Undrafted Free Agent Watch: Lake Superior State Goaltender Mareks Mitens

Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Mareks Mitens is one of the most reserved people in this game of College Hockey, at least in public. On the ice, he is one of its fiercest competitors, and has quietly put together a resume that goes beyond his top-line numbers at an improving Lake Superior State program. Every year since he came to Sault Saint Marie, he has taken on a bit more responsibility, until last year when he had the starting job full time for Damon Whitten’s Lakers.

How did he get to Lake Superior State?

Well, he parlayed a superb performance at the 2016 U18 World Championship into a superb season of NAHL Hockey, leading the Aston Rebels to the Robertson Cup, and nearly to a title. While there, Whitten and his staff saw him, and outworked several other schools to get him to commit to the Lakers program. Along with getting Yuki Miura on campus, securing Mitens’ help were the first two major recruiting battles involving non North American players that Whitten won.

Since coming to campus, despite not being drafted, it is clear that he has the attention of the NHL. He has been to two development camps as a Laker, first with the New York Islanders, and then two years later with the Chicago Blackhawks. At that second camp in Chicago, he worked with Peter Aubry, his former goaltending coach at Lake Superior State. From there, Mitens learned some valuable tips to make his game better.

On his time there he said of what he learned, and on his progression since then ” I guess one of the biggest things was to slow my game down and understanding the space I fill up from different angles. I think I have improved a lot in those areas.”

On that, we see the noticeable progression in his game from year to year. When he first became a Laker, Mitens was the backup in a platoon scenario. In this, he had to play games where his team was getting outshot every single night. One of the highlights of that season for him was a 36 save effort against a particularly skilled Bemidji State side to earn a shutout. That game in February of 2018 showed how good Mitens can be at this level, and since then he has lived up to it.

For teams looking for a ready made goaltender able to compete for a backup job at the big level, or a number one AHL netminder, Mitens is the ideal candidate for this job already for a few reasons. First, his game is incredibly quiet. He moves in his crease with an efficiency that some goaltenders at the top level do not ever have. Second, his intelligence on ice is exceptional. That is, when he is on his game he will not make a lot of “great” saves, not because he cannot, but because he is well positioned on the vast majority of the shots taken against him. This positioning, and the delayed start to the NHL Playoffs also should have him being considered for a spot representing his country, Lavia, at the 2021 World Championships this spring.

Mitens’ .932 save percentage is the best of any Latvian goalie playing in non domestic competition, beyond the juniors level, this season to this point. Arguably he will have more wins on his resume when his Lakers can get some more goal support to him. The Lakers only average 2.05 goals per game, and Mitens still has four wins on the season (4-3-3). Those are numbers indicative of the team needing to provide him more support. He is steady in his net, does not give up many “bad” goals, and motivates the team in front of him.

If the Lakers can string together some goal scoring soon, then Mitens arguably should be considered in the Mike Richter Award (best goalie in college hockey) conversation, and perhaps even in Hobey Baker Memorial Award (best player) talks.

When his season ends, and his time as a Laker is done, the professional hockey world will get to see what we saw in Grand Forks, what Aston Rebels saw in the NAHL, and what Lake Superior State fans are seeing now. That is, they will see an underrated goaltender quietly put up gaudy numbers and keep his team in every game through superior positioning and sound quickness.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell

Aaron Grounds: Tall and Still Growing for AIC

(Photo Credit: Kelly Shea/AIC Athletics)

Aaron Grounds is a 6 feet 2 inches tall freshman forward for the Yellow Jackets of American International College (AIC). He makes his living in front of the net providing screens to make goalies’ lives difficult, while providing solid help defending in his own end. The Jamestown, North Dakota native compares his style to Ottawa Senators’ forward Austin Watson. Both are physical customers who use their size to contribute both on and off the score sheet. For instance, in AIC’s 3-1 win over Bentley today, he put home his second goal of the season while playing a defensive role on the fourth line. Over time look for Grounds to use more of his frame and add some more skill in his four years in Springfield.

When he filled out forms during his draft year indicating strengths and weaknesses, the physical nature of his game was near the top of his positives. Over his time learning from AIC Head Coach Eric Lang and his staff, Grounds will look to grow his capabilities to use time and space on the rush and get a bit more creative with his options in the offensive zone, especially on breakaways.

