Minnesota Blue Ox – Thin the Herd – Volume 4 – 2021-2022

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#INTHISISSUE 04 05

JAY WITTA

Meet the Owner/ Partner/GM/Head Coach

GARY HEGENES Meet the Owner/ Partner/Hockey Enthusiast

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A UNIQUE OWNERSHIP By Michael Russo

AGE OUT PLAYERS By Staff

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MILLER BILLET EXPERIENCE By Jane Miller

MOJO FUELS FOCUS

By Joe Ruhland

33 40 2021-22 USPHL ADVANCEMENT

THE WALSER WAY

By Joshua Boyd

By Dayna Landgrebe

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MEET 4OXEN TACTICAL By Mark Jendro

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BLUE OX HEATING STORY By Heidi Gedis

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JAY WITTA MINNESOTA BLUE OX OWNER / PARTNER / GM / HEAD COACH

Coach Witta completed his 7th year of Junior A’ coaching and his 5th year with the Blue Ox this season. The Blue Ox squad finished with its 3rd National Tournament appearance in three years, with an impressive 43-8-1 record. During his first two seasons of coaching Junior A’ hockey, Witta had been the head coach of the NA3HL’s Twin City Steel and New Ulm Steel. Witta completed a 67-33-10 two year record with a Silver Cup semifinal appearance in 2015/16 and a Western Division playoff final loss to the eventual National Champion, Granite City 2016/17. The Steel also completed a relocation transition from White Bear Lake to New Ulm 2017 with the smoothest of ease. Jay worked daily with the Steel ownership in all aspects of the business – budgets, league communications, recruiting, trades, facilities, core value accountability, parent communication, and player advancement. During his two year stint with the Steel, Witta helped promote over eight players to the NAHL/TIER 2 LEVEL as well as seven players onto NCAA and ACHA college hockey.

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Thin The Herd // 2021-22

Witta, a Minnetonka, Minnesota native, played three years for the Minnetonka Skippers from 1985-87 where he was named captain his Senior season and helped guide the Skippers to their first ever Lake Conference Championship and was honored with an All-Conference Team selection. Witta was recruited by Herb Brooks at St. Cloud State University in 1987 to play on the inaugural SCSU Division 1 squad. After entertaining offers from various Division 1 and D3 programs across the country, Witta chose to stay close to home and attend St. Cloud State University as a walk-on defenseman. Witta also played Junior A’ hockey in Humboldt, Saask. for the Broncos (SJHL) before an undetected heart issue caused him to retire and return back to Minnesota. Witta has been coaching for the past 27 seasons and served on the Minnetonka Youth Hockey Board for 2 years – Jay also worked with Dave Snuggerud at Breakaway hockey to help form the first ever Breakaway AAA ’97 training team. Witta resides in Minnetonka with his wife Sara and their four boys. Bennett, Brody, Brooks and Griffin.


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GARY HEGENES MINNESOTA BLUE OX OWNER / PARTNER

Gary joined the Blue Ox team by aquiring

Gary also has a passion for real estate de-

a percentage of the Boudreau’s owner-

velopment as well as giving back to many

ship shares in February of 2021. Jay and

local youth charities. Organizations include:

Gary have known each other through busi-

The Boys and Girls Club (clubs for inner city

ness and youth sports circles for the last 10

youth), CCTP (helping felons reenter the

years, and when the opportunity arose for

work force), Student Venture (developing

Gary to become part of the Blue Ox organi-

student leaders), and Big Brothers Big Sis-

zation, well the timing could not have been

ters (pairing youths with adult mentors – 40

better. He is a lifelong hockey player and

years of involvement).

hockey fan! Gary is an avid hockey fan as well as forGary is also a Founder/Owner in Breaka-

mer coach and hockey dad. He still skates

way Hockey Academy in Edina, Minnesota

at least once a week if not more and he can

which specializes in furthering education

be found throughout the winter attending

for school kids with a passion for hockey ex-

many local high school hockey games.

cellence. Breakaway Academy has helped develop NHL drafted players such as Bob-

Be sure to reach out to Gary and say hello

by Brink, MIke Koster, Drew Helleson, Jack-

when you see him roaming the rink at home

son Lacombe, Rhett Pitlick and many more

Blue Ox games. He will always have a smile

high end college and international players.

and time to talk and catch up. Always.

www.BreakawayAcademy.net

A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication

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TO SPONSOR OR ADVERTISE IN NEXT SEASONS MAGAZINE CALL JAY WITTA AT 612-554-8994 OR EMAIL JAY@BLUEOXHOCKEY.COM


A UNIQUE OWNERSHIP By MICHAEL RUSSO

Bruce Boudreau’s ambition is simple: To keep kids playing hockey. The hockey lifer began his Golden Horseshoe Hockey School in Ontario 36 years ago and it was purely because he didn’t want young hockey players to quit once they realized they probably wouldn’t fulfill their dreams of one day making it to the NHL. There are so many other places players can strive to play competitive hockey, whether that’s juniors, colleges, myriad North American pro leagues and, of course, throughout Europe. He wanted to keep kids learning the game. He wanted to keep kids loving the game. “I really believe I was put on the Earth to promote the game, so everywhere I’ve gone I’ve tried my best to promote hockey and make it bigger,” said Boudreau, who behind only Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman owns the second-best points percentage (.654) as a coach in NHL history. “And this was an opportunity that really allowed that to happen.” Boudreau’s ties to Minnesota only included a brief stint decades ago with the WHA Fighting Saints and one year coaching the Wild. But he still had a desire to give back to the State of Hockey. So, the opportunity Boudreau is referring to? Helping launch the expansion Blue Ox into the United States Premier Hockey League in 2017 with his wife, Crystal and local marketing business owner and coach Jay Witta. Witta used to coach the New Ulm Steel in the NA3HL. In April 2017, Witta met up with Boudreau and broached the subject of going in together on a junior team. “He looked at me and goes, ‘Find us a team, and I’m in,’” Witta said. A week later, Witta called Boudreau and said, “I found a team. ”Months later, the Tier III expansion team was debuting in Coon Rapids with Witta serving as head coach and general manager and Crystal Boudreau running pretty much the entire business operations. Bruce’s role besides the financial commitment? King cheerleader. During the Blue Ox’s season, Boudreau often attends games and sometimes even collects tickets. When Blue Ox games conflict with Wild games, he’s getting constant text updates from his wife and hilariously updates local Wild reporters on just how the Blue Ox are doing. “I want to just promote hockey, and I think we’ve done that,” Boudreau said. “We started the Blue Ox really fast last year, but the second year, especially in the offseason, it has gone so much easier than the first season because people didn’t know. “They didn’t know if we were staying, coming or going, but I think from sponsorship and everything else it’s gone up by a lot. And the people know who the Blue Ox are. Name recognition is so much greater this year. This time last year people were asking, ‘What are you smoking?’” The Blue Ox rosters 25 players ranging from Minnesota, North Dakota, all throughout the United States and Canada and even Europe.

