The North American Hockey League (NAHL) has announced its monthly player awards for the month of January. The Combat Hockey NAHL Forward of the Month for January is Lawrence Cornellier from the Odessa Jackalopes. The Combat Hockey NAHL Defenseman of the Month for January is Brett Beauvais from the Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings. The Brian’s Custom Sports NAHL Goaltender of the Month for January is Hunter Leisner from the Texas Tornado. Only players who are nominated by their respective teams are considered for the NAHL monthly awards.
Combat Hockey NAHL Forward of the Month: Lawrence Cornellier, Odessa Jackalopes
The bright shining light coming out of the Permian-Basin in Odessa, Texas, in what has otherwise been a difficult season, is forward Lawrence Cornellier. The 20-year-old from Machesney Park, Illinois, has made his third and final season in the NAHL his personal best, and his performance in the month of January put a huge stamp on it. Despite the fact the Jackalopes posted just a 1-8-0 record during the month, Cornellier was outstanding in his personal performance. Cornellier (6’0/180) had 16 points nine games, which included seven goals and nine assists. He was also just a -1 during that stretch despite the fact his team won just a single game. In Odessa’s win during the month, Cornellier recorded the game-winning goal. He also had six multi-point games during January. His 48 points to date is not only a personal best, but are 29 more points than anyone else on the Odessa roster. His 24 goals currently rank 4th in the NAHL and his 48 points ties him for 6th among all league scorers.
Odessa head coach Paul Gillis said that Cornellier has been about as good and steady as a player can be during a season. “Lawrence has been terrific and our best and most consistent player all season long. He has such a great habit of making something out of nothing and he is where he is because of his tremendous hard work and consistency,” said Gillis. “He never gives up on the puck and is persevering in circumstances that most other players would not.” Gillis said that the things that stand out most about Cornellier all revolves around his determination. “He is always hunting down loose pucks and has the ability to score from anywhere. That makes him a threat every time he is on the ice because he doesn’t necessarily need the perfect scoring chance to put the puck in the net. Combine that with his great work ethic and tremendous attitude in the lockerroom and I think the future is very bright for him.”
Cornellier is quick to put a positive thought on things, even though his team hasn’t had the season they have wanted. “You just try and work hard every day and work hard for your teammates. I set a goal for myself this season to be a guy who could put up points on a consistent basis and in every game and so far that has gone well,” said Cornellier. Now in his third season in the NAHL, Cornellier said that his improvements have been steady over the course of the three seasons. “It is tough to score in this league, so the fact that I have improved a lot there gives me some satisfaction. I have also learned to play a lot better defensively. I understand if you can’t play two-way hockey then the chances of moving onto the next level aren’t good.” Cornellier will be playing the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament as a part of Team Texas, something he says will be a highlight and a great opportunity for him. “It was a real honor to be selected and I am looking forward to playing against the best in our league. I just want to keep doing what I do and show what I can do and hopefully in the near future an NCAA Division I opportunity will be there for me.”
Runner-Up: Beau Walker, Corpus Christi IceRays
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Eric Brenk, Brookings Blizzard – Cory Chapman, Bismarck Bobcats – Gage Christianson, Amarillo Bulls – Sean Gaffney, Topeka RoadRunners – Todd Koritzinsky, Janesville Jets – Jackson Leef, Texas Tornado – Devin Loe, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Max McHugh, Wenatchee Wild – Robbie Payne, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – Brett Skibba, Springfield Jr. Blues – CJ Smith, Austin Bruins – Alexander Taulien, Soo Eagles – Bryan Yim, Port Huron Fighting Falcons.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Jono Davis, Wenatchee Wild – October 2012, Brandon Hawkins, Texas Tornado – November 2012, Kyle Sharkey, Topeka RoadRunners – December 2012, Brandon Wahlin, Austin Bruins.
Combat Hockey NAHL Defenseman of the Month: Brett Beauvais, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings
Already with an NCAA Division I college commitment secured to Bemidji State University, Kalamazoo defenseman Brett Beauvais, 18, hasn’t taken his foot off the gas pedal this season. It was full speed ahead in the month of January for the native of Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada, as he led the Jr. K-Wings to a 7-2-1 record during the month and helped the team get back in contention for the top spot in the NAHL’s North Division. Beauvais (5’11/164) had 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists) in 10 games during the month and was also a +6 during the month. Beauvais did not record a minus rating in any of the 10 games during the month, which included three multi-point games. His 24 assists to date is tied for the lead among all NAHL defensemen and his 28 points ranks 4th.
Kalamazoo head coach Marc Fakler said that Beauvais has been the ultimate team leader and top notch defenseman this season for Kalamazoo. “I think Brett is playing at an elite level right now and has been a true leader in the lockerroom. He is a big reason behind our success as a team this year and will play a big role in how far we can go come playoff time,” said Fakler. “He deserves the attention he gets and it is exciting that there even has been some NHL interest.” Fakler said that even with a college commitment in hand, Beauvais has continued to work hard and become a better hockey player this season. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel where he knows where and what the next step is, but we want him prepare as much as possible for it. He knows he has room to grow, but one the most encouraging things about him is that he always comes to the rink wanting to get better every day. He has tremendous puck poise and can make plays. His vision going up the ice is so good and it really lends itself well to breaking the puck out of our end.”
Beauvais echoed some of Fakler’s thoughts. “I think I have a lot more confidence this year. It helps that coach Fakler has faith to play me in all situations, but I am just trying to be the best I can be for the team, so we all can have some success,” said Beauvais. “I thought the team played great in January. This is the right time for us to turn it on and we have some new guys in the lockerroom that have really improved the overall depth of our team.” Beauvais will make his second appearance in the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in a few weeks as a part of the Midwest team, but this time he is trying to earn the look of NHL scouts as a draft eligible player. “The experience last year on the 18U team was awesome and the event is so much fun competing against the best the NAHL has to offer. It helped me secure an NCAA opportunity and this season, I will try and soak it in all again and play my best because I know a different set of eyes may be watching. I just want to be able to improve