The Donnybrook - December 12, 2019
Updated: Jan 13
Facts, Gossip & Rumors From College-Bound Hockey
A Weekly TJHP Feature
15U/16U/18U Midget Hockey
South Kent Selects Academy (SKSA) appointed Jon Hutcheon as its new Director of Hockey Operations, a position he had been holding down since mid-November when Doug Holewa separated from SKSA.
In the world of college-bound hockey, this is a big position considering the number of USA Hockey national championship appearances, and USAH titles, in addition to the number of NCAA Division I commitments that come out of SKSA each year.
SKSA competes in both the BEAST Tournament Series and the Northeast Pack, in addition to a non-league slate of games. SKSA is currently ranked No. 4 in 15U, No. 13 in 16U and No. 35 in 18U at the USA Tier I level, according to My Hockey Rankings.
Right now Shattuck St. Mary's holds the No. 1 spot at both 16U and 18U, along with the No. 6 spot at 15U. Honeybaked is the No. 1 team at 15U.
The Hampton Roads Whalers and Richmond Generals will be featured in a tripleheader of hockey at the Norfolk Scope on Jan. 25, prior to the ECHL's Norfolk Admirals vs. South Carolina Stingrays match-up. The Generals and Whalers USPHL Elite teams will play first, then Premier teams then the ECHL contest.
Patrick Cavanagh, who owns the Chilled Ponds Arena in Chesapeake, Va., and the Hampton Roads Whalers organization, also became part-owner of the local ECHL organization this past summer. "This is just one of the exciting events that we envisioned within the Whaler Nation/Admirals hockey umbrella," he wrote in a Facebook post announcing the games. "We hope to be a conduit in bringing back professional hockey to Richmond while celebrating the Junior hockey I-64 rivalry between the Whalers and Generals."
Cavanagh played for the Admirals during the 1989-90 and 1990-91 seasons, which marked the beginning of his seven-year run in the minor leagues. He is a member of a rare hockey species that ends up owning a team for which he played.
The original Richmond Renegades and the then-named Hampton Roads Admirals were huge rivals in the East Coast Hockey League before it became affiliated with the NHL. Fully packed coliseums were the norm in the early 1990s, and it was never really considered that the game had started until the first of many fights took place.
Cavanagh did not shy away from the rough stuff. Standing 6-4 and weighing in at a strapping 215, he peaked during the 1993-94 season with 18 goal and 350 penalty minutes -- the equivalent of almost six full hockey games -- for the Huntsville Blast.
Coincidentally, the Generals have been coached since their inaugural 2011 season by R.C. Lyke, who played his final two campaigns of professional hockey for the second version of the Richmond Renegades in the Southern Professional Hockey League (2007-09). Although from different eras of minor pro hockey, Lyke was also no stranger to the rough stuff in his seven-year career with 115 PIMs during the 2005-06 season and he always approached the triple-digit number in that category. Nygaard Fast Fact Warning: I was involved in breaking up more than one on-ice tussle involving Lyke. I was not involved in breaking up a Cavanagh tussle, but his Chilled Ponds office has excellent coffee if you ever get the chance to enjoy a sit-down with him.
The Gillette Wild replaced head coach Steve Kruk with assistant coach Taylor Shaw yesterday. The Wild are currently in fourth place in the Frontier Division with a 14-11-0-0 record and the cupboard is stocked with a full roster of players.
Kruk was suspended by the NA3HL after a Nov. 23 game vs. the Yellowstone Quake for yelling at the Quake bench/coaching staff. Kruk told the Gillette News Record that he was disappointed the Wild did not appeal the suspension since it was the result of a supplementary discipline review, not an on-ice call by the officials. The Wild let him go yesterday rather than have him return to the bench after his suspension.
The 25-year-old Shaw, a Minnesota native who started his coaching career at the 14U level as a 19-year-old, has been with the Wild for the past two years.
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The 10th Annual NA3HL Showcase will take place Dec. 15-17, 2019 at the NSC Super Rink in Blaine, Minn. All 34 NA3HL teams will play three games over three days in this event, which runs concurrently with the NAPHL Showcase that runs from Dec. 13-17.
Mark Frankenfeld, commissioner and president of all things under the NAHL umbrella, recently inked a five-year extension with BAUER Hockey as the official equipment supplier of the league. While not very newsworthy in its own right, any Junior hockey historian or longtime fan has to marvel at the North American Hockey League empire that has been built during his 13-year tenure with that league. The fact BAUER is working with the NAHL, much less re-upping with a five-year extension is the tip of the iceberg for Frankenfeld's tenure.