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A UNIQUE OWNERSHIP CONTINUED

“Our team has become a destination for players,” said Witta. “It’s because of how we run the team, the culture from the top down. All the things that are kind of lacking in junior hockey, that’s not the case here. Our goal, is not to just run a Tier 3 Junior A’ hockey team. We want to run a mini-NHL team, do it right and make the player experience off the charts. The players here know they will be treated well and be given an honest chance to develop their game, that is rare in Junior A’ hockey.” Boudreau’s hope is to one day add a youth program, an Under-16 and Under-18 team and a Tier II team like other programs across the USPHL. In the summer of 2018, Boudreau’s youngest son, Brady, a goalie on the Blue Ox, launched an off-shoot of his dad’s hockey school right at the Coon Rapids Ice Center. “The city here has worked tremendously with us,” Boudreau said. “It’s become a family thing, too, and I’m real proud of it. For six bucks, kids can get in to a Blue Ox game. That’s pretty good in today’s world, you can’t get anything for six bucks.” Junior hockey’s landscape has changed rapidly in the last 20 years, so even Division III college programs want their incoming freshmen to have a few years of junior hockey under their belt, Witta said. “Our younger kids are looking to move up a tier and still maybe dream of Division I and the rest of them want to play Division III college hockey,”

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said Witta, who once upon a time captained the Minnetonka High School Skippers. “These are guys out to prove something or maybe they were a late bloomer. It’s a great level. They’re hungry. “Advancement is one thing that is awesome, but a great hockey experience is priceless.” And, there’s always success stories. Before Boston University, the Wild’s Charlie Coyle played in the league as a 17-year-old for the South Shore Kings in Foxboro, Mass. He finished fifth in league scoring and called it a “great experience.” In fact, Coyle says he still uses the Kings’ strength and conditioning coach, Brian McDonough, as his personal trainer. A few years ago, Witta had a Swiss player named Yannick Zehnder play Tier III hockey in White Bear Lake. Two winters ago, Zehnder lit it up with eventual No. 1 overall NHL pick Nico Hischier for Switzerland in the U20 world junior championships. Goalie Adam Carlson, who never even played varsity hockey at Edina, played for the Steele County Blades, ultimately got a full ride to Mercyhurst and recently signed with the Washington Capitals. This past summer, the Wild brought 20-year-old Finnish Blue Ox defenseman Oskari Halme to development camp on a tryout. “Scouts go everywhere to find players,” Boudreau said. “Somebody that might not be ready at 17 may all of a sudden flourish in a league like this at 18, 19 or

Thin The Herd // 2021-22

20. You can at some point catch that diamond in the rough or can go on to Division I or bigger and better things. “This is the State of Hockey, and my family wants to be Minnesotans. So if we can get involved in the minor and junior hockey level, I think that’ll be great for long after I’m done coaching.” As important as teaching the players and letting them get a grand experience, Blue Ox fans are having a ball, too. “It’s so good for the community,” said Todd Bushy, a Coon Rapids resident and father of six boys. “It’s just great. Tailgating in the parking lot, and such a good atmosphere inside.” Bushy loves the commitment from Boudreau and the ownership. “Right from the news conference, Bruce got on the ice and took pics with the kids and signed my son’s goalie stick,” Bushy said. “He’s been just first class all the way. He even walked for miles and sat on our Coon Rapids Youth Hockey float at our parade last summer. He didn’t have to do that, but he signed every autograph ever asked. He was just unbelievable.”


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Michael Russo covers the Minnesota Wild and National Hockey League for The Athletic. He has covered the NHL since 1995. He co-hosts the Russo-Souhan Show on talknorth.com and can be heard on KFAN (100.3-FM) and seen throughout the hockey sea- son on Fox Sports North. Follow Russo on Twitter at @RussoHockey. Please consider a subscription to The Athletic go to theathletic.com/michaelrussohockey.

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Andrew Kramer // ’01 Forward

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Marcello De Antunano // ’01 Goalie // Univerisity of Utah Commit

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A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication

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5 YEARS OF BILLETING – THE JOY, LAUGHTER, TEARS AND FUN OF HOUSING HOCKEY PLAYERS BY JANE MILLER

If someone had told me ten years ago that I would be hosting a hockey player in a basement bedroom of my house and enjoying the experience, I would have thought they were crazy! But our family has found ourselves as hosts for some amazing and outstanding young men who love hockey and want to transition into adulthood with a very unique experience. It has been 5 years of hosting and each year we have looked forward to hosting a player at our home who arrives in the fall with excitement and nerves and then leaves in the springtime with fulfillment and memories. It was the summer of 2017 when a call was put out to local hockey families in the Coon Rapids area to be a “billet” family for a new USPHL team that was going to be playing in the community. The owners were recognizable (Bruce and Crystal Boudreau) and after having recently remodeled our basement, our family decided “Why not?” Before we knew it, we were hosting a great young man from Pennsylvania. Tyler stayed with us for the hockey season and we got to enjoy showing off the Twin Cities and Minnesota to a fun-loving guy who loved to eat cookie dough and cinnamon rolls.

