The 2022-2023 USPHL season will mark the 30th anniversary for the Toledo Cherokee and the team has announced they will wear special 30th anniversary jerseys throughout the season as they celebrate this milestone.
The Cherokee, with the help from Wingman Sports, have designed a replica jersey just like the team wore in 1993 during their first season as a member of the Central States Hockey League.
“We are very excited to unveil the 30th anniversary jerseys, this organization has a long history as a member of junior hockey from the Junior 'B' National Championship to the hundred or so players that have went on to play college hockey," said head coach Kenny Miller.
The Cherokee will have a special sponsor logo on the back of the jerseys as former Cherokee player Hank “John” Avink who owns eXp Realty has joined forces with the Cherokee to have these special jerseys made for the 30th anniversary.
As a member of the Cherokee in the late 90’s Avink served as team captain, as a member of the Cherokee the team won two CSHL regular season championships, three CSHL playoff championships, qualified for the Junior “B” nationals three times and Hank was a member and captain of the Cherokee team that won the 1998 Junior “B” National Championship.
“I am very grateful to be able to give back to an organization that has meant so much to me as well as many other players that have worn the Cherokee jersey the last 29 years," said Avink.
Wingman Sports Corporation designed and will supply the jerseys for the Cherokee. Wingman Sports is based out of Newmarket Ontario.
“Our team prides itself on looking good out on the ice and to be able to create a jersey for our current players to wear just like the guys did back in 1993 is very special to everyone involved in our organization. Wingman was great to work with Jason Clarke and Lee Umansky did everything to meet our needs and we are extremely happy with how the jerseys turned out," added Miller.
The Cherokee begin play in September, please visit our website for more information at www.cherokeehockey.com
The Toledo Cherokee finished the 2021-2022 season with a record of 37-6-3 overall and went 3-1 at the USPHL Nationals in Hudson, N.H.
Change is all around this spring in Isanti. After four seasons playing out of Isanti Ice Arena the team has a new identity (the Rum River Mallards are now the Isanti Outlaws).
Now, after finishing in seventh place in the USPHL Midwest West for two straight seasons, the Outlaws have hired a new bench boss in Don Babineau.
Coach Babineau has been involved in Junior hockey since age 17. As a player he helped his team, the Minnesota Owls, to multiple national championship tournament appearances, a feat he repeated as a bench coach in the old Minnesota Junior Hockey League.
At the age of 21, Babineau took his first head coaching position with the Northwest Wisconsin Knights leading the team to a 30-win season. Babineau was honored at seasons end by being named MNJHL Coach of the Year.
Babineau also had stints with the St. Paul Lakers, Hudson Crusaders and Maple Grove Energy before the league disbanded.
"I'm excited to get the season started," said Babineau. "It's been over seven years since I was able to coach junior hockey close to home in Minnesota, and I'm looking forward to being in a very competitive West Midwest division."
Asked about being involved in one of the top divisions of the USPHL Babineau commented, "You couldn't ask for more of a competitive division. From my perspective this helps in many areas. We have the least amount of travel in the country which aids in the focus on other important factors such as school, work, billet families, and community support."
He returned to the upper midwest to lead the Coulee Region Chill in 2019-20 then the expansion Oregon Tradesmen in 2020-21 where he guided the first-year club to a fourth place finish and playoff spot despite playing on the road for the first four and a half months of the season due to COVID-19 shutdown of their home rink.
After attending the USPHL NCDC Combine in Chicago last weekend Babineau will turn his attention back home, building the Outlaws in Isanti.
"We are looking to build a well-oiled machine here. We have all the tools in place to get to where we want to go for years to come. There has been a junior team here for several years and we want to keep the great support from the community. We definitely feel we will have the biggest impact in regards to community service and giving back to the local communities in the surrounding area. The most successful teams I have ever been a part of have been out in the community on a weekly basis. We want to strive in this area."
Dylan Hullaby followed his dream of playing college hockey, and it paid off following his fourth full season in the USPHL Premier - patience and dedication pays off!
It was all about trusting the process for the 2001-born native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who now moves on to the NCAA’s University of Southern Maine. Hullaby originally connected with Coach Ed Harding at the Kings of the East Coast Showcase last summer between seasons with the Havoc.
“He watched and then spoke to me after a game. He liked my size and compete level,” said Hullaby, who stands 6-feet-5-inches and weighs in at 225 pounds. “Academically, Southern Maine’s Exercise Science program is very strong as well as the entire school. With hockey, I felt they had a lot of good players and my style would fit in well with the way that they play.”
Hullaby is a classic power forward - he was able to put up 56 points in 85 games over the two seasons in Hudson. Overall, he completed his career with 91 points in 166 games, including three prior seasons with the Minnesota Mullets.