With all of that being said, Grounds had an interesting introduction to hockey, his first and really only sport he has played consistently growing up. His mother, Kristy, was a daycare provider when Grounds was younger, and his first experience with hockey gear came when he saw the gear of one of the older girls at daycare when she brought it in that day That was the first experience with anything hockey related he had as neither Kristy, or his father Micheal played hockey.

Ever since then, the mission has been simple for Grounds. As he said, “ever since I was a little kid I’ve had this dream of playing in the NHL and I don’t plan on letting anybody stop me anytime soon.”

Grounds moved to Minnesota when he was 12, and credits the larger availability of ice in Minnesota for his ability to continue training over summers a bit easier, along with having more time to hone his craft.

As for getting to AIC, well, like a lot of America, his introduction to the Yellow Jackets came when they earned a win over number one ranked St. Cloud State in the first round of the 2019 West Regional in Fargo. From there he did his research and had a little bit of help from one of his assistant coaches during his time with the Fargo Force, Eli Rosendahl. He reached out to Lang and his staff, and it was not long before the connection was made. After that momentous win, and weekend for AIC, Eric Lang told the media he had a lot of good conversations with recruits, and opened a lot of people’s eyes. One pair of those eyes now plays for the AIC Family. How Eric Lang runs his program in all facets of it, combined with the culture there are two of the main reasons Grounds is playing for AIC.

All of Lang’s talented staff takes time each day to make sure their players are doing ok in all facets of their lives. Simple things like asking a question about his parents make a big difference to Grounds and show that the AIC Family the program talks about is a lived, not just promoted value. Lang and his staff value the whole person, not just what shows up on the ice or stat sheet.

Finally, regarding the Yellow Jackets this year, Grounds describes the Yellow Jackets’ program quite well as a small budget one, but he notes that “we have something that I value way more, which is our family which is incredibly important, we will outwork anyone on the ice.” To sum things up, his view is one more of college hockey is coming around to regarding AIC. As Grounds said “we’re starting to be a team that people know about and don’t like to play.”

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Bring the Chargers to the Winter Classic: A few reasons why

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Next year, the Minnesota Wild will host the 2021 Winter Classic at Target Field as part of a celebration of the game in Minnesota. As part of this celebration one would have to think given the history of Minnesota College Hockey, a Minnesota team would also get to play outdoors as part of this wonderful event. This event, to any program that could participate, would be the largest exposure in terms of viewers and reach that their school would get all year. Hopefully both Men and Women’s schools get a chance to play.

Now, as you see in the title, I would strongly ask the decision makers at large to consider an opponent for a Minnesota team to play for this outdoor game. The University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers should be part of this experience. Head Coach Mike Corbett has built a program at the Division One Level largely on his own fundraising efforts. He not only coaches a team in a market that is a newer one for the game we all love, but he fundraisers for them. He runs so much of the Chargers program and they get so little exposure even among legacy media outlets that the Chargers have a story the national audience would love. A team on the brink of being cut being saved by Corbett and his fundraising, and one fighting daily to bring college hockey to the southeastern most locale in the country is a story made for a Netflix series, and the Winter Classic as well.

Why do I say this? Well Corbett talked to us after the Saturday finale where his team held tough against the Fighting Hawks in a second 5-2 loss, and mentioned exposure. His program barely makes television at all despite representing a school that churns out engineers for NASA, and other quality companies in the area. The amount of free media coverage the school and town would get could not be adequately measured.

Imagine for a minute, the amount of Huntsville fans that could be created from tuning in for a few minutes to watch this game. Now you may be saying why them? This program has to find out what to do in the 2021-2022 season and beyond as they are one of the programs not looked on with favor from the departing members of the WCHA. This team needs a chance to showcase its school, its town and its market on a national stage. Playing a Minnesota school on the national stage is one easy way to show the commitment of the NHL and all its partners to growing hockey nationwide.

Corbett tried to schedule one-off games against Penn State and UND in Nashville at the home of the Predators around the Hockey Hall of Fame Game next year, and was unable to find success in doing so.This matters here, because it shows his dedication towards finding his program more exposure, and the Winter Classic is a great place to meet that goal.

Therefore if the Chargers want to play a destination game, the Winter Classic could be an option if those in power would allow them to participate. To me, the Winter Classic should be a platform to grow the game for all, having a Women’s Hockey Tournament and having the Chargers play perhaps a WCHA game against say the Mavericks of Minnesota State-Mankato, or Bemidji State would be a good way to promote all who want to play the game.