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THE MILLER BILLET FAMILY - YEAR 2 Why not another year?! But wait… 2 players and not enough rooms in the basement? No problem! And with that we said “yes” to local players Kyle and Ryan with one of them enjoying a loft bed in a large storage closet. Yes, we converted a large storage room to a small bedroom for a hockey player that was over 6 feet tall.

THE MILLER BILLET FAMILY - YEAR 3 & 4 Year number three and we found ourselves billeting for Jacob! Kind, quiet, mild-mannered Jacob who evolved into a wild man on the ice!! Hockey is fun to watch and boy did he make it really fun to watch! We repeated billeting the 4th year and with COVID, changed schedules and locations, we worried that we wouldn’t get to be a part of the experience. We were ecstatic to host Logan from Nebraska and glad that with all the craziness in the world, watching hockey gave our family a sense of normalcy. We appreciated so much being able to partake in this experience of hosting young men from around the country and locally to our home.

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THE MILLER BILLET FAMILY - YEAR 5 It lead us to the most recent fifth year and our most recent billet player, another Tyler! Every year we look forward to getting to know these young men and to help them navigate adulting. Broken cars, a visit to a doctor or ER, help with homework, laundry, hosting pasta dinners, girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, advice for our own sons (hockey or other sports), travel, visits to the FBI field office in Minneapolis (that’s another story), concerts, Axe throwing, shoveling snow, and having to explain to parents when they drop their sons off each fall that, “Yes, your son has a room behind a secret door in our basement behind a bar.” Every single moment has been worth it. And at the end of each season a young man leaves our home and heads into their next adventure. With tears of happiness, we say goodbye and look forward to hearing from them and all of the milestones they achieve. No regrets, wonderful memories and highly encouraged. You find a place in your heart for these young guys and have a great experience watching them grow as players and men. - Jane Miller 5 year Billet mom

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A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication

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MN BLUE OX 2021-22 PLAYER ROSTER PLAYER NAME

POSITION

HT

WT

SHOOT

DOB

HOMETOWN

#6 NATE CHENEY

Forward

6’1”

165

Right

4/2/2003

St. Michael, MN

#7 BLAKE BAKEY

Forward

5’10”

195

Right

4/09/2003

Dubuque, IA

#8 GRIFFIN BOURASSA

Defense

6’0”

185

Left

12/5/2002

New Brighton, MN

#9 ZACH LAMOTTE

Forward

5’10”

165

Right

11/8/2002

Burnsville, MN

#10 TANNER WEIS

Forward

6’0”

175

Right

12/13/2002

Rogers, MN

#11 CARTER HOBBS (A)

Defense

5’11”

170

Right

12/11/2001

Des Moines, IA

#12 MICHAEL CLOUGH (A)

Forward

5’10”

175

Right

9/13/2001

Andover, MN

#15 LOGAN STARKEY

Forward

6’2”

175

Right

7/28/2002

Chanhassen, MN

#17 PETER KEESE

Defense

5’7”

150

Right

3/15/2003

Minnetonka, MN

#18 BLAKE GLASER

Forward

6’2”

185

Right

10/15/2001

Kearney, NE

#19 KEITH SCHENKEL

Forward

5’9”

170

Left

11/27/2001

Brandon, SD

#20 JACOB LANGHEINRICH

Defense

5’11”

175

Right

1/12/2001

Chanhassen, MN

#21 MARC ABREGO

Defense

5’10

165

Right

6/20/2002

Anchorage, AK

#23 MAX BELLER

Defense

6’0”

175

Left

7/21/2001

Sioux City, IA

#24 TYLER SCHIRMER (A)

Forward

5’11”

200

Left

7/11/2001

Kearney, NE

#25 JACK POJAR

Forward

6’3”

195

Left

6/25/2002

Osseo, MN

#26 DANIEL ABBOTT

Defense

6’3”

190

Right

9/6/2003

Roanoke, VA

#27 CALE GOENNER

Defense

6’2”

215

Right

4/22/2002

Shoreview, MN

#29 HAYDEN MASLOSKI (C)

Forward

5’7”

145

Left

4/11/2002

Andover, MN

#30 ELI MARCHESE

Goalie

5’10”

155

Left

5/23/2003

Waterloo, IA

#33 JOE MOEN

Goalie

6’0”

175

Left

9/29/2001

Anoka, MN

#34 TYLER KULESA

Forward

6’0”

175

Right

10/12/2002

Woodbury, MN

6’3”

180

Left

11/13/2001

Irving, TX

5’7”

140

Left

12/16/2001

Bettendorf, IA

#37 MARCELLO DE ANTUNANO Goalie #64 ANDREW KRAMER

Forward

GENERAL MANAGER/HEAD COACH: JAY WITTA

ASSISTANT COACHES: JASON WOOD, MARK SCHIFFMAN

BLUE OX OWNERSHIP: JAY WITTA , GARY HEGENES, BRUCE & CRYSTAL BOUDREAU

SECURITY: GARDA SECURITY

GAME DAY OPS: CARTER MASLOSKI , FRED CRIMMINS, DOMINIC LEGO, TIM BROWN

STRENGTH: POWEREDGE STUDIO

CORP. SPONSORSHIPS: JAY WITTA MUSIC & LIGHTS: MIKE RESKI

PHOTO: EMMA STARKEY

VIDEO: BENNETT WITTA

GAME SCHEDULE: DAN MASLOSKI BILLET COORD: JANE MILLER

PHOTO: ERIC WICKLUND VIDEO: BROOKS WITTA

ATHLETIC TRAINER: ALLINA HEALTH ORTHOPEDICS VOICE OF THE OX: TED MILLER SKILLS: CAL MISKA SKATING: KATIE MCDONOUGH

KOWALSKI FINANCIAL

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Blake Glaser // ’01 Forward

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Tyler Schirmer // ’01 Forward // University of Maryville Commit

A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication

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Michael Clough // ’01 Forward // Univ. of Purdue Northwest Commit

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Hayden Masloski // ’02 Forward // Univ. of Purdue Northwest Commit

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THE VOICE OF BLUE OX PLAY BY PLAY BY STAFF

NEED TO KNOW ABOUT JOE: A MOMENTUM CATALYST! When not at the rink with Mn Blue Ox, Joe also does play-by-play for the Big Ten Network for most sports and for QCTV as well. Joe is also Managing Partner of YourTime Performance Agency, a company focusing on Leadership and Sales Development, infusing his “Batteries Included” Momentum Mindset in leading various initiatives and launches for medical device, healthcare and software companies. Joe’s connections and experience of 20-plus years, has an engaging presence and skill to elevate talent, team effectiveness and sales revenue. His sustained success, and proven results are the reason companies have Joe involved with merger integrations or leading leadership launches for their teams.