“I really enjoyed the guys I played with and the [Hudson] community,” said Hullaby about being a staple of Brett Wall’s program for two years, including making a trip to USPHL Nationals this spring. “We had a lot of success on the ice and I was able to make a lot of good friends, especially this last year. The community of Hudson was the best in junior hockey and the support we got from the people who lived there will be something I miss.
“I owe a lot to the Hudson staff for the work they did with me to help me improve as a player. Coach Wall and the rest of the staff really push you to get better. They can be tough but they are also there to support you, and they put a lot of time into helping me improve,” added Hullaby. “I am really thankful for what they did for me.”
From 2017 to the early days of the 2019-20 season, Hullaby suited up for the Minnesota Mullets to start his USPHL journey to a college commitment.
“Without Coach Chris Walby, I don't think I would be where I am today,” said Hullaby. “He saw something in me and gave me my first opportunity to play and learn the game at the next level. The Mullets showed me what I needed to do to be successful and the time with the organization is something I will never forget.”
Hullaby is certainly excited to make the move east. He was certainly taken with the campus and the city of Portland, Maine, home to USM.
“I really enjoyed my visit to the campus and area. The facilities were nice and the Portland area looked like a great place to live,” he added.
In order to be an impact player at the NCAA level, Hullaby knows there is work to be done this off-season.
“I know the game at the college level is faster so the primary area I will be working on is foot speed and quickness. Playing on the bigger rink at Southern Maine, I know it will be an advantage for us over our opponents, so taking my skating to the next level will be important,” Hullaby added. “I will continue to work on all areas so that on Day 1 I can be an impact player and help the team be successful.”
The USPHL congratulates Dylan Hullaby, his family, the Hudson Havoc and the University of Southern Maine for his commitment.
Worcester State University just got richer in talent with the recent commitment from Islanders Hockey Club forward Shane Prifrel.
The 2001-born native of Inver Grove Heights, Minn., split this past season between the NCDC and Premier Islanders teams, and he was a key part of the sixth-seeded Premier team’s push through two higher seeds in the playoffs all the way to the USPHL Nationals. Prifrel is certainly excited for the opportunity to bring his game to the NCAA level.
“I started talking to Worcester State during the first round of playoffs. My coach loved my speed, size and how I was able to incorporate that into my game,” said Prifrel. “He said I have a lot of skill and knowing where to be to score.”
Prifrel obviously liked his one year in Massachusetts, as he’ll remain in the state and move just about 40 miles from the Islanders’ base in North Andover to Worcester, the second largest city in both Massachusetts and the New England region overall.
“I liked that the school is bigger than many of the schools I was looking at with the degree I wanted to pursue. The hockey family was the main reason for my commitment. Every player buys into the greater good of winning and plays for one another,” said Prifrel.
He’s excited to play for Head Coach Bob Deraney, who has several decades of coaching experience at the NCAA Division I and III levels for both men’s and women’s hockey. An unstoppable teacher of the game, Deraney also runs coaching courses for USA Hockey certification. Prifrel knows he’s going from one dedicated mentor in Islanders Coach Jay Punsky to another in Deraney.
“I love Coach Deraney and Coach [Jay] Punsky. Every player that I talked to on the team has told me they’ve never had a better coach than Deraney. He’s so dedicated to the game and believes in the team,” said Prifrel. “I went to the Worcester State campus and loved it right away. People were everywhere and very nice.”
Prifrel was able to consider himself part of both the Premier and NCDC teams, playing games with both over the entire season as he moved back and forth depending on team needs.
“I loved the new opportunities that it brought along with new teammates and friendships that I have made on both teams,” said Prifrel. “I feel that my decision-making on the ice improved throughout the year playing on NCDC. I also feel that my confidence as a player and goal scorer has increased. The differences between NCDC and Premier are mainly in the pace of play. The NCDC is faster off the transitions and breakouts where Premier might take another second.”
In the postseason, the Islanders played two overtime games, including a three-overtime game (and win) against the Bridgewater Bandits that broke the record for the USPHL Premier’s longest game at 109 minutes and 35 seconds. They went from Bridgewater Ice Arena to the Junior Bruins’ New England Sports Center home ice to win two road series and qualify for Nationals as the New England Division’s sixth seed.
“My postseason experience was one of my favorite moments so far in my hockey career,” said Prifrel. “We had a great group of guys who truly believed we could go all the way and I had the best time competing side by side with them along the way.”
He’s looking forward to the same chemistry with his Worcester State teammates, and knows that he’ll have to continue to up his game to make an impact there.
“I will get a step or two quicker and faster during this off-season,” he said. “I will work to be the best skater I can be, and master new and better ways to find the back of the net.”