If the Winter Classic folks wanted to, they could schedule multiple outdoor games at Target Field over two days or even on the first, given the right time for the ice to improve. This event would be a great way to promote college hockey to new fans across the country, and Americans love a story of underdogs working to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. To me, the Chargers are that team for this moment.

These are some thoughts after seeing the Chargers play, seeing how dedicated Corbett is to making his team better, and growing the game at large is arguably the best way to expand the amount of schools offering the game. His team would relish the opportunity, Huntsville would get national television coverage, and the game of hockey would reach people it likely never has before.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape, please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Supporters: We thank all of our readers and those who donate, especially Greg and Michelle Livingston.

 

NHL Pyramid: UND Fighting Hawks 2018-2019

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee Violent Turtle Photography)

Every year for the past few seasons, Toronto Maple Leafs’ fan and Youtuber extraordinaire, Steve Dangle, has created a prospect pyramid for the Leafs and inspired countless blogs and videos with this system. A few years ago, I created an NCAA adaptation of this with the NHL Pyramid for UND. Let’s see what this year’s tiers look like for the Fighting Hawks. This pyramid will focus on a player’s chance to make the NHL, and play at least enough games to no longer be considered a rookie.

Tier One: 75 percent or better chance 

Jacob Bernard-Docker, Jonny Tychonick, Grant Mismash, Colton Poolman

The pair of incoming recruits were both drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the first and  second rounds, respectively. Bernard-Docker, and Tychonick have played together before on a defensive pair. The two compliment each other quite well. Bernard-Docker is more of a two-way defender that can make the occasional play on offense. On the other hand, Tychonick is an offensive dynamo who is able to generate offense in bunches. Both have strong components to their game. Each defender also had the advantage of spending this summer with the newest Senator and former UND defender Christian Wolanin. They know what it takes to get drafted, and spending time learning about what to expect from Wolanin, combined with a coaching staff featuring head coach Brad Berry, who has a track record of working with and developing defenders in the pro game. How long they each spend here will be a function of their personal goals, and what happens with the Senators this season. One good thing UND fans have going for them with Bernard-Docker and Tychonick is their drafting team. Ottawa has seen what three years can do for development with Wolanin. They will not be rushed to the pro game, as the Senators already see the reward for waiting for a player to develop.

As for Mismash, the second round pick  of the Nashville Predators is in the mix for another spot on the World Juniors’ roster this year. One thing that stands out to me about his game is his consistency. Even if his stats don’t reflect themselves in the box score, he is improving in the defensive end with his positioning. The Predators’ prospect looks to earn himself more time this season, and be a key contributor for the Fighting Hawks in all situations.

As for Poolman, he is the only undrafted free agent to make this list. He has already turned down NHL offers, according to Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald. Poolman is a strong two-way defender that will be called on to lead the younger defensive corps the Fighting Hawks will have this season. He did earn an invite to Vancouver Canucks’ development camp. As a junior, look for him to embrace his captaincy for UND and lead the team from the back end. He will not jump up into every single rush for the Fighting Hawks, but when he does he usually makes good things happen. Every NHL team has a need for strong, puck-moving, and responsible two way defenders. Look for more from Colton this year, and look for him to consider his options when the season ends.

Tier Two: 50-75 percent chance

Nick Jones, Peter Thome, Colin Adams, Rhett Gardner

Each of these three players has a strong quality to their game, and something to add on this season. Nick Jones is coming off of a season where he averaged nearly a point-per-game (30 points in 34 games). He is a smaller forward who does not let his height define him. Jones plays a solid two-way game, and this season his chances of earning an NHL deal hinge on his ability to replicate his success, and show scouts his defensive prowess on the penalty kill. The NHL is filled with superb forwards under six feet, no reason why Jones can’t develop into one with a consistent well rounded game this year. His continued development and leadership will be a strong benefit to a younger UND team this season.