Joe Ruhland, Minnesota Blue Ox, playby-play announcer, brings extensive broadcast to the Blue Ox. His broadcast career began while attending St. Cloud State University, when he covered hockey, along with football and basketball for several radio stations in the St. Cloud area and working closely with the sports information department. With a passion to capture the energy and the speed of the game during his call of a great goal, a spectacular save, a bigtime check or a key play, Joe’s

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commitment is to bring excitement to his play-by-play and reward the players, the team, fans and families with momentum in his voice. These are key moments that remain with players, family members and fans for years to come. By conducting interviews with players in the moment, moments after their achievement, Joe believes it elevates and enhances the experience of the event, which is a key reason he created his YouTube channel, MoJoeMoments as a hub to share and retain these moments.

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Following college Joe joined the New York Rangers, as their Playby-Play announcer and PR/Media Relations Director for the Rangers top development team in Denver, During his three-year stint with the Rangers, he was an instrumental resource in the start-up of the Rangers IHL topdevelopment team, which also included hosting a hockey talk show on KBYGAM, a 50,000 watt sports network. The Denver Rangers rostered future Hall of Famers, Mike Richter and Marcel Dionne and coached by Peter Mahovlich. A couple of players from


the Denver Rangers who became NHL coaches were Tony Granato and Peter Laviolette. The GM of the New York Rangers during that time was another Hall of Famer, Phil Esposito who led the league with 48 recalls and reassignments throughout the 1988-89 season. In the offseason, Joe was a play-by-play announcer for college football on Prime Sports Network and radio play-by-play for the Denver Zephers, formerly the Milwaukee Brewers Triple A team. After the Rangers moved their top development team closer to New York, then Albany Joe decided to stay in Colorado vs head east, taking a role with Team USA Hockey in Colorado Springs, as a PR consultant and the Public Address announcer for many of their Pre-Olympic games many hosted at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver. It was during his time with Team USA Hockey, Joe became involved with leadership and neuroscience performance and as a speaker/trainer at the Olympic Training Center for many athletes. Listen and catch the Joementum this season during his Blue Ox Hockey broadcast.

A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication Thin The Herd // 2018-19

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Max Beller // ’01 Dman // UNLV Commit

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AN ‘A’ FOR ADVANCEMENT BY JOSHUA BOYD

The United States Premier Hockey League, with its unparalleled multi-tiered development model, continues to be the perfect starting point towards a college hockey career. Research tracking the whereabouts of former USPHL players shows that there are more than 1,200 college hockey players who developed their on-and off-ice skills anywhere from the USPHL Midget Full-Season divisions up through the three-tiered USPHL Junior Hockey model. Along with development towards a college hockey future, the USPHL is also known for its internal promotion of players, and several hundred have moved up within the Midget and Junior leagues. More than 275 former USPHL Junior and Midget players are also currently playing professional hockey around the world. Alumni of USPHL Member Organizations currently in the NHL include the Buffalo Sabres’ Jack Eichel (Junior Bruins), the Boston Bruins’ Connor Clifton (Jersey Hitmen), the Pittsburgh Penguins’ John Marino (South Shore Kings) and Stanley Cup Champion and St. Louis Blues forward Zach Sanford (Islanders Hockey Club.)

NATIONAL COLLEGIATE DEVELOPMENT CONFERENCE (NCDC TIER 2) The top of the pyramid is the tuition-free National Collegiate Development Conference, which has entered its third season and has already seen new college commitments for future seasons. There are currently 143 former NCDC players on NCAA Division 1 and Division 3 rosters. Prior to the 2017 formation of the NCDC, the USPHL Premier Division was the league’s top tier. There are more than 230 alumni of the USPHL’s top junior division currently playing NCAA hockey. More than 50 USPHL alumni earned season-ending awards from their individual conferences, along with nine being named as Hobey Baker Award Nominees. Former P.A.L. Jr. Islander Joe Duszak made it all the way to the Top Ten for Hobey Baker nominees. An early favorite for a similar honor this year is former South Shore Kings goalie Craig Pantano, who posted a 1.32 goals against average and .947 save percentage early in his first season with Northeastern, where he is a fifth-year player. Tim Doherty, a three-year Junior Bruins player, is on a career best 1.3 points-per-game pace, with nine through six contests at the University of Maine. These are just a pair of success stories born in the USPHL’s top division. Beyond the NCAA, the USPHL is proud of alum John Marino, who has become a regular with the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins after a three-year NCAA career at Harvard University. He played two full seasons with the Kings in the USPHL’s top tier.

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AN ‘A’ FOR ADVANCEMENT CONTINUED

There are also players who move on from the top level to the American Collegiate Hockey Association, giving the USPHL’s top tier more than 325 alumni currently playing at all levels of college hockey.

USPHL PREMIER Today, the USPHL Premier Division is the league’s top level of Tier-3 junior hockey. It is also the largest Tier-3 league in the nation, ranging from Minnesota in the west to New England in the East, and all the way down the Eastern Seaboard to Florida. Although it may have a large footprint on the surface, divisional play and several showcases keeps travel light for the players, and provides college scouts more showcase opportunities than in any other league to see the best Tier-3 talent. That is one of the main reasons why the USPHL Premier, in the last two years alone, has produced 240 NCAA athletes - including Jacob Zab, who rode a strong year with the Pittsburgh Vengeance to an NCAA Division 1 roster spot with the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Another 210 players from the last two years of the USPHL Premier have moved on to the ACHA ranks, giving the USPHL Premier a total of 450 college advancements in just two seasons.

