BY: COLLIN SCHUCK
OCT. 6, 2015
A brand new season begins, and a new crop of players joins the ranks of IceRays alumni in the 2015-16 hockey season. There has been movement to say the least, but the number of players in each level of hockey beyond the NAHL continues to grow with each passing year. Last season, the first four-year college players concluded their NCAA careers. This year, the field expands.
Heading into the 2015-16 season, four players skate in the professional ranks among the ECHL, AHL, and NHL, 12 players compete at the NCAA Division I level including two from last year’s IceRays team, 30 players enter NCAA Division III play which holds three from last season, three more at the USHL level, and two in Canadian Major Junior hockey. As the rosters and lists expand, so does our coverage.
Welcome to the first edition of the IceRays Alumni Report, Volume II.
The National Hockey League kicks off its 2015-16 season on Wednesday evening, which means the beginning of the affiliated professional leagues will trickle down from here. Four former IceRays are set to begin the new season with three joining new teams, and we start with right-winger Ryan Garbutt (’09-’10). The former CHL winger found a new home in his seventh professional season and fifth in the NHL, joining the Chicago Blackhawks after being traded to the reigning Stanley Cup Champions along with Trevor Daley for Patrick Sharp and prospect Stephen Johns. Coming off a controversial season, Garbutt hopes to turn around with a fresh start in a historic organization, playing on the fourth line along with center Marcus Kruger and left-winger Andrew Desjardins. The Blackhawks start their season tomorrow against the New York Rangers.
Two goaltenders remain in the American Hockey League as the Triple-A franchises continue work in pre-season training camps. Another player with a new team is Pheonix Copley (’10-’11) who moved after his first professional season to the St. Louis Blues organization as a piece exchanged for forward T.J. Oshie. After seeing some time with the Blues in pre-season play, the second-year netminder looks to play as a strong factor for the Chicago Wolves and continue his success from his rookie season in Hershey. Back with his original team, Anthony Stolarz (’11-’12) committed to improvement this off-season and working to grow in his second season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The young netminder did have a look in the NHL last season with the net troubles for the Philadelphia Flyers but has yet to make his debut. Both netminders start their seasons on Saturday with the Wolves at home against Milwaukee and the Phantoms hosting Syracuse.
The newest addition to the professional ranks is in the ECHL. Following his final season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), defenseman Phil Pietroniro (’11-'13) signed a contract with the Utah Grizzlies, the ECHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks. The 21-year-old is coming off his most successful junior season, recording five goals and 42 assists for 47 points with the Gatineau Olympiques and Victoriaville Tigers. His first professional season begins on Oct. 16 against the Colorado Eagles.
Last weekend marked the start of the 2015-16 season for NCAA Division I, and 12 former IceRays take the ice this season. Newcomers to the college scene from last season, forwards Wes Michaud (’14-’15) at Colorado College and Tanner Lomsnes (’14-’15) at Niagara University, won’t get their collegiate careers started until this weekend. However, one new college player played two games over the weekend for Mercyhurst University. Forward Tommaso Bucci (’12-’13) joins senior Mychal Monteith (’10-’11) on the Lakers roster in a weekend split of 20th-ranked Colgate at home. In his second collegiate game, Bucci picked up a primary assist as part of Sunday’s 9-7 offensive slugfest. Six goals were scored combined in the first period and seven in the third. The Lakers only broke the tie with Colgate at 18:43 of the final frame. Most teams will enter play this weekend both at the NCAA Division I and Division III levels.
The United States Hockey League (USHL) just began their 2015-16 season over the past two weekends, and three former players take to the ice this season with two in Sioux City. Second-year forward Jake Durflinger (’13-’14) is joined by defenseman Logan Gestro (’14-’15) on the Musketeers following a strong campaign with the IceRays as one of two top defensemen. Durflinger has started the season well, picking up two goals over the team’s first three games. The first game on Sep. 26 featured the team’s lone loss, a 5-3 let down against the Sioux Falls Stampede, but the forward tie the game mid-way through the third period on a power play goal before two crossed by the Musketeers late in the game. On Saturday, Durflinger added another tally, this time in the first period, as the Musketeers and Stampede flipped scores and results in a 5-3 win. Durflinger is one of eight players with a goal thus far and one of three with at least two. Gestro played in the team’s opener against Fargo on Sep. 25 and Saturday’s win but did not factor into the scoreline.
Over in Tri-City, following Jalen Schulz’s commitment to the University of Nebraska-Omaha last season, former IceRays and Austin Bruins forward Nico Sturm (’13-’14) joins the Storm for his first season of USHL play after two seasons in the North American Hockey League (NAHL). After a 41-point season in Austin, the German found no trouble tallying points in his first three games in the USHL, scoring two goals in each of his first two games. His first came as the team’s fourth of the night in a 5-1 win over the Omaha Lancers on Sep. 25, while his second helped to pile on as part of a 6-3 victory on Friday over the Chicago Steel with a power play goal early in the third period. Sturm is also one of three players with at least two goals on his respective team to start the year.
And up in Canada, two players will compete at the Major Junior level in separate leagues. Center Chad Pietroniro (’11-’12) begins his second season with Baie-Comeau Drakkar in the QMJHL after splitting last season with the Madison Capitols in the USHL and Baie-Comeau. He has yet to play in the team’s eight games thus far. In the Western Hockey League (WHL), forward Landon Quinney (’14-’15) a tender from last season who saw a splash with the IceRays at the end of the season made the leap to the Moose Jaw Warriors for his first Major Junior season. In his second game of the season, the 17-year-old earned a secondary assist as part of their 3-2 overtime loss to the Regina Pats on Sep. 26. He’ll play center and look to factor in his first season in Canada.
Read the IceRays Alumni Report every Tuesday and hear the audio version on the IceRays Broadcast Network.
Collin Schuck is the Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations for the Corpus Christi IceRays. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter at @CollinDSchuck.