The Steele County Blades and Minnesota Mullets, members of the United States Premier Hockey League are ready to play as part of Hockey Day Minnesota.
The teams will face off outdoors at beautiful Blakeslee Field on the campus of Minnesota State University in Mankato on Sunday, Jan. 23 (4:30 p.m. CST) The matchup will be broadcast live on HockeyTV with coverage leading up to the event provided by Junior Hockey’s Most-Watched Show, The Dan K Show.
The Dan K Show's Dan Kmiechick and Lucas Jones sat down upon the 2021 announcement to talk about the news via Zoom with the Blades' Head Coach Nick Adamek, the Mullets' Chris Walby and Minnesota Hockey Expert Dan Bradley. Watch the interview at https://youtu.be/DzMEWfo0S7k!
Nick Adamek, Head Coach of the Blades (located in Owatonna), talked about the opportunity to show the high level of hockey at the USPHL Premier level to prospective future players in the State of Hockey.
“I’m a California kid, never got a chance to play outside, and a lot of kids on our team who never got to play outside,” said Adamek, head coach of the Blades since 2014. “Now we get to play outside in arguably the second biggest outdoor event of the year behind the NHL’s [Winter Classic]. We had a pretty good idea that we would be part of it in 2021. Flash forward to the 2022 event, after the pandemic canceled [2021’s event], I hadn’t really thought about it. It wasn’t until [last summer], the news came through we’d be considered for it. Being the only southern Minnesota junior hockey team in the USPHL, it made it pretty special - they wanted to make sure they had that connection to southern Minnesota.
“There was no one else we wanted to be a part of this with than Chris Walby and the Minnesota Mullets,” Adamek added.
Walby, like Adamek, is not a Minnesota native (he’s from Lodi, Wis.), but he has certainly adopted The State of Hockey as his home. He first began coaching in Minnesota in 2012, and has been coaching the Minneapolis-based Mullets since they were originally the Forest Lake Lakers back in 2016-17.
“Moving up here to Minnesota the last 10 years, I’ve dreamed about coaching in this game,” said Walby. “It’s quite a pack that will be there. I’m excited for that, and it couldn’t be a bigger deal for us and our organization. When it was here in Minneapolis, I wanted to make it happen. Logistically, it didn’t happen, but Nick and his crew got it done.”
The Blades are celebrating their 10th season in 2021-22. Adamek sees the steady progression of the Blades continuing in 2021-22, as they’ve moved from ninth to seventh to fifth over the last three campaigns.
“It made us all hold our heads a little higher, and feel a little better about what we were doing here, and knowing how much it mattered to those paying the bills,” said Adamek.
“Last year, it was Year 2 of our new local ownership group. We went as young as we possibly could, they want to get better every day. Our motto is ‘be better every day.”
The Mullets are happy to be able to provide some of their players with not even a first, but in some cases a second or even more chances to play at Hockey Day Minnesota.
“The roster that we have this year, we have nine Minnesota players. We have players who played in this game, at the high school level, with Eveleth. With the group that is from Minnesota and knows about the event and the game, they’re absolutely fired up about it. The rest of us from out of state, it’s a dream - I always thought about doing this. I hope we have good weather, as [bad weather] is the only thing that could be a downfall.”
Bradley, who was the play-by-play voice of the Mullets the last few years, talked about the wild card of weather in an outdoor game.
“If you’re getting too much sunlight, that could mess with your ice quality. You want that cloud cover,” said Bradley. “You’re dealing with temperature changes, you’re seeing things differently. The boards and glass have different glare outside than they would outside. All that can mess with a player and force you to do things a little differently.”
Both the Mullets and the Blades are located along Interstate 35, and both teams said this game could be start of a rivalry cup series potentially known as the “I-35 Cup.”
Launched in 2007, Hockey Day Minnesota has served as a celebration of the game of hockey throughout the state, similar to Hockey Day Canada.
The USPHL congratulates both the Steele County Blades and Minnesota Mullets on becoming the first-ever Junior Hockey teams to participate in this incredible event.
Stay tuned to the USPHL and The Dan K Show for more information and updates regarding the event.
RVA Generals Defenseman Drake Semrad commits to Oswego State University. The Lakers play at the NCAA Division 3 level of play in the State of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC).
Semrad plays for the Generals USPHL Premier Junior team this season. Semrad has played in 32 regular season games scoring 11 goals while adding 11 assists for 22 points with 39 PIM. Drake was also selected to the Dan K USPHL Premier Atlantic/Southeast All-Star team.