The NCAA Division 3 season had not yet begun as of Halloween, but watch for USPHL alumni to be among the top players in each conference. Last year, the Northeast-10 saw 10 league alumni earning post-season awards, with 10 more alumni earning post-season honors in the United Collegiate Hockey Conference. The USPHL Premier Division has also been an entry point to higher levels of hockey, most notably the NCDC. No less than 40 individual players have made the big jump the last two years to the tuition-free junior level within the USPHL. Many of these players rank among the top point leaders in the NCDC, including recent Yale University commit Ian Carpentier and Northern Cyclones standout Niklas Bretschneider. Nicolas Poirier, who made the jump from the Premier to NCDC Twin City Thunder, said it takes a lot just to advance from one level to the other.

It currently serves as a truly developmental league, with a median age of roughly 17-½ years old among its players on teams over a footprint ranging from New England and the Mid-Atlantic to the Southeastern U.S. The vast majority of USPHL Elite players move on to the USPHL Premier, with a total of 251 players in the last two seasons advancing to the higher-level Tier-3 league. Along with its junior development mission, there are several players who advance directly to college hockey. The Northern Cyclones’ Matt Irwin, who finished among the top scorers in the USPHL Elite last season, has earned a spot on the Framingham State University roster in NCAA Division 3 hockey.

“It was a good start last year with the Premier team. A lot of the guys moved up. We did a good job working hard this summer to make sure we got a spot,” added Poirier. “Guys are faster, but you just get adjusted to the speed. Work hard every day and good things will happen.”

A total of 179 former USPHL Elite players (along with players from precursors to the USPHL Elite) are on ACHA rosters for this season, adding to the more than 1,200 total USPHL alumni currently playing college hockey.

USPHL ELITE

The USPHL 18U, 16U and 15U Full Season Divisions have developed a great reputation for not only hosting

The USPHL Elite Division, also operating

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at the Tier-3 junior level, has operated at various stages of the USPHL’s existence as its second-and third-highest level of junior hockey.

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USPHL MIDGET DIVISIONS


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AN ‘A’ FOR ADVANCEMENT CONTINUED highly-ranked Tier-1 AAA teams, but also advancing players to all corners of the junior, college and pro hockey world. The Midget Divisions feature two alumni who have moved on to the NHL, including Marino and former USPHL 16U standout Joel Farabee, who made his NHL debut this season with the Philadelphia Flyers. In college hockey terms, the USPHL 18U division has seen 77 alumni advance to the NCAA Division 1 game, with 169 more playing Division 3 hockey. The USPHL16U has sent more than 150 into the NCAA realm, with 69 of those hitting the Division 1 ice. The USPHL 18U Division can take credit for shepherding the careers of 85 athletes to the NCDC this season, including Josh Waters, currently a top scorer for the first place Jersey Hitmen. Waters played 16 USPHL games last season for the Northwood School, which went to the USA Hockey Tier 1 Nationals. “Playing at Northwood, there are 18-, 17-and 16-year-olds, and now in this league, you can go all the way to 21, so the kids are bigger, faster and stronger,” said Waters. “Last year was a good year, the most fun I’ve had playing hockey, and I’ve found a good place here. The Hitmen demand a lot out of us, but we’ve been getting results, so they know what they’re doing.” The USPHL 18U Division also sends players to the USPHL Premier, with more than 120 currently skating in that league. North of 200 alumni from the USPHL 16U are also playing in the NCDC, Premier and Elite Divisions, showing that more than 400 players have risen through the USPHL ranks from Midget to Junior.

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The pipeline extends all the way down to the USPHL 15U Division. No less than 90 former 15U players are now in the USPHL 16U Division, with another 36 in the 18U Division and over 90 15U alumni have reached the USPHL Junior divisions. Additionally, the USPHL 18U and 16U Divisions currently have 60 alumni playing Tier-1 junior hockey in the U.S. and Canada, as well as more than a dozen former players that moved on to Canadian major junior hockey.

EHF SELECTS The first season of the USPHL’s SplitSeason Midget Division, the EHF Selects, was a rousing success. The vast majority of the 19 players with USPHL organizational roots that were selected in the 2019 NHL Draft came from EHF Selects Member Organizations, including three first-rounders. Several players from Year 1 have also matriculated to Tier-1 hockey in the U.S. and Canada, as well as a pair of goaltenders moving directly from the EHF Selects to the NCDC. Many of last year’s difference-makers are actually back for another season with their favorite EHF Selects organization, in many cases moving up from U16 to U18 internally. With No. 1 overall rankings already this season for both the Boston Jr. Eagles and Little Bruins, college and pro scouts continue to flock to see the best from this league from August until November, as well as at USA Hockey Nationals in April. Advancement to high-level college and junior hockey will only continue to heat up for the EHF Selects as we move into Year 3 in 2020-21.

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Joe Moen // ‘01 Goalie


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A GROWING PATHWAY USPHL Midget Divisions

The United States Premier Hockey League expanded its full-season 16U Division this year to 31 teams from 20 last year, and rebranded its former 16U Futures Division as the full-season 15U Division. The league also features a slightly expanded 18U Division, up to 20 teams from 18 last season. The full-season Midget divisions are becoming an increasingly more direct path to the NCDC. From last year’s 18U division, more than 50 players advanced directly to this year’s NCDC, and many teams in that division are developing their future players in-house, utilizing their 18U and 16U teams. For instance, there are eight former 18U and six former 16U P.A.L. Jr. Islanders players currently skating for the Jr. Islanders’ 2018-19 NCDC squad. James Zegel came up to the NCDC’s South Shore Kings from the 18U Division and was immediately the NCDC’s tallest player at 6-feet-7-inches. He has skated in the USPHL at the 16U, 18U, Elite and Premier levels before skating in the NCDC, with the majority of those games coming in the Midget Divisions. “I think it’s a really great league. All levels are really dominant,” said Zegel. “It was definitely a big jump from 18U to the NCDC. You just have to work hard in the gym and it’ll work out.” Brett Schneider, one of the New Jersey Hitmen 18U team’s top forwards, said he is excited to play within the USPHL and advance through its different tiers, especially if he can do so while staying with the Hitmen.

