The North American Hockey League (NAHL) has announced its Players of the Week, sponsored by SBK Hockey, for the week ending Feb. 6.
SBK HOCKEY/NORTH PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Steve Brancheau - Motor City Metal Jackets
Motor City forward Steve Brancheau put home four goals and an assist as the Metal Jackets split a two-game series with St. Louis. On Thursday, the River Rouge, Mich., native notched a goal in a 3-2 loss. The next night, the 20-year-old recorded a hat trick, including the game-winning goal, and an assist as the Metal Jackets downed the Bandits, 5-2. He was also a plus-4 on the weekend.
“Steve continues to score at a very consistent pace and his skill level and speed certainly make him one of the premier players in the NAHL,” said Metal Jackets head coach David Cole. “He’s a legitimate Division I prospect.”
HONORABLE MENTION: Janesville forward Connor McBride; Port Huron forward Rudi Pino; St. Louis forward Kevin Crowe and defenseman Patrick Sheehan
SBK HOCKEY/SOUTH PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Michael Hill - Topeka RoadRunners
Topeka forward Michael Hill struck for five goals as the RoadRunners celebrated a three-game sweep over Corpus Christi. On Thursday, the Fort Worth, Texas, native recorded a hat trick, including the game-winning goal, in a 5-3 victory. The next night, the 20-year-old notched another goal as the RoadRunners bested the IceRays, 5-3. Hill wrapped up his weekend with a one-tally effort on Saturday - a 6-0 win. The University of Alaska-Fairbanks recruit was also a plus-3 on the weekend.
“Michael played inspired hockey last weekend,” said RoadRunners assistant coach R.J. Enga. “He proved his leadership of this team by example all three nights; he was physical, he scored big goals, killed penalties and was a threat every time he was on the ice.”
HONORABLE MENTION: Amarillo defenseman Brandon Lubin; Texas forward Jackson Leef; Topeka forward Brian Christie and defenseman Cory Ramsey
SBK HOCKEY/CENTRAL PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Matt Gates - Bismarck Bobcats
Bismarck forward Matt Gates connected for two goals and seven assists as the Bobcats put together a 2-1 record. On Thursday, the Palatine, Ill., native recorded an assist in a 3-2 loss to Aberdeen. The next night, the 20-year-old notched a goal and four assists, including one on Dan Zawacki’s game-winning marker, in a 5-1 triumph over the Owatonna Express. Gates came through with a goal and two more assists, including one on another Zawacki game-winner, as the Bobcats downed the Wings on Saturday, 6-2. He was also a plus-5 on the weekend.
“Matt’s a power forward who is starting to peak at the right time,” said Bobcats head coach Layne Sedevie. “He’s the leader of our hockey team and is getting rewarded for his hard work.”
SBK HOCKEY/WEST PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Brett Lubanski - Kenai River Brown Bears
Kenai River forward Brett Lubanski rang up three goals and two assists as the Brown Bears fashioned a 1-0-1 mark against Fairbanks. On Friday, the Farmington Hills, Mich., native picked up a goal and two assists, including one on Chris Rial’s game-winning marker, in a 3-1 victory. The next night, the 19-year-old tallied two more goals as the Brown Bears fell to the Ice Dogs in a shootout, 6-5. He was also a plus-3 on the weekend.
“Brett’s playing at an elite level for us as we fight for a playoff berth,” said Brown Bears head coach Oliver David. “He’s hands-down our hottest player and we couldn't ask for a better captain, that’s for sure.”
HONORABLE MENTION: Alaska forward Matt Friese
SBK HOCKEY/NAHL GOALTENDER OF THE WEEK
Rasmus Tirronen - Topeka RoadRunners
Topeka goaltender Rasmus Tirronen backstopped the RoadRunners to a pair of wins in his two starts against Corpus Christi, turning aside 54 of 57 shots. On Thursday, the Espoo, Finland, native made 31 saves in a 5-3 victory. Two nights later, the 20-year-old Merrimack College recruit stopped all 23 shots he faced as the RoadRunners blanked the IceRays, 6-0.
“Rasmus was great last weekend,” said RoadRunners assistant coach R.J. Enga. “He was huge on Thursday; we didn’t play a great second period and he bailed us out. And on Saturday he was our best penalty-killer and was rock solid.”
HONORABLE MENTION: Amarillo’s Nikifor Szczerba; Kenai River’s Josh Benton; New Mexico’s Marco Weiser; St. Louis’ Matt Green; Texas’ Jake Stafford
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)