Frankenfeld took over in December of 2006 when the NAHL stood at 17 teams and had a host of questions about its place in the Junior World. This was only four years after the USHL pulled off Tier I status within USA Hockey and started to distance itself from the NAHL both on and off the ice. Prior to 2002, the leagues' top teams met in the Junior A Gold Cup for the USA Hockey national championship.
Of those 17 teams in 2006, only four remain active in the NAHL. However, Frankenfeld has presided over a gradual expansion of the Tier II league to 27 teams (with Wichita Falls, Texas, starting next year), the addition of the now-34-team NA3HL and the creation of the NAPHL which consists of 48 teams in four levels of play.
Frankenfeld didn't necessarily stumble into the position, but his ascendancy to the top post seemed like a game of survival at the time. Mike Santos, the former president and commissioner of the NAHL and current executive director of the EHL, left the league in June of 2006. It was not clear whether his then-expiring three-year contract was going to be renewed. Regardless, Santos was hired by the Nashville Predators and the search for a new commissioner commenced.
In August of that year, the NAHL appointed a businessman named Eric Krupka as the new commissioner. He was the founder of EHK Sports, which at the time was a big name in the hockey showcase business, but he wasn't well-known among the USA Hockey and traditional Junior crowd... Krupka stumbled out of the gate strong by publicly labeling the Santa Fe market as not viable, despite there being an active NAHL team in that community, and followed up with making the statement the league would be best-served contracting to 12 teams.
I attended the 2006 USA Hockey Junior Council meeting in early December of that year in the Minneapolis area, during which then-Junior Council VP Dave Tyler asked Krupka a question which resulted in a seemingly eternal case of stage fright. Not making light of the situation, Krupka couldn't get a word out, and Frankenfeld, who was then-Deputy Commissioner, attempted to step in and try to answer the question. Tyler was in no hurry to throw either of them a lifeline and it was an extremely uncomfortable and awkward 60 seconds that seemed like hours. I point that out because nobody really knew Krupka at the time, and that was his first appearance in front of the Junior Council.
If asked to place bets that day, the smart money would have been on the NAHL quickly fading away given the constantly changing world of Junior hockey ... and anyone who bet against the NAHL would have lost all their money because of Frankenfeld's performance after that meeting. Krupka was shown the door later that month and Frankenfeld was appointed the new commissioner in December 2006.
Fast forward 13 years and the NAHL is now a strong structure that consists of three non-profit organizations (leagues) that gather nearly $6 million per year in revenue. Just as impressive are the NAHL showcase events that are held each year at the NSC Super Rink in Blaine, Minn. The September NAHL Showcase is one of the largest in the country and features the most diverse scouting base at any hockey event in North America. To breeze through Frankenfeld's 13-year tenure is doing a disservice to the amount of negotiating, verbal stickhandling and thousands of meetings he's endured while steadily building the NAHL brand.
Nygaard Fact Fact Warning: Many people don't know is Frankenfeld was an assistant NCAA college hockey coach with Miami (Ohio) and Buffalo State, a head coach in the NAHL with the Dayton Gems and an assistant coach and assistant general manager with the NAHL's Texas Tornado.
The Jersey Hitmen continue to dominate the NCDC by running their point streak to 25 straight games -- which is all of them so far this year. The Hitmen are currently 22-0-1-0-3-2. I can translate that for you: They have won 22 games outright, lost one game in overtime, won three shootouts and lost two shootouts. That amounts to 47 points, which is only five points ahead of the second-place Junior Bruins who are 20-3-0-0-1-2 for 42 points. There is a three-team tie for 3rd place back at 31 points to help give context to the lead the Hitmen and Junior Bruins have established.
The inaugural Frosty Cup, featuring the Chicago Steel and the Green Bay Gamblers, has been announced in conjunction with the NHL's Dallas Stars and the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. The Steel and Gamblers will play outdoors on Jan. 3 after an indoor tilt on Jan. 2 at the Comerica Center.
In addition, the Frosty Cup will feature a youth tournament with teams at the 14U, 15U, 16U and 18U levels. All USHL Frosty Cup youth tournament games will be played at the Stars Ice Centers, including Comerica Center, Children’s Health StarCenter McKinney, Children’s Health StarCenter Plano and Children’s Health Star Center Richardson.