As for Thome, to me his rank this high is for a few reasons. First, he earned multiple games in net from a national champion goalie (Cam Johnson who signed a pro deal with the New Jersey Devils upon his season ending) because of his calming play. The Minneapolis native is 6’4″ and uses every bit of his frame to cover a lot of net.Thome plays a smooth game as a netminder. He does not make a lot of highlight reel saves because his positioning and frame allow him not to have that as a constant need. The Columbus Blue Jackets’ prospect gained key experience going up against high-powered teams last season in his limited time. What Thome can build on this season, is lateral movement and puck handling this year. If Thome can improve his lateral game to help his defense out, combined with his superb glove play and positioning he could rise to the top tier here relatively soon. The other issue for Thome is Columbus itself. While Sergei Bobrovsky is locked in as the starter,  Thome will have to develop for a few more years at UND and then look to move up from Columbus’ AHL team, the Cleveland Monsters’ soon.

The Blue Jackets have three goalies that are drafted and not signed, just like Thome. His toughest competition within the system comes from Elvis Merzlikins playing overseas for HC Lugano in Switzerland this year. Look for Thome’s game to take the next step as he moves into a full time starting role for the Fighting Hawks this season.

As for Colin Adams, he showed flashes of brilliance with his goal scoring prowess this year. He scored a goal in two of his first three games last year. Adams only finished with five tallies but still profiles as a strong sniper able to generate offense as needed, especially on the power play. With one year under his belt, I look for him to have an improved season as long as his defense can allow him to generate more ice time and therefore more goal scoring chances. Good, and cheap goal scoring is always in demand in the NHL, Adams developing his game to get more time on the ice will allow him to better showcase his skills. He put up 51 goals in two seasons in the USHL. If Adams can earn more ice time he will score more this season. The Islanders will be closely watching their prospect develop this season.

Finally, while I think Rhett Gardner has developed dramatically in his time at UND, he is in this tier more as a function of who else the Stars have and the amount of time I expect him to spend in the AHL. Rhett will get an NHL look and very soon, but he will be competing against Riley Tufte and other forwards who possess Rhett’s same defensive prowess, but are able to score a few more goals more consistently than Rhett has shown so far. Will Rhett Gardner play in the NHL? In my opinion, yes. Will that happen before a longer stint in the AHL than some other Stars’ prospects, I don’t know. Gardner has a senior season ahead of him to build the offensive side of his game and become a leading goal scorer for UND.

Tier Three: 25-49.9 percent chance of making the NHL

Jasper Weatherby, Gabe Bast, Gavin Hain

The Oregon native is a strong power forward that the Sharks thought enough of to trade up to get in the fourth round of the 2018 NHL Draft. He developed in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) with the Wenatchee Wild. He put up 106 points in 104 BCHL games. Weatherby is 6’4″ like Thome and will see immediate chances on UND in at least a bottom-six role. If he showcases the gains he has made in his game over the summer, combined with the needs of the team he could get even more time. UND develops all types of forwards, but, like Austin Poganski before him, he is a strong two-way player that will develop into an all around player at the NCAA level.

As for Bast, he came off shoulder surgery as a freshman and only played 27 games on defense for UND. I think he is a potential gem for the Fighting Hawks for a few reasons. Bast’s physical style of play and responsibility on the back end will help open up opportunities for UND’s offensive-minded defenseman this season. In addition, there is offensive potential not discovered at this level for Bast. He can generate offense as shown in his last full season of junior hockey, he put up 40 points (9 goals, 31 assists) in 49 regular season games for Penticton.

Gavin Hain was also drafted this offseason by Dave Hakstol’s Flyers. Look for him to compete for time on ice with sophomores Jordan Kawaguchi and Colin Adams, just to name a few. He will develop here for a few years, and has an impressive background playing for the USA National Development Team before coming to UND.

Tier Four: Everyone Else

As for every other UND player, I hope to be proven wrong. This team has a lot of depth this year, including senior leader Hayden Shaw.  The point is to say that this team, like every college hockey team, has a lot of depth and players develop at irregular intervals and times.

Also, college hockey championships are not won without depth players. Regardless of NHL capability, every player on this roster is here for a reason and belongs on this team.

Finally, UND has over 40 players playing in pro leagues around the world. To me that means that all players are being scouted every game by pro organizations around the world. Look for a lot out of everyone on this team this season. I hope multiple people not named on this list make the NHL and prove me wrong.

