By: Collin Schuck – IceRays Staff
Oct. 18, 2016
The 2016-17 NAHL season is now in full swing, and as the IceRays returned home to the American Bank Center, the hockey world woke from its summer-long slumber for their own versions of opening weekend. The IceRays Alumni Report is back for a third volume, and as the IceRays alumni database grows, as does our coverage. Over 100 IceRays in the last six seasons have moved on to play in higher levels out of the junior franchise and most in NCAA programs with one former professional player at the league’s top tier.
Five players currently play at the affiliated professional level in North America including one at the top flight of the hockey world. Ryan Garbutt (’09-’10) enters his second full season with the Anaheim Ducks and sixth as a player in the NHL. He finished last season with seven goals and seven assists between the Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks.
Two goaltenders are battling their way to the NHL roster in the American Hockey League for each of their third seasons in net. Pheonix Copley (’10-’11) became the first junior alum to earn NHL ice time for the St. Louis Blues last season and hopes for his second stint while remaining with their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. On the East Coast, Anthony Stolarz (’11-’12), the first IceRays player to be drafted by a NHL team in 2012, comes off a career season hoping to break the Philadelphia Flyers roster while developing with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Two defensemen are taking aim at a long-term professional career starting in the ECHL with both returning from the end of last season. Phil Pietroniro (’11-’13) returns for his second professional season with the Utah Grizzlies, the ECHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks, after signing with the Grizzlies out of Major Junior play. The Canadian picked up 16 points over 57 games last season as well as his first two professional goals. Colton Saucerman (’10-’11), who closed his NCAA Division I career with Northeastern University by signing with the South Carolina Stingrays at the end of last year, extended his tenure with a two-year contract, keeping the dream alive after putting up four points in four regular season games as well as eight points in 15 playoff games.
The NCAA has seen over 60 players in six seasons reach the Division I and III levels, and now over half of those players remain spread across both levels. New to the NCAA Division I ranks this season is forward Carter Johnson (’15-’16), who joined Miami University (OH) following his final junior season with the IceRays to play with former player Grant Hutton (’12-’14). Johnson already picked up an assist in his first weekend of play and now plays with former NAHL player Alex Alger and alternate captain Conor Lemirande on the team’s top line. Hutton scored his first collegiate goal over the weekend on the power play during the team’s season-opening 4-3 loss to Providence College.
Another newcomer to collegiate hockey is forward Ronnie Hein (’13-’14), who tore up the USHL last season and picks up where he left off early in his Ohio State University career. Already in just three games, he’s earned two points as well as his first collegiate goal on October 8 in a 3-3 tie with Air Force. He joins forward Matthew Weis (’11-’12), who is coming off a stellar sophomore season with 32 points including 11 goals, sitting in the upper echelon of scorers in a down year for Ohio State. Like Hein, Weis already has a goal and an assist with his points notched in the season opener against the University of Denver in a 3-2 win.
Though he spent one academic year in college already, forward Wes Michaud (’13-’15) was forced to redshirt his freshman season after sustaining a season-ending injury last year before the campaign even began. This year, he’s back on the ice for Colorado College and already making a strong impact, putting up two points in four games including his first collegiate goal on October 8 in a 7-4 win over UMass-Lowell during his second collegiate game. The Cloquet, Minn., native is the all-time IceRays leader in single-season goals, assists and points as well as second in career goals, assists and points.
On the opposite side, it’ll be the final season for a couple members of NCAA Division I programs, including defenseman Perry D’Arrisso (’11-’13), who began his senior season with Clarkson University in the second weekend of October. It’s only been four games, but the Mississauga, Ont., product already has two points with one as a power play goal last Friday night in a 4-0 shutout of Merrimack College at home. Last year, D’Arrisso recorded 11 points with six of those coming as goals, setting up another potential career season in his last chance during college. He’s joined by collegiate newcomer Nico Sturm (’13-’14), who already has two assists in four games with both helpers coming last weekend. He is coming off his lone USHL season after two years prior in the NAHL.
With still some time before the NCAA Division III action picks up, we turn to the United States Hockey League, who now have four players including three from last year’s team among the rankings. Defenseman Michael Bevilacqua (’15-’16) was drafted 149th overall by the Gamblers this off-season and earned a spot out of training camp on the blue line. The USHL is in full swing like the NAHL, and though playing seven games already, he recorded his first USHL assist back on September 23 in his first career game.
Also new to the league this season is forward Regen Cavanagh (’13-’15), who was drafted and kept by the Dubuque Fighting Saints this season after one full year in the NAHL. He’s making quick work of Tier I hockey, now sitting atop the Saints in scoring with four goals and one assist for five points. It took one game to record his first USHL goal on September 24 against Cedar Rapids and his third to earn a multi-point game on October 1 against the Chicago Steel. The Virginian could earn a strong campaign if he’s able to keep up the pace set early on.
Goaltender Dryden McKay (’15-’16) exits to the USHL after one of the best statistical performances by an IceRays goaltender. After an appearance with Green Bay last year and training camp, the Illinois native was picked up by the Madison Capitols on waivers and already made his season debut, saving 29 of 31 shots on October 8 during a 3-2 win over the Youngstown Phantoms. His USHL debut last season only lasted 10 minutes, and his first permanent start got him off the ground better.
Returning for his third season in the USHL is forward Jake Durflinger (’13-’14), who now not only has his second season with the Bloomington Thunder to look forward to but also a post-junior career. On September 29, the 2013-14 IceRays points leader committed to the University of Denver and will join the Pioneers following his junior career. He’ll join former IceRays forward Emil Romig (’12-’13) on the Pioneers roster. After 29 points and 13 goals last season between the Thunder and Sioux City Musketeers, the California kid owns now two points in six games thus far, picking up his first goal of the year in game one on September 24 against the Muskegon Lumberjacks.
A shift of rosters helps forward Landon Quinney (’14-’15) continue his career in Major Junior hockey despite switching coasts and countries. After spending the 2015-16 season with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League (WHL), the Las Vegas product now shifts to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) to join the Saint John Sea Dogs and a familiar name to the IceRays family: Danny Flynn, father of current IceRays Head Coach Brad Flynn. In just two games with a new uniform, Quinney already has one assist and could pick up from a 16-point performance in his rookie season.
Read the IceRays Alumni Report every Tuesday on www.goicerays.com, 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.