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“I love it up here, and I would love to keep playing here. I love all the kids, love the coaches,” said Schneider. “It was a big jump from the AYHL to here - there are a lot more kids, and a lot more [college-] committed kids. We have an NCDC team and hopefully I’ll move up to there, or maybe even Premier. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to move up one day.” Cade DeStefani, of the Junior Bruins, is one of just 10 players from the 2017-18 USPHL 16U Division to make the bold jump directly into the NCDC this year. “I think that’s obviously a big jump, but getting younger guys into the league is what they’re looking for, for the colleges,” said DeStefani, an ‘01 who also saw time with the Northern Cyclones’ NCDC team last year, up from their 16U squad. “I think the 16U Division really develops players well - it’s good competition up and down. All the teams are good and a lot of players move on from there to higher levels.” More than 60 players moved up from the former 16U Futures Division (now 15U) to the USPHL 16U Division of this year. The talent level that has played in the 16U Division is not lost on this year’s 15U players. Looking at 16U Division member teams of 2017-18, more than 40 players from those programs have gone on to NCAA Division 1 careers. Tristan Daneau, of the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders 15U team, wants to go to the Islanders’ 16U program, which currently counts among its alumni seven current NCDC players and six more in the Tier-1 junior realm. “That’s what I’m hoping for,” Daneau said. “I definitely have to build confidence, team play and keep working hard.”


FUTURE ADVANCEMENT EHF Selects Division Opens New Doors

This is the third season for the USPHL’s split-season EHF Selects Midget Division, but it is already turning heads not just in its New England base of operations, but nationally.

be seen, but this could be yet another scouting ground for NCDC teams to develop players within the USPHL progression path, and onwards to the NCAA.

MYHockeyrankings ranked the Boston Jr. Eagles’ 18U team as its No. 1 Tier-1 team in the U.S. at that age level for four of the first five weeks of this season.

Matt Collins, head coach of the Cape Cod Whalers’ 15U team, ranked 17th nationally on Oct. 31, said he’s excited for the future of the EHF Selects and USPHL, in looking at the players on his team this year.

“You have the best guys here in Massachusetts on all those teams. It’s a good level of competition here,” said John Farinacci, a Harvard commit playing for the Jr. Eagles this fall. “Playing against these other good players from the Massachusetts area, [you can] keep getting better and develop yourself.” In addition, the EHF Selects featured five Top 20 18U teams in the MHR rankings of Oct. 31. There have also been two Top 20 16U Tier-1 and two Top 20 15U Tier-1 teams in the rankings out of the EHF Selects. With this being the first year of the EHF Selects, advancement remains to

“U15 is new, but I think it’s the future. I think the [EHF Selects/USPHL merger] makes sense - it’s good for the programs and good for the kids,” said Collins. “It’s a good chance for these kids to develop against better players. I’m a believer. [EHF Selects] is here, it works, it’s the best competition around and I’m happy to be a part of it.” Whether you’re one of the top 14-yearold players looking to take the next big step, or a 20-year-old close to making a college decision, the United States Premier Hockey League has a division for you - and a ladder to climb.

JOIN THE

OXPOD

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DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION HELP WALSER BECOME AN AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY TRAILBLAZER BY DAYNA LANDGREBE There is nothing more thrilling than variety in the world of sports. Diversity of game, talent, skill, and, most importantly, of player. It’s the uniqueness of a player’s ability, perspective, grit, background and determination that can turn even the most expected outcomes on a dime. One good hit. One incredible save. One legendary act that can make or break the win. It is true in sports, and it’s true elsewhere— our differences don’t divide us; they are the only thing that unite us. The playing field might look different, but diversity and inclusion are an essential way to a win at Walser Automotive Group, too. It’s been a focus for the Edina-based dealer group for years, and Chief Human Resources Officer Sherry Schultz said the reasons are many. “First and foremost, it’s the right thing to do. Asking our employees to bring their whole selves to work matches our Core Values. Life doesn’t stop when you enter our four walls no matter who you are. We know people who are authentic at work are considerably happier, more satisfied, and less stressed. It’s a winwin,” Schultz said. Schultz, who joined Walser in 2018, started an inclusive transformation for the company with the launch of Women of Walser—an Employee Resource Group (ERG) focused on the recruitment, retention, and ascension of women at Walser and into the automotive industry. Today, Women of Walser focuses on areas of business development, career progression, personal growth and community outreach initiatives.

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There is also a business case to the notion of being yourself. “It is our total intention to represent the customers we serve every day. Our customers come to us from all corners of the state and beyond. We aim to look like the marketplaces we serve to better understand and support the needs of our sales and service clients. It’s critical that our customers feel understood and heard when buying a car, no matter their race, religion, gender or orientation,” Schultz said. It’s a game plan Schultz has studied before. With executive diversity experience from Fortune 500 companies like PepsiCo, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, and Sears Holding Company, Schultz has championed the practice of supportive employee engagement. “It’s about incorporation, not accommodation,” she said. “Diversity in thought and action should be a driver for any community business.” The desire for inclusion quickly grew at Walser and expanded to form both an ERG for Walser’s LGBTQ+ employees, aptly named Drive With Pride, and, most recently, Mosaic, an employee-run digital resource library focused on race equity and education. It’s a calling and a mission for the company that wouldn’t have taken root without the support of Walser CEO Andrew Walser.