 

 

Better Game, Same Result: UND Settles For Second Three-on-Three OT Loss in Two Nights

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of 12,002 loud fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, Denver Pioneer Logan O’Connor created a turnover, and started a break away in the second three-on-three overtime session at the Ralph in two evenings. Just like last night, the result was the same. Denver defender Ian Mitchell took a feed from O’Connor on the ensuing two-on-one breakaway and found the back of the net 01:19 into the extra overtime to give the Pioneers four points on two ties for the weekend.  While UND ended the weekend with  two ties, it finished tied for eleventh in the pairwise with Minnesota.

In the first period, Kohen Olischefski took a feed from Ryan Barrow, went to the goal line and fired one into the opening short side against Cam Johnson. The puck just went through the small opening to give the Pioneers another lead. In the first, Denver controlled possession through large swaths of play. The Fighting Hawks did not get a shot on net for the first 13:52 of the game. They ended the first frame with only 13 shot attempts to Denver’s 21. The Pioneers had eight high percentage scoring  from the low slot area. UND only generated one.

In the second period, UND picked up the pace. They got more pucks on net and forced Denver to defend more in the first half of the period then they did in the entire first period.

A few minutes into the second, Liam Finlay interfered with Cam Johnson in the blue paint. This gave the Fighting Hawks their first chance on special teams all night.

They did not waste their opportunity.

About halfway through the power play 09:26 into the second stanza, Christian Wolanin took a feed from  Shane Gersich and fired a perfect shot past a completely screened Denver netminder Tanner Jaillet. The Ottawa Senators’ prospect’s eight tally of the year equalized things. The score would remain the same through the end of the second and third period. While UND out shot Denver 16-11 in the last two regulation periods, they could not solve Tanner Jaillet the rest of the way.

 

Thoughts Heading into the Bye 

  • The NCHC is capable of getting six or seven teams into the tournament. This conference has every team but Colorado College and Miami in the top 13 of the pairwise heading into February.  Accounting for the Atlantic Hockey Tournament winner, and Hockey East Tournament winner, the top 14 teams would make the tournament in the pairwise right now.
  • UND looked much better on special  teams this weekend, they only allowed one power play goal on the weekend. Their penalty kill was much more aggressive and forced Denver to make quicker decisions with the puck while limiting time and space for their skilled forwards to generate high percentage shots.
  • If UND can use this weekend where it was missing its top two centers, Rhett Gardner and Nick Jones, along with top four defender Gabe Bast, to help develop players like Josh Rieger and Matt Kiersted, both of whom played well in their replacements then this weekend could help UND down the road. In addition, defenseman Casey Johnson slotted in at forward and helped UND in spots in the game. The Fighting Hawks’ ability to develop their depth players during this long season of injuries will prove crucial in the long run.

Expansion Draft Three Thoughts

The NHL Expansion Draft is now complete. The Vegas Golden Knights have their initial roster. They selected 30 players and traded for a few more. By the end of the night Vegas ended up with 12 picks in the 2017 draft. Five of those picks are in the first two rounds. Here are some quick thoughts on what took place tonight.

  • Why on earth did Florida give up Reily Smith just to lose a 30 goal scorer in Jonathan Marchessault? I get that Florida is not a cap team, but in my mind you cannot justify giving up a player who is just a year removed from a 50 point season in a third line role. Smith will bring some needed depth scoring to Vegas right away. To me this was the worse trade of the night for a team losing a player to the Golden Knights. While yes, the Panthers gained five million dollars in cap room, they lost two promising players who can score with some regularity. The Panthers still have a bright outlook next year, but they now need a bit more out of their up and comers and have to hope Jaromir Jagr comes back for another season. Florida just gave up 88 points between the two from last season to rid themselves of five million dollars in cap room.
  • Look for Vegas to pick up another goalie or more shortly. Tonight they selected Calvin Pickard, Marc-Andre Fleury, and J.F Berube. Berube was selected as part of a deal with the Islanders where Vegas also took on the contract of injured forward Mikhail Grabovski, and Jake Bischoff. The former Isles goalie has an expiring contract, and Vegas needs multiple goalies for its AHL and ECHL teams. Pickard is a serviceable backup that can start when called upon. Look for the Golden Knights to draft multiple goalies as well. Jake Oettinger out of Boston University would be one possible choice for them. He could move through their system quickly and start for them in three years.
  • Vegas has a lot of options with some of the players it picked up. Teams are willing to pay a premium for quality defenseman like Marc Methot, and Vegas wants more picks and assets to help them build for the future. Dallas has let teams know they are looking at moving their third pick and need help on their blue line. The Golden Knights have plenty of options and could put together a package to get that pick.