The USPHL congratulates Shane Prifrel, his family, the Islanders Hockey Club and Worcester State University for his commitment.
Will Augustine came to the Metro Jets prior to the 2018-19 season looking for playing time and the chance to improve his game to potentially have a shot at college hockey if the opportunity presented itself.
That opportunity started with playing for the MJDP, then the Metro Jets, and now has evolved into the NCAA.
Augustine, a 2001-born Livonia, Mich., native who turned 21 on May 8, leaves the Jets as the USPHL’s all-time shutouts leader and has recently committed to play NCAA Division III hockey next season at Rivier University, a newer program with its campus located in Nashua, N.H.
"The thing I found most appealing about Rivier was being a part of a young team and having the opportunity to make an immediate impact going into my freshman year,” said Augustine. “The coaching staff is very knowledgeable, bringing competitive expectations, and also has a goalie coach present daily that can continue to help me make adjustments in my game. Also, it’s a smaller school that will help me get back into the swing of things academically for the smoothest transition possible.
“It’s very exciting to make this commitment and getting the opportunity to play at the NCAA level and getting a great education at the same time. I hope to come in my freshman year and really bond with all the guys and get as much chemistry going as early as possible. I know they have quite a few new guys for next year as well, so I won’t be the only one coming to a new team.”
Academically, Augustine is looking at a business/marketing major, saying, “It will definitely be a different step for me at the beginning, but I’m confident I’ll be able to adjust to the college life fast.”
Over the course of his time with the Jets, Augustine and the Jets made the USPHL National Championships each year, going to the title game in 2019 and 2022. Overall, Augustine went 55-14-0 with a 1.91 GAA and a .934 save percentage, notching 12 shutouts in a Jets uniform.
“Will has come a long way in his time with the Jets,” said Jets coach-GM Justin Quenneville. “He is a perfect example of development and commitment. He started with the MJDP, which provided him the same platform and opportunities. He was able to get ample playing time and attention. Will took advantage of it and continued to progress.
"Fast forward a few years later, and he is between the pipes for the national championship game just over a month ago and now an NCAA commitment. He has done a great job focusing on his game and maturing every year. We are fortunate to have a full-time experienced goalie coach in Randy Wilson to guide our guys and it’s a big reason for our continued success in net. Our goalies get the development, the exposure and, ultimately, the advancement because of our platform and relationships.
“Rivier has a strong program with exceptional coaching. He will fit in great. We wish Will the best of luck."
Wilson mirrored Quenneville’s sentiments.
“I'm extremely happy to see that Will has committed to NCAA Rivier University to continue his hockey career,” said Wilson. “To witness his development and growth as a competitive goaltender over the past four years has been very rewarding for me as his coach. From the first day he joined our Metro Jets program, he has always displayed a very mature attitude and a solid work ethic to become an elite junior goaltender. No doubt he will bring the same qualities to Rivier.
“I know that Coach [Matthew] Keating's Raiders hockey team is getting a quality goalie that will prove to be a valuable asset, both on the ice and in the classroom.”
All the accolades aside, Augustine said the Jets program helped him take strides in his game and gave him the confidence that he would not have had elsewhere.
“Coming from a struggling high school hockey team my sophomore and junior year, the Metro Jets gave me a great opportunity to keep playing hockey and at a great level,” Augustine said. “Four years later, I’m leaving the Jets with an NCAA scholarship and a ton more experience than when I first came in. I matured volumes as a person and am leaving with a lot more confidence in my game. I can’t thank my family and close friends, especially the Jets coaching staff, and previous coaches enough for being a great support system through everything I’ve faced and helping me better myself every day.
“I give a special thanks to my mom and dad (Marsha and John) for all the long car rides to tournaments over the years and countless cold rinks early in the morning any day of the week, whether it meant missing work or traveling while being sick or tired. Randy also had a huge part in me playing for the Jets as I was recruited out of high school by him from the reference of Dan Phelps. Working with Randy every day for the past four years really helped get me ready to play and compete at the college level and is someone I’ll never forget. He made a huge impact on me as a hockey player through confidence and faith in me but made an even bigger impact in my life as a person teaching me many life lessons along the way.”
And in reflecting on how fast the past four seasons have gone by, Augustine said he will never forget the countless memories made with the Jets organization.
“I will always remember our 2019 China trip as a whole,” said Augustine. “Between us winning bronze in the tournament and (Jets associate head coach) Jamie (Lovell) singing ‘I Want It That Way’ at karaoke is something I will remember for a lifetime. Our trip to nationals this year stands out, making it all the way to the final game. Even though we didn’t win it all, it was a great journey with some great people, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
“I would do it all over again every single time and can’t thank the staff members and all the teammates I had over the last four years enough for the memories and friendships that were made along the way.”