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Walser, an Edina native, took the helm as Walser’s CEO in 2017. He said he’s watched the automotive industry begin to make more incremental changes in areas of employee inclusion over the years but said there’s still much room to grow. “The growth of diversity and inclusion at Walser has never been more important and we’ll continue to dedicate resources to it,” Walser said. Meanwhile, Walser Chairman Paul Walser spotlighted the issue of diversity on the national stage last month during the 2021 National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Show. Walser is serving as the 2021 Chairman for NADA. “This is an important moment for dealers everywhere, because the truth is that we don’t live in the same world we used to,” Walser said during his keynote address. “This year I want to challenge all of us to make this a priority. Let’s find the path to attract a more diverse workforce. Then let’s implement training to help them succeed.” NADA represents nearly 16,500 franchised new car and truck dealerships across the U.S., both domestic and foreign. “Andrew and Paul Walser care deeply about this topic and our employees know it. Our goal has consistently been to grow and support better people, not just salespeople,” Schultz said.


Pictured: CEO of Walser Automotive Group, Andrew Walser, growing up playing hockey for the Edina Youth Hockey Association and High School team.

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Walser Automotive Group Chief Human Resources Officer Sherry Schultz

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4OXEN TACTICAL GROUP MN BLUE OX BOOT CAMP 2021-22 BY MARK JENDRO

This years’ bootcamp started like any other. The Cadre showed up on Friday night to get everything ready for the boys to show up on Saturday morning. However this year seemed a little different. It would be the first year of 4 Oxen Tactical Group (4OTG) as such we felt it needed to start with a bang so to kick everything off Friday night we had a bonfire that could be seen from the international space station. Feeling like everything was ready to go the Cadre were able to relax, the calm before the storm if you will. Saturday morning came and the boys started to arrive. Right away the cadre could tell this was going to be a different year. Captain Maz had briefed the team on what to expect and our usual tricks weren’t going to work. They all waited in the designated parking area and walked in as a team grounded their gear and tried to control all the nervous energy about what was going to happen of the course of the next day and half. The day began with a quick formation to allow the cadre to pass out guidons and to go over a few rules for the bootcamp. Those rules included the safe keeping of Babe the stuffed ox, as well as the baby bjorn carrying a toddler sized troll doll “Crosby”. Cadre member and billet dad, Mark Jendro, had one last surprise for the returning veterans. It seems last year the players acquired a large traffic barrier that they left behind in his garage. So the barrier was fashioned to a wood platform and the veterans would be responsible for transporting it throughout the camp. After the formalities were out of the way the “fun” could begin. The first event was the ‘Murph’ , a hero workout in honor of Lt. Michael Murphy. The workout was modified due to lack of equipment. Players all had to complete a 1 mile run, 200 pushups, 200 sit ups, 300 air squats finished with a 1 mile run. Yes all of this had to be completed while carrying Babe and Crosby. Both 1 mile runs needed to be completed while carrying the traffic barrier. Once the Murph was completed and the players had been tested physically it was time to test their brains. Captain Maz was given a very specific packing list along with a diagram of how it was to be laid out for inspection. The team was put into formation and told to lay out the packing list as instructed. This was to test both attention to detail, even the smallest details matter, and how quickly they could lay everything out and work together to ensure everything was dress right dress. As the cadre inspected the squads for mistakes, which would require corrective training, pushups or situps, something of that sort. We again were surprised by the preparedness of this group. We were quickly able to move to the next order of business, setting up the Blue Ox flag pole and the team’s sleeping area for the night.

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Nick Leach, Krist Francisco, Mark Jendro, Jon Albert - Blue Ox Bootcamp 2021-22

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Blue Ox Hockey


4OXEN TACTICAL BOOT CAMP CONTINUED

After camp was set up it was time to again attack them physically. The Ox Gauntlet was next; this was a taxing event consisting of Bear Crawl, Crab Walk, Railroad Timber Flip, Tire Pull, Fireman Carry, and Sauce Shot. Everyone in each squad must complete each part of the event. First one wins and gets to first dibs on fire wood. After the Ox gauntlet was lunch. What would bootcamp be without MRE’s for lunch? Eat up boys, they are delicious. During lunch the boys were able to recuperate a little bit but also visit with the cadre and relax. Usually there is some payment for waters or other resources that were forgotten, but not this year the boys were prepared and ready. After lunch we continued to test them physically and mentally. We started with some nice relaxing music after lunch introducing the players to Flowers by Moby and Roxanne by the Police. We thought they could use the culture. Oh yeah we made them do Air squats and Burpees too. Then we sent

them exploring in the woods for the Berkeley Marathon, go find hidden books and bring back certain pages based on the clues you were given. Now that lunch has had a chance to settle its right back at it with the Seal Team Shuffle. Each squad is split into 2 teams and have to complete each task twice. Team A would complete cadre instructed exercises while team B would do 5 alternating overhead presses with the railroad timber followed by ½ mile shoulder carry. Then the teams would switch. The last event before dinner was a 4 station relay; each station had a task to be completed and an exercise done by all of the team members not actively engaged in the task. The stations were Ring Toss get the rings on the post, Sandbag Stack, move the 50 lbs sandbags and stack them two sandbags at a time. BB Gun, knock down all the targets 1 shot per person. and Artillery (T-shirt cannon) using radio communication land a t-shirt in the tire from behind cover in 3 tries. Each station has a time limit to complete the station, between stations the team must complete a 1 mile run.

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Finally Dinner had arrived, Leach, the camp chef manned the grill cooking up dogs and burgers for everyone. As everyone began to relax and prepare for dinner it was at that moment that fatigue showed up and attention to detail left. The boys let their guard down and the cadre were ready to pounce, leaving behind critical items as they returned to the campsite to change. While the players were gone, cadre members Alby, Franky and Jendro scattered and hid those sensitive items. Upon return they realized their mistake and knew bad things were about to happen. After

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all the items were retrieved Franky made sure that the players received some additional training in how important the little things can be. Needless to say, if the boys weren’t tired yet they would be when he was done with them. Once dinner was ready everyone settled down for some fun and team bonding around the campfire. Cadre, coaches, and players all shared some stories about who they were, where they came from and why they were here. Then it was bedtime, the players had 1 task, maintain the fire overnight and make sure they had someone awake throughout the night to