Drake Semrad on playing for the Generals: "Coming to the Generals program was the best decision I have made in my hockey career. The coaching staff has excelled at getting me to the next level and has given me every option possible to succeed both on and off the ice."
Drake becomes the 239th Richmond Generals player to advance to college hockey. Drake becomes the eighth Richmond Generals player this year to commit to a college hockey program. He joins current and former Generals players, Luke Kangas (Finlandia University NCAA Division 3), Lex Friesen (Oswego State NCAA Division 3), Carter Jordan (Wilkes University NCAA Division 3), Brenden Yingling (Lebanon Valley College NCAA Division 3), Rob Simmons (Weber State University ACHA Division 2), Pietro Baccarin (Neumann University NCAA Division 3), Nick Bernstein (Chatham University NCAA Division 3).
Paperwork, first college classes - and of course, practice for one of the most accomplished NCAA teams in the history of college hockey.
It was all part of the first full day at Boston University for now former Rockets Hockey Club NCDC standout defenseman Jack Page. The 2001-born native of West Chester, Pa., only very recently committed to Boston University - for the second half of this very 2021-22 season.
“I started talking to BU again this year around Thanksgiving about the possibility of coming in around Christmas time,” said Page, whose first contact with Boston University had been during his final 18U season in New Jersey, prior to joining the Rockets.
“The decision to join BU here for the second semester was officially made Wednesday night [Jan. 19],” said Page. “I was originally talking with them about coming in after Christmas, but things didn't work out then. I heard back from them again on Monday the 17th about coming in for the second semester. It was then a pretty crazy process trying to get all of the information into admissions in order to get admitted before classes started today on the 20th.”
Over two seasons with the Rockets, including making the 2021 NCDC Championship Game, he played in 57 regular season games posting 32 points. He also had three assists in four playoff games last year. His upside while with the Rockets was enough to earn him a spot in the NCAA Prospects All-Star Game last year. Coaches were certainly watching.
“The coaches really like my ability to skate, especially for a guy my size,” said Page, who is 6-feet-4-inches and 194 pounds. “They also liked my hockey IQ and felt that I could step in the second semester.”
He is stepping into an NCAA program that has a history of more than 100 years, which includes five NCAA championships, 37 NCAA Tournament appearances, 22 Frozen Fours and seemingly more alumni in the NHL than galaxies in the universe.
“What interested me most about BU was the great historic program with all the BU alumni that have gone on to play in the NHL. The passion for hockey at BU is amazing, playing in games like the Beanpot,” said Page. “Outside of hockey, BU really excites me because it gives me a great education especially for what I want to major in. I also love the campus here at BU, Boston is such an amazing city.”
Page, who is majoring in Finance with plans to graduate from Boston University Questrom School of Business, first visited the campus on Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue a few years back as an 18U player.
“I fell in love with the campus and the school and I knew BU was the spot I wanted to be in,” added Page.
He was also equally smitten with his two years with the team at Bridgewater Sports Arena, teh Rockets Hockey Club.
“I could not have asked for a better junior hockey experience. I loved coming to the rink every day and getting to play the game I love with all my teammates, who are some of my closest friends,” Page said. “I’m so grateful to play for Jason Kersner. I learned so much from him both inside and outside of hockey.
“I feel my game really excelled playing in the NCDC. Jason Kersner was a huge help in developing my game - not only developing my hockey IQ and skill set, but also teaching about the mental game and having a great attitude,” he added. “I learned so many things at the Rockets that I will be able to take with me through all aspects of life. I am very grateful to have played for such a great organization.”
The USPHL congratulates Jack Page, his family, the Rockets Hockey Club and Boston University for his commitment and immediate advancement!
Forward: Garrett Albers, Richmond Generals
Albers (‘04/Hanahan, S.C.) is certainly enjoying this, his third season of USPHL hockey. Albers recently posted a pair of goals and assists for four points over two games in a sweep of the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes. Overall, Albers - who reached the 2021 Elite National Championship Game with the former Charleston Colonials - now has 44 points in 30 games.
Defense: Cam Perez, Charlotte Rush
Perez (‘02/West Hartford, Conn.) passed out four assists in one of the Rush’s two weekend victories over the Potomac Patriots. During the weekend, he was also a +6, and had three hits and one blocked shot. Perez has 30 points in 18 games in this, his third USPHL season.
Goaltender: A.J. Golden, Richmond Generals
The 2004-born native of Westhampton, N.J., posted his third straight win (against Carolina) by making 38 saves on 39 shots. Overall, Golden has a league-leading 14 wins, tied with Charlotte’s Sam Edmands, and he has a goals against average of 2.61 and a save percentage of .911.
