, Que., in 2017, and just added a location in Sherbrooke, Que. The school provides high school level, pre-university and CEGEP diplomas. Universel provides a premier private education for student-athletes with a selection of sports. Hockey has been at the school for four years and is looking forward to starting its fifth year. The team will play out of the Meredith Centre in nearby Chelsea, Que., as their home rink. Pietroniro first got on the hockey map as a member of the Trois-Rivieres Draveurs as a player in 1986, moving on to become Captain of the team before an 11-year pro career took him to Europe and the former West Coast Hockey League (whose teams were later brought into the ECHL). He began coaching in his final playing year in Idaho Falls and founded a non-profit youth hockey development program. He has had many coaching stops including the Arizona Sundogs (CHL), Team Quebec’s Canada Games U15 team, and Team Canada’s U17 team, in addition to QMJHL coaching stints with Val D’Or and Baie-Comeau, the latter as Head Coach. In addition to College Universel, Pietroniro has also been Director of Hockey Operation at Bishop’s College School for the last six years, directing BCS to a very competitive level with strong recruiting.

For more, visit


ROBINSON Continued from Page 19 “Being a billet, living away from home is unique to hockey, just like the junior experience,” Robinson said. “I’ve had the chance to make some awesome relationships with the families I have stayed with, and they have made it easy to be away from home.” Getting his start in the game of hockey came innocently enough for Robinson. “When I was three years old watching the Winter Olympics is where I saw hockey and fell in love with the game,” said Robinson. “Shortly after, my parents thought to sign me up for Snowplow Sam at the Family Sports Center. The Avalanche being right here in Colorado and practicing out of the same rink I grew up skating at also had an impact.” Once he took the ice, Robinson started with the Arapahoe Warriors’ rec league, playing there for a couple seasons before moving on to Krivo School of Hockey Elite until 14U, then the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders, and wrapping up with the Tigers from 15U to 18U. “All of my coaches have left an imprint on me, and I have been able to make my game off of what they have taught me, from skills to systems to the way I see the game,” Robinson said. “Playing in Colorado, I will remember playing against and with all of my friends having a super fun competitive edge to it, especially since the 2004 birth year happened to be pretty strong.” Moving forward, it’s business as usual for Robinson. “Some short-term goals this season would be to get to the Fraser Cup and win it,” said Robinson. “A long-term goal would be to elevate my game and play in the NAHL next year, working towards NCAA college hockey.”

Visit the Colorado Hockey Hub at!


RIOUX Continued from Page 22 really looking forward to experience again.” Growing up, Rioux’s hockey experience has been spread across two countries. “We just moved to Colorado in July 2022 and I have been playing for the Colorado Thunderbirds since,” said Rioux. “I started skating where I was born in Val-d’Or, and played most of my youth hockey as part of the Nashville Jr. Predators. Jordan French back in Nashville is the coach that had the most impact on my development so far as I spent the most time with him, give or take, eight

RUBBER HOCKEY years, and I still skate with him every summer. Harlan Pratt, who is now the hockey director in Aspen, also had a great impact on my development for a good five-year period while he was in Nashville. Since I moved to Colorado, the staff of the Colorado Thunderbirds and of the Drill House hockey center have also been great to me. On a personal note, David Clarkson has been an amazing advisor to me and my family since we moved here. “I had the opportunity to go to nationals with Nashville in 2022 and it would be great if our Thunderbirds could this year as this been the highlight of my youth hockey experience so far. The thing I love the most about Colorado hockey is having

the opportunity to play strong, local competition. Coming from Nashville, there was no other AAA hockey organization within a five-hour drive, so having the opportunity to play three other teams locally is great. In terms of my hockey memory here in Colorado, I would say it has to be my first local game for the Grit in Greeley last December where I had the opportunity to record my first two points in front of my family, friends, and teammates.” Looking back, Rioux said hockey has been all he’s known. “I was not even two years old as I stepped on the ice for the first time and I felt right at home,” Rioux said. “I wanted to walk in the house all the time with my skates. Both of my

parents’ families are huge hockey fans and I guess playing hockey is just part of being a Rioux. I had the opportunity to have my dad coaching me until Bantam, so this also definitely had an impact on my motivation as I was pushed hard to be better every single day.” Moving forward, Rioux’s goals are simple, yet lofty. “One of my short-term goals with hockey as of right now is to have a successful junior year next year,” said Rioux. “I would love to be able to perform well and be a game changer on the team. As for the long term, the obvious answer is the NHL. However, getting a good education and playing NCAA Division I hockey would be a dream.”

For Aurora’s Brennan, commitment to NCAA DIII Marian ‘a good fit for me’ for 2024-25 season BY MATT MACKINDER COLORADO HOCKEY HUB Samantha Brennan has played her whole hockey career in Colorado, skating for the Littleton Hawks, Colorado 14ers, and Cherry Creek Lady Bruins. Next season, the Aurora native will start her college hockey years after recently committing to NCAA Division III Marian University, a school located in Fond du Lac, Wis. “I was looking around for schools in Minnesota and Wisconsin with the hopes of finding a school where I could continue my hockey career,” Brennan said. “I found Marian, and it seemed like a decent fit, so I put it towards the top of my list. My family and I took a week in October to go visit the schools on the top of my list and I felt like Marian was a good fit for me. While we were visiting campus, we met with head coach (Julian) Giantonio and got to talking with him. He said that he thought I would be a great addition to the team, and we’ve been in touch ever since. Brennan explained how Marian is the right combination of hockey and academics she was looking for. “I think the main thing for hockey was when we met with Coach, he

Samantha Brennan will head to play college hockey this fall at Marian University in Wisconsin. Photo/Kahlo Becerra was brand-new to the organization,” Brennan said. “He had just come in four weeks earlier, but I could tell that he was truly excited to be there. He was overjoyed to be at this school and he seemed like he had a mission and a vision to elevate the program to the next level. He also watched some of my video and said he would love to work with me and is excited about

the opportunity to make me a better hockey player. “As far as academics go, they have the two main things I am interested in and they have a great record of getting kids into the field with great jobs and opportunities almost immediately after graduation. Academics have always been important to me. Even though there have been times I have

not fully enjoyed them, I have always given my best effort. “For my major, I am bouncing back and forth between exercise science and sports science or forensic science.” Going back to her earlier years, Brennan said the joy of playing hockey was instilled in her at a young age. “My older brother and cousin started playing hockey when they were young, and I remember being at the rink for their practices and games and wishing I was out there with them,” said Brennan. “So I eventually convinced my parents to sign me up, and the rest is history. “I think my biggest coaching influence has come from CSU’s former women’s hockey head coach, Troy Watts.” Looking ahead, Brennan wants to keep hockey part of her life, both on and off the ice. “My biggest goal for hockey is to become the best version of myself for my teammates, my coaches, and me, to continue my hockey career and become a better player each and every day,” Brennan said. “My biggest goal for life is to find something I am passionate about and make a career out of it.”





Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.