 

 

Hawks Fly Past the Huskies 5-2

GRAND FORKS, NORTH DAKOTA

In front of a crowd of 10,143 loud fans, the University of North Dakota vanquished the St Cloud State Huskies by a three goal margin. Rhett Gardner opened the scoring at 13:39 of the first period with a shot fired off a Husky stick to give the Fighting Hawks an early lead.

Less than a minute later, Shane Gersich got the puck at the blue line and raced in to score a breakaway goal. The Capitals prospect is the first UND sophomore to put up 20 goals in a season since Brock Nelson in the 2011-2012 season.

UND remained in control until 9:43 remaining in the second period. Jacob Benson buried a power play marker on a nice cross-ice feed from Mikey Eyssimont into a wide open net.

With 3:33 remaining in the second, Brock Boeser buried a power play tally to put the Hawks back up two.

On the Boeser goal in the second, defenseman Tucker Poolman notched point number 30. The Winnipeg Jets prospect is the first UND blue-liner to hit that mark since Chay Genoway back in the 2010-2011 season.

After the Huskies answered back with a Jimmy Schuldt goal 10:48 into the third UND was on their heels for a bit, until Austin Poganski scored another key goal on a superb breakaway  less than two minutes later to put the Hawks back ahead by two.

Joel Janatuinen would add an empty-net tally with 44.4 seconds left to secure the three goal victory.

Winnipeg Jets prospect Tucker Poolman was named the game’s first star for his two assists. Both of his assists helped set up UND goals that pushed momentum in their direction.

Tomorrow night UND looks to complete the sweep at Ralph Englestad Arena. The puck drops at 7:07 PM.

 

 

 

 

A Hockey Love Story: Aaron and Kelly Dell

Aaron and Kelly Dell’s love story adds up to ten teams, eight cities, and roughly 10,000 miles.

Call it a hockey love story.

Aaron dreams of being a National Hockey League goalie. This means he travels a lot — time spent far from loved ones.

But Kelly isn’t waiting quietly. She’s blogging. Crazy Pucking World: Life of a hockey wife is brutally honest and full of funny things that Aaron has said over the years. Kelly had people tell her that “I would have slapped him, if he said that to me.” She just laughed stating that “just how Aaron is”, I always know what is going on with him because of that. Sometimes though he can be almost too honest, but he always makes sure you are laughing by the end.

Kelly and Aaron relationship has been built on trust and mutual respect. Not many couples could have made it through the struggle of going from an undrafted University of North Dakota goaltender, preserving throughout the minor leagues and now is the backup for the San Jose Sharks.

Kelly had just graduated from high school and Aaron had just finished his freshman year at the University of North Dakota. The pair dated for two years before they were walking around the mall one day. They went into a jewelry store and had been browsing, when Aaron picked out the perfect ring. They looked at one another, “Should we do this?”. A month later they were married in Aaron’s parents back yard in Airdrie, Alberta. Kelly only cared about two things when it came time to walk down the aisle. She wanted a white wedding dress and real flowers. Aaron wanted was to pick the cake which was marble with a custard center, topped with bride and groom rubber ducks, which Kelly collects. After the ceremony, in a perfect homage of Canada and Minnesota style, a bonfire was lite and beers were had.

When talking to Aaron about Kelly, you could hear his love for her in his voice. Even though Kelly and Aaron both said the other one said, “I love you” first. One thing is for sure, they love each other enough to live nearly 2,000 miles apart. The distance has not been easy though. Aaron said that Kelly has always been supportive of my goal of making it to the NHL and besides my parents, she is my biggest supporter. He said “she (Kelly) is my teammate and it’s great that she understands and supports me, so we don’t have to fight between hockey and her.”

One of the things that they share, besides a love for hockey, is the drive that each have. Aaron said it is one of the things he loves most about her. They connected on that from the get go.  “I have to have a lot of drive to do what I do and I couldn’t imagen being with someone who didn’t understand that.” The biggest thing Aaron has learned over the years of being in long distance marriage is how to communicate, which Kelly joked about “sometimes it’s painful to get him to talk, but it means a lot when he does because he doesn’t open up to very many people, even teammates!” Anyone who knows Aaron knows this. Jayson Hajdu, UND Men’s Hockey Media Director, “You never picked Aaron for press conferences. He is just so quiet.”