Forward: Kaleb Harrop, Florida Eels
In two games, the third-year Eel, a 2001-born native of Hartford, Ill., put up a pair of goals and assists for four points in wins against the Florida Jr. Blades and the Palm Beach Typhoon. Overall, Harrop has put up 24 points this season in 21 games. He’s also played in seven USPHL Premier games.
Defense: Ryder Patten, Florida Jr. Blades
Patten (‘04/Drayten Valley, Alb.) posted a goal to break up what had been a 2-0 Florida Eels lead in their game of Jan. 15, in which he also registered three hits and drew two opponent penalties. He has 11 points in the 10 games he’s played with the Elite program, and he’s added one assist in six games.
Goaltender: Charles Garon, Tampa Bay Juniors
Garon (‘04/Ste-Foy, Que.) is standing tall after his 10th victory of the season, stopping all but two of the 31 shots he faced in their Jan. 15 game. This was Garon’s second win in a row and sixth W in his last seven games. He has a 2.84 goals against average and a .914 save percentage on the season along with his 10-5-0-0 record.
Atlantic East Division
Forward: Preston Hazelton, Philadelphia Hockey Club
Hazelton (‘01/Lake Orion, Mich.) has put up terrific numbers since joining the Philadelphia Hockey Club in November, with 15 points in 11 games. Four of those points came in the team’s recent wins against the South Shore Kings and Jersey Whalers. Against the Kings on Jan. 15, he posted the overtime game-winner and an assist, and he also had a pair of goals on Jan. 18 in a win against the Jersey Whalers.
Defense: Teodor Benno Vaage, Philadelphia Hockey Club
A 2002-born native of Norway, Benno Vaage was a big help in both of the PHC’s recent victories. He assisted on Preston Hazelton’s OT GWG against the South Shore Kings. Additionally, for the weekend, he earned a +1 rating and blocked four shots over the PHC’s three games between Jan. 14 and 18.
Goaltender: Bryce Dunnigan, Connecticut Jr. Rangers
The second-year Jr. Ranger Dunnigan (‘02/Bakersfield, Calif.) earned his second straight win on Jan. 13 when he faced 48 shots against the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders and sent away 47 of those in 65 minutes. He also stopped both shootout attempts against him while Connecticut’s Tamasz Szekeres and Robert Moliterno sank theirs for the 2-1 shootout victory.
New England Division
Forward: Jackson Tillinghast, Northern Cyclones
The next point scored by Tillinghast (‘01/Louisville, Ky.) will be his 100th in regular season play in the USPHL Premier. He moved up to 54 points on this season (in addition to his 45 last year) by posting a run of 2-5-7 in a pair of road wins against the Rockets Hockey Club, the leaders of the Atlantic East Division.
Defense: Troy Pratt, Boston Advantage
Pratt (‘03/Scituate, Mass.) had an eventful four games, which included three victories. Along with posting a goal and three assists for an average of a point per game, he led the Advantage with a +4 and 15 shots on goal. He was second over the four games with nine hits and seven blocked shots. Pratt has a total of 11 points in 23 games.
Goaltender: Brett Tome, Twin City Thunder
Tome (‘01/Hartland, Mich.) was simply outstanding over his two games against the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, stopping 77 of 79 shots, including 41 in a shutout in the second game. Tome, in his second USPHL Premier season, has already equaled his wins total from last year, at seven. He is 7-6-0-2 and on a three-game winning streak. His save percentage (.932) is in the top 10 of the entire USPHL Premier.
Atlantic West Division
Forward: Justin Ryan, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights
In a very successful weekend against the Jersey Hitmen, Ryan (‘03/Endwell, N.Y.) posted four goals and one assist, including one shorthanded goal in their first of two decisive victories. In the second game, he put up a hat trick and added one assist to improve to 22 points in 30 games for the newest No. 1 team in the USPHL Premier.
Defense: Will Hilton, Utica Jr. Comets
Hilton (‘03/New Hartford, N.Y.) picked up three assists in the Jr. Comets only action of the weekend, a win against the Elmira Jr. Enforcers. He was also the team’s ice time leader with 25:58 and scoring chances (three) and he also had a blocked shot and six shots on goal. The third-year USPHL Jr. Comets player has a 2-16-18 line in 30 games this year.
Goaltender: Joseph Holguin, Elmira Jr. Enforcers
Holguin (‘01/Parker, Colo.) had his best performance of the season, his second for the Jr. Enforcers, by stopping 38 of 39 shots faced in a 5-1 victory over the Hershey Cubs in a split series. With his next performance, against Utica, he stopped 55 of 61 shots in his most recent games.