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The Chicago Steel's Greg Moore was named the new head coach of the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League on Dec. 1, 2019. The position opened when former Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe took over with the Maple Leafs when Mike Babcock was let go. Moore is a former coach with the U.S. National Team Development Program. On the ice, he skated for the University of Maine before a 10-game NHL career and a 377-game AHL career.
Chicago assistant coach Brock Sheahan, a former Notre Dame and minor professional player, was named head coach of the Steel in the interim. Sheahan coached for four years with Holy Cross at the NCAA Division I level.
Former Philadelphia Revolution netminder Cayden Primeau made his NHL debut for the Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 5 by stopping 32 shots in a 3-2 loss to high-powered Colorado Avalanche. Primeau, son of former NHLer Keith Primeau, played in the league during the 2015-16 season after which he garnered honors as the league's Goalie of the Year and Rookie of the Year. He played for the Lincoln Stars in 2016-17 before heading to Northeastern University for two seasons (2017-19). A seventh-round draft pick of the Canadiens in 2017, Primeau signed with the NHL club this past summer and had 12 games of professional experience in the AHL before making his debut.
Ironically, netminder Keith Kinkaid, who played for the New York Bobcats during the 2007-08 season, was sent down from Montreal to AHL Laval to make room for Primeau.
Nygaard Fast Fact Warning: The EHL is technically the successor to the old Atlantic Junior Hockey League in which Kinkaid played. The EHL is actually a "Doing Business As" name. The formal non-profit corporation, formed in 2012, is called the Atlantic Junior Hockey League, Inc.
Kincaid has patched together a career that saw him perform at the NAHL and USHL levels before two years at NCAA Division I Union College. He has appeared in 157 NHL games and represented the United States in two World Championships.
Jared Tinordi of the AJHL's Washington Junior Nationals, and son of former NHL all-star and AJHL head coach Mark Tinordi, was the league's Rookie of the Year in 2007-08 before moving to the USNTDP and becoming the Canadiens' first-round NHL draft pick in 2010. He has appeared in 53 NHL games and is still active in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals.
Easily the most famous AJHL alumnus, who is having a Norris Trophy-worthy season in 2019-20, is former New Jersey Rocket, John Carlson. Carlson came through the developmental doorway opened by Bob Thornton who coached the Rockets for a decade. Carlson played in the AJHL from 2005-07 before heading to the USHL and I probably don't need to detail the rest of his career (World Junior Championship, Stanley Cup, yadda yadda yadda).
Thornton also guided these former AJHL Rocket players on their way to the NHL:
Zach Aston-Reese (currently with Pittsburgh Penguins)
Kevin Labanc (currently with San Jose Sharks)
Charlie McAvoy (currently with Boston Bruins)
Joe Gambardella (currently with AHL Bakersfield Condors)
Kevin Boyle (currently with AHL Sand Diego Gulls)
Thornton is still in the game as director and head coach of the Westchester Express 15U, 16U and 18U program based out of Brewster, N.Y.
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In EHL-related franchise news, TJHP has good information indicating the North Carolina Golden Bears will be out of the league next year, possibly dropping to the EHL Premier or possibly knocking on the door of the USPHL South Division. The Golden Bears were an early-season TJHP Struggle Bus regular and they still only list 16 players on their roster. It's not a lack of professionalism from the organization, it's a matter of geography. The EHL was heading north for a number of years before heading south again with the Bears, Team Maryland and a proposed Hampton, Va, franchise that did not get off the ground.
Current NCDC and USPHL member Boston Bandits are reportedly looking to move back to the EHL after 2020-21 season. The Bandits, who left the EHL in 2017 with five other organizations, recently sold their NCDC team to the Philadelphia Hockey Club.
Jeff Nygaard is the editor of The Junior Hockey Podcast. He covers Junior and college-bound hockey as a traditional “beat,” in addition to breaking news stories during the course of the year.
He has a vast amount of experience on the business and organizational side of the sport as a former owner-operator of two Junior organizations and two youth clubs and has served as executive director or commissioner of the Eastern Hockey League and the United States Premier Hockey League.
A Fergus Falls, Minn., native, Nygaard grew up playing for the Fergus Falls Youth Hockey Association, Fergus Falls High School, Fergus Falls Community College and North Dakota State University programs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions, story ideas, and anonymous tips.