NAHL South Training Camp Preview Rio Grande Killer Bees


The NAHL South as a division has undergone wholesale changes this offseason. The division has grown to seven teams with the addition of the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees, there are also four new head coaches looking to make their mark. There is a decided CHL slant with past CHL markets of Amarillo, Odessa, Corpus Christi, Rio Grande and Lone Star having made the move from minor pro to the ranks of junior hockey.

 

The NAHL South has long been considered the toughest division in the league and from the looks of things this season will be no exception. If statements made by new coaches coming into the division play out, they will only further the NAHL South Division’s reputation as the “Black-n-Blue” division.

 

John Becanic who has had two previous coaching stints in the NAHL will be replacing Justin Quenneville behind the Corpus Christi bench. Becanic knows what he is getting himself into. “In the South, every night you have a worthy opponent. And that makes you a better team,” Becanic told the Caller Times. “The Topekas, Amarillos and Texases, they should make us better. We should be a better team every time we play them. We shouldn’t cringe every time we see them on the schedule, we should be looking forward to it. We will learn to embrace the hard.”

 

Joe Coombs who will be coaching the new Rio Grande Killer Bees took it even one step further in remarks to the Rio Grande Valley Monitor. “We want kids that hate to lose and want to battle,” said Coombs. “If that means hitting somebody or blocking a shot or, quite frankly, losing their teeth because they had to get in a fight then that’s what’s going to happen.”

 

Over the past ten seasons the NAHL Robertson Cup Champions have come from the South Division seven times and last year was no exception as Amarillo raised the cup after defeating the Wenatchee Wild. Look for the rough and tumble South Division to make another run at post season glory. Over the next week we will take a look at each team in the South, their roster movements and what you can potentially look for going into training camp.

 

Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees

The Rio Grande Killer Bees competed last season in the West Division as the Wenatchee Wild making it as far as the Robertson Cup National Championship Game where they lost to Amarillo. The move to Hidalgo, TX was announced shortly after then end of the season to fill a previous minor pro market vacated two years ago by the CHL franchise.

 

In the move Head Coach Bliss Littler decided to remain in Wenatchee to coach the relocated Fresno franchise opening the door for Joe Coombs to step into the Head Coaching position. Coombs spent the last three seasons as the Assistant Coach with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL. Coombs has also had stops in the CSHL (now NA3HL) and CHL minor pro leagues.

 

Rio Grande potentially has a good veteran core of eight forwards eligible to return. The issue with those eligible to return is how will they fit into the South Division. With an average size of 5’ 11” and 178 pounds, will they hold up physically over the grind of a full season?

 

Defensively the Killer Bees could potentially return all but two of the blue-liners who finished out the season. That bodes well for Coombs with 218 games of experience and 43 points among the five players. There is a lot of speed on the back end as well.

 

Nick Schmit played sparingly in net last season but played well when he had the opportunity. He was credited with four wins and three overtime losses in his 12 games played while compiling a 2.01 GAA and a .916 SV%.

2012/13 Roster – Potential returning veterans shown in Bold

 

 Player  P    GP    G     A  PTS    +/-   PIM   Comments
 Jono Davis  F

59

32

29

61

+15

104

 Signed with U Nebraska-Omaha
 Max McHugh  F

59

24

28

52

+7

57

 5’ 10” – 170 / 1993
 Chris Kerr  F

59

21

30

51

+9

54

 Native of Canada will play for Simon Fraser University of the BCIHL
 Jacob Barber  F

