NAHL South Training Camp Preview Wichita Falls Wildcats

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.

 

Wichita Falls Wildcats

 

Head Coach Paul Baxter will enter his third season behind the Wildcats bench looking to turn things around for a franchise that has failed to qualify for the post season since the 2010/11 season and has never made it out of the first round of the playoffs. In his two years in Wichita Falls Baxter has compiled a 46-65-9 record. However, the Wildcats iced one of the youngest rosters in the entire league last season and have a total of 14 players eligible to return for the upcoming season.

 

On offense, the Wildcats have five players eligible to return next season with all having played 48 games or more in 2012/13. The group is led by Connor ONeil and Kyle Bauman who logged 43 and 42 points respectively on the season.

 

Defensively is where the Wildcats can return some major depth. Eight of the ten defensemen on the roster at the end of the season have eligibility left. Charles Hemstrom who not only was second among blue-liner in scoring last season, but also the team leader in PIMs with 131 tops the list of those eligible to return. In all Wichita Falls is looking at a defensive core with 255 games under their belts if all eight return.

 

Between the pipes Baxter will be looking to replace Evan Cowley who has many option heading into next season. Cowley signed with the University of Denver, was the 26th overall selection in the USHL Draft by Sioux City and was the fourth round selection of the Florida Panthers in the NHL Draft. Cooper Cook who was used sparingly last season is eligible to return but played only 673 minutes total last season compiling a 4-5-0 record.

 

2012/13 Roster – Potential returning veterans shown in Bold

 

Player P GP G A PTS +/- PIM Comments
Eliot Grauer F

58

20

27

47

+10

93

 Wisconsin-Stevens Point recruit
Connor ONeil F

49

21

22

43

+11

42

 6’ 1” – 190 / 1994
Kyle Bauman F

60

26

16

42

+3

38

 5’ 9” – 170 / 1993
Tyler Ledford F

58

9

26

35

-5

19

 Playing for Air Force Academy in 2013/14
Colin Staub F

55

10

20

30

+3

25

 6’ 0” – 195 / 1994
Will Vosejpka F

55

8

20

28

-3

43

 Playing for Air Force Academy in 2013/14
Sami Salminen F

48

13

14

27

-12

25

 Off to University of Northern Michigan
George Pagonis F

55

11

11

22

+2

53

 Oct 1992 Birth Date – Aged Out
Ben Kucera F

53

8

12

20

-11

10

 Playing for Air Force Academy in 2013/14
Nick Farmer F

56

8

9

17

-9

33

 6’ 0” – 170 / 1994
Rudy Junda F

48

8

8

16

-15

35

 5’ 11” – 185 – 1993
Patrick Yudez F

42

6

9

15

+3

6

 Arizona State ACHA recruit
Matt Robinson F

31

5

6

11

0

28

 University of Arkansas Razorback signee
Chris Knudson D

58

5

12

17

-17

82

 Michigan State recruit
Charles Hemstrom D

45

4

9

13

+8

131

 5’ 11” – 195 / 1993
Jake Townsend D

50

2

10

12

-3

34

 6’ 0” – 170 / 1994
Erik Ouellette D

42

3

8

11

-5

24

 6’ 3” – 200 / 1993
Kristaps Bazevics D

51

4

5

9

-8

62

 6’ 3” – 195 / 1994
Daniel Vaysberg D

13

0

6

6

+2

10

 5’ 8” – 174 / 1995
Brian LeBlanc D

27

2

3

5

+4

16

 Selected by Chicago in USHL Entry Draft
Sam Piazza D

17

2

3

5

-3

11

 5’ 11” – 205 / 1994
Marshall Tema D

20

1

1

2

-15

24

 6’ 1” – 200 / 1994
Spencer Roth D

17

0

1

1

+2

9

 5’ 11” – 185 / 1994

W

L

OTL

SO

GAA

SV%

Evan Cowley G

22

24

4

3

2.90

.900

4th Round selection of NHL Florida Panthers / University of Denver signee / Selected by Sioux City in USHL Draft
Cooper Cook G

4

5

0

0

4.28

.868

 5’ 11” – 170 / 1994

Indicative of their defensive depth, Baxter focused on the forward position in the NAHL Draft and with his Tenders. Five of the seven selections in the draft were used on forwards.

 

F – Max Riesinger 6’ 0” – 190 / Cleveland Barons U18 / Tenth overall selection in NAHL Draft 47 points on 25G + 22A in 40 games played.

F – Henry Hart 5’ 9” – 139 / St Thomas Academy/ 11th overall pick in NAHL Draft 25 games played with 15G + 13A.

D – Zachary Dixon 6’ 2” – 185 / LA Jr Kings / 2G + 10ª on 40 games placed.

F – Jared Coulter 6’ 4” – 194 /Flint Power Catholic HS

F – Hunter Routheau 6’ 4” – 190 /Green Bay United HS

F – Kelvin Walz 5’ 9“ – 170 /Lloydminster Alberta/ Logged 6G + 13A in 39 games played.

D – Jack Kelly 6’ 0” – 190 /Dallas Ice Jets

 

With the Tenders Wichita Falls did try to shore up the goalie position signing Chase Munroe from the NAPHL Indiana Ice in addition to two more forwards.

 

F – Calvin Miska 6’ 1” – 190 / Twin City Steel NA3HL / 40 games played with 9G + 16A.

G – Chase Munroe 6’ 1” – 185 / Indiana Jr Ice NAPHL / 10 games played 2.15GAA and a .922SV%

F – Evan Okeley 6’ 1” – 194 / Indiana Jr Ice NAPHL / Point plus per game with 24 points on 13G + 11A in 18 games.

 

Wichita Falls was 20th out of 24 teams last season in goals allowed. They will have to look to their vets to  use their experienced gained to step up their game if the team is to be successful. With another young group up front, much will fall on the shoulders of the men in net to keep the team in games early in the season as the forwards adjust to the NAHL game.

Topics: NAHL South Division, Training Camp, Wichita Falls Wildcats

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