Kelly watches all of Aaron’s games, whether it be in person or on the television. Aaron said that when they first started dating, he was mildly nervous for her to watch him play. Kelly laughed and said that she gets nervous enough for the both of them. She is looking forward to March when they play two games in Minnesota against the Wild. They have a lot of friends and family that are attending those games. She equated it to when Aaron played against the Minnesota Gophers during his time at UND, they have always had such a rivalry and she would also get nervous for him. Kelly said that one of the great things about Aaron is that nothing offends him, which is a great quality when it comes to being a goaltender, because no matter how well he played in the net the loss would get blamed on him.

The amount of love that they share is memorable and reminded me of what is extraordinary about life.

Love. Respect. Friendship.

A Snarky Sentence-30 Quips on the NHL

With the NHL season starting tonight here is a quick one sentence outlook for each NHL team. It will be snarky, it may not be nice, and its all in good fun. Plus I guarantee I will be wrong on at least half of these sentences by the end of the season.

Eastern Conference -(team order is random… not projecting order of finish)

  1. Atlantic Division
    1. Toronto
      1. Give up hat tricks for Patrick? (Brandon forward  Nolan Patrick who is the projected number one pick as of today).
    2. Boston
      1. Slow and slower…the 2016-2017 Zdeno Chara experience.
    3. Florida
      1. Father time leads the future.
    4. Ottawa
      1. Scoring not named Karlsson..does enough of it exist?
    5. Detroit
      1. Everybody gets another first round playoff exit!
    6. Canadiens
      1. Is Price alright?
    7. Tampa Bay
      1. Win now because not enough not enough money exists to pay for later.
    8. Buffalo
      1. So many free agents, so little depth.
  2. Metropolitan
    1. Carolina
      1. Can they Ward off last place?
    2. Pittsburgh
      1. How many weapons does Crosby need?
    3. Washington
      1. Any year now Ovie.
    4. New York Islanders
      1. Who steps up with Tavares?
    5. New York Rangers
      1. The king needs more scoring to help in defending the Garden.
    6. Columbus
      1. Does Bob still have it?
    7. Flyers
      1. Can Hak do it again?
    8. New Jersey Devils
      1. Help out Schneider, please.
  3. Pacific
    1. Anaheim
      1. What can Randy do that Bruce couldn’t?
    2. Los Angeles
      1. How much grit can one team have?
    3. Edmonton
      1. Larsson may be good, but he’s no Hall.
    4. Calgary
      1. Can Elliot stop the goalie carousel?
    5. Vancouver
      1. So fast, so little secondary scoring.
    6. San Jose
      1. Can Bodker speed a return to the Cup?
    7. Arizona
      1. So fast,so skilled, so unproven.
  4. Central
    1. Chicago
      1. So many rookies, so much leadership,Western Conference Finals?
    2. Minnesota
      1. Slow, overpaid, and no depth.
    3. Colorado
      1. Can the defense help out?
    4. Winnipeg
      1. People should ham up Laine’s skills more.
    5. Dallas
      1. Seguin will be sensational.
    6. St. Louis
      1. The Tarasenkshow continues.
    7. Nashville
      1. P.K. will play well, can Rinne still produce?

Manitoba Moose-Jack Roslovic

Columbus, OH native Jack Roslovic  was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in the 1st round in 2015. A center and right wing, he has played in multiple leagues over the years.Jack scored 52 points during his two years  in 59 USHL games with the USA National Team Development Program.

Even though he is only 19 Roslovic plays a very physical game with an offensive edge and has great foot speed.

Currently playing for the Manitoba Moose, I had the opportunity to watch him play and get to talk with him after the game.

When asking why he decided to sign this year instead of returning to Miami University. He thought it was the best for his development and that the Jets could do wonders for his career.

Over the summer, Roslovic worked on getting bigger, faster and stronger. I asked him what he thinks he needs to work on to make it to the next level, he said he just needs to work the systems and listen to the coaching staff.

We also talked briefly about his time at Oxford and what he would miss most, the guys and the brotherhood he felt when he was there.

I asked him what player past or present that he models his game after and his response was no one. He studies as many players as he can so that he can combine parts of their game and develop his own style.