Thin The Herd // 2021-22

protect camp and stoke the fire. As the evening progressed and players started to make their way back to the campsite the cadre fun kicked up a notch as night operations began. Secretly moving through the woods and making sure the players were maintaining camp guard and fire watch. It was during these night ops where exhaustion really kicked in. camp watch and fire guard were missing so everyone was woken up to determine who was missing their shift. A short “training” session took place. Thinking they paid for their mistake the players drifted back to sleep, but Franky wasn’t


finished yet. Everyone was woken up at about 4 am and the real training session began and continued right into the first event of the morning, the 101st Smoke Session consisting of 101 in cadence or 4 count push ups, sit ups, and flutter kicks, finishing just in time for breakfast at 7 am. After breakfast was Sunday Funday, this event was fun for everyone, short sprint, 2 sauce toss shots, another short sprint, 3 bags into cornhole board ending with 10 push ups. First team to complete all tasks wins. Finally it was time to take down camp and clean everything up and

make it look like we were never there. After cleaning up it was time for one last talk with players. This was a different talk than last night around the fire. This is the time we share our military stories, our struggles, deeper meaning of teammate, friends, brother and the messages we hope they take with them after this experience. This grueling weekend ends with a blue and white smoke send off. For the cadre, players and coaches it is not goodbye but see you later because we are all now one family.

If you want to see some of the fun for yourself or to learn more about 4 Oxen Tactical Group check us out on Facebook: @4OxenTactical, Twitter: @4oxtacgroup, and TikTok: @4oxentacticalgroup.

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Logan Starkey // ‘02 F-Dman // Liberty University Commit

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9 TWIN CITY LOCATIONS: BLAINE | 763-780-8171

CHASKA | 952-368-3389 PLYMOUTH | 763-557-5195

BLOOMINGTON | 952-888-1600

CHANHASSEN | 952-474-8284

• MAPLE GROVE | 763-416-3872

ST. LOUIS PARK | 763-417-0550

RICHFIELD | 612-869-9295

LAKEVILLE | 952-435-2198

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Colton Avery // Keith Schenkel //’00 ‘01Forward Forward // Calvin College Commit

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Daniel Abbott // ’03 Defenseman

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2022-23 NCDC Tier 2 Advancement



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2021-22 BLUE OX HOCKEY CLUB


Jake Langeinrich // ’01 Dman Florida Gulf State University Commit


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HOCKEY CHANGES LIVES. - Larry Hendrickson | Founder Hendrickson Foundation

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The Minnesota Blue Ox is proud to have partnered with the Minnesota Warriors and The Hendrickson Foundation this season to help hockey change the lives of our fellow soliders and disabled Veterans. #thintheherd #weLOVEourveterans TO SUPPORT THE MINNESOTA WARRIORS VISIT | MNWARRIORS.COM TO SUPPORT THE HENDRICKSON FOUNDATION VISIT | HENDRICKSONFOUNDATION.COM


Carter Hobbs // ’01 Dman // Univ. of Purdue Northwest Commit

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TRAINING STUDIO OF THE MINNESOTA BLUE OX visit poweredgetraining.com 62

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The BLUE Ox Swept the DELLS DUCKS & MINNESOTA MOOSE in the divisional playoffs to advance to their 3rd national tournament in their first 5 years as an organization. The Ox finished 2-1 in pool play to advance to the final 8 quarterfinals. the ox lost in overtime to wilkes barre 2-1 in what many called the best game of the tournament. A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication

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Captains / MICAHEL CLOUGH / HAYDEN MASLOSKI / CARTER HOBBS / TYLER SCHIRMER

“You can do things I can not do, I can do things you can not do... Together we can do GREAT things.” 66

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LEGENDARY HOME SERVICES THAT LAST A LIFETIME BY HEIDI GEDIS Thank you to Blue Ox Heating & Air for their loyalty and partnership the past five seasons! Our fans love our Mascot Babe! We are grateful for you all! Blue Ox was founded in 2013 when the McGuire, Gavic and Foschiatti families combined their 100 collective years of experience into one talented company. We are fully licensed, bonded, and insured to provide our Minneapolis-St. Paul area customers with outstanding heating, cooling, and indoor-air quality services to make your home as comfortable as possible. Blue Ox Heating and Air is North American Technician Excellence certified and a member of the Minnesota Heating & Cooling Association. We want to be your go-to heating, cooling and air quality company. When we say we can handle whatever problem you have, we say it with total confidence. Whether you have a small problem or a huge problem, know that the timely tech who shows up at your door will know exactly what to do. You don’t even need to know what your problem is! That’s what we’re here for. HOME SERVICE MADE EASY We serve you the way you want to be served. If your furnace stops working at 2 a.m. — call us! We’ll be there to fix your problem with a smile on our face and shoe covers on our feet, regardless of what the clock says. It’s our mission to quickly take care of your heating and cooling emergencies. In addition to repair, replacement, and emergency service, we’re passionate about air quality. If you’re suffering from allergies or itchy skin –let’s problem solve together. Our comfort advisors will explain numerous options fitting a range of budgets to improve your indoor air quality. We offer expertise in humidity management, air cleaning, and particle removal to keep your family healthy and comfortable. WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT FROM BLUE OX TECHNICIANS? Blue Ox believes professionalism is about more than just doing a great job. It’s about how we do a great job. Our technicians aren’t here just to fix your heating, cooling, and air quality system, they’re also here to answer your questions and make sure you’re comfortable. We accomplish all three goals by emphasizing courtesy, punctuality, and attentive customer service. Our job isn’t just about the work we do; it’s about making sure the people we work for, YOU, are as happy and satisfied as possible. VISIT GOBLUEOX.COM FOR MORE INFORMATION! 5720 International Parkway New Hope, MN 55428 952-208-4570


OUR SERVICE PROMISE TO OUR CUSTOMERS 3We value your comfort and happiness. 3We will cheerfully refund your money if you are not 100% satisfied. 3Our technicians will treat your home like it was their own. 3We will be on-time, professional, and polite. 3We will wear shoe covers in your home, never use foul language or use tobacco while on the job.

3To ensure your peace of mind, our employees are background-checked and drug-tested.

3We only use quality heating and cooling products to make our repairs and installations.

3We never cut corners on products and parts and take pride in providing efficient and long-lasting results.