59

20

26

46

+7

105

 Wisconsin-Stevens Point recruit
 Noah Nelson  F

57

5

31

36

+4

175

 1992 Birth Year – Aged Out
 Joe Sullivan  F

60

16

18

34

+1

88

 5’ 10” – 175 / 1994
 Nicholas Kuchera  F

50

4

19

23

+4

8

 5’ 10” – 165 / 1994
 Evan Schmidbauer    F

53

14

8

22

+7

107

 6’ 3” – 198 / 1993
 Brian Williams  F

39

5

14

19

+4

4

 5’ 10” -168 / 1996
 Trace Redmond  F

51

7

11

18

+9

98

 1992 Birth Date – Aged Out
 Nathan Flynn  F

50

6

10

16

+5

25

 5’ 10” – 161 / 1993
 Tyler Bruneteau  F

41

1

11

12

+9

33

 5’ 11” – 198 / 1993
 Trevor Stewart  F

15

6

5

11

+2

10

 1992 Birth Date – Aged Out
 Alex Schoenborn  F  10

0

1

1

-3

34

 6’ 2” – 194 / 1995
 Joshua Hartley  D

58

9

34

43

+21

76

 Ivy League – Dartmouth
 Chris Jones  D

50

5

7

12

+14

159

 5’ 10” – 181 / 1996
 Derick Kuchera  D

50

1

11

12

+2

55

 5’ 10” – 161 / 1994
 Dylan Abood  D

58

2

8

10

+14

49

 5’ 7” – 150 / 1993
 David Mead  D

39

2

7

9

+7

132

 Native of Canada will play for Selkirk College of the BCIHL
 Blake Butzow  D

43

2

6

8

+19

20

 6’ 5” – 205 / 1993
 Martin Keckes  D

17

0

1

1

-2

16

 6’ 3” – 190 / 1994

W

L

OTL

SO

GAA

SV%

 Robert Nichols  G

31

13

3

6

2.21

.907

 University of Connecticut
 Nick Schmit  G

4

2

3

1

2.01

.916

 6’ 0” – 174 / 1994

 

 

Coombs and the Killer Bees were very active in the draft with five picks in the first three rounds including the number one and number 21 picks in the first round. Five of the first seven picks were used to add defensive depth setting up some good competition in camp. In total they selected seven defensemen, 10 forwards and a goalie.

 

D – Jimmy Roll  6’ 2” – 216 / Des Moines Buccaneers / #1 overall pick, 12 points on 4G + 8A in 55 games.

D – Josh Elmes 6’ 2” – 209 / Opaskwayak / 58 games played with 5G + 25A. #21 overall pick.

F – Ben Greiner 5’ 11” – 181 / Green Bay Gamblers / 4G + 1A in 25 games played.

D – Andrew Holcombe 5’ 11” – 161 / TPH Thunder U16 / Scored 3G + 3A in 32 games played.

D – Perry Holcombe 5’ 11” – 198 / Valley Jr Warriors / In 44 games played recorded 8G + 18A

F – Trevor Cope 5’ 11” – 190 / Langley BC / 12G + 11A for 23 points in 53 games. Committed to MI Tech in 2014/15

D – Michael Preston 6’ 2” – 194 / Muskegon Lumberjacks / 1G + 3A in 57 games played.

F – Ben Butcher 6’ 1” – 174 / Langley BC /. 18 points scored with 10G + 8A in 54 games.

F – Bradley Milks

D – Luke Bafia 6’ 1” – 190 /  – Pittsburg Penguins U16 / 3G + 32A in 41 games.

F -Matt Ustaski 6’ 5” – 209 / Langley BC / Logged 27 points on 11G + 16A in 55 games played.

F – Drew Dorantes 5’ 11” – 185 /  PowellRiver/ 86 games of USHL experience. 14G + 19A in 49 BCHL games.

F – Jake Larson 5’ 10” – 170 / Minnesota Wilderness SIJHL / Nearly two points per game. 44G + 28A in 49 games played.

F – Rob Masanico 5’ 7” – 172 / New Jersey Hitmen / 11G + 13A in just 19 games.

D – Derek Pratt 6’ 1” – 181 / New Hampshire Jr Monarchs / 27 games played with 0G + 6A.

F – Trent Dillinger 6’ 2” – 165 / Gilette Wild / 42 points on 23G + 19A in 43 games.

G – Ben Halford 6’ 2” – 205 / Bay State Breakers / 29 games played with a 2.59GAA and .932SV%

F – Jason Cotton 6’ 3” – 181 / Tri City Storm / 45 games played resulting in 1G + 5A.

 

Only two tenders have been identified.

 

F – Chris Koukis 5’ 10” – 150 / Wenatchee Wild NAPHL / 12G + 13A in 25 games played.

F – Aleksi Luhtalampi 6’ 1” – 183 / IlvesFinland/ 45 games with 11G + 20A.

 

 

Despite moving from the rainy Pacific Northwest to the arid Rio Grande Valley of Texas the Killer Bees look to have a decent group from which to put together a competitive team. They should be set on the blue-line and have plenty to choose from up front as well.

 

For a franchise who came oh so close last season to hoisting the cup, this season in a new division will be a learning experience. Look for the veterans to use last season as a motivator to chase another playoff spot.

 

Tomorrow we will take a look at Odessa who suffered through a six win season in 2013/14 resulting in the firing of their Head Coach.

Tags: NAHL South Division Rio Grande Killer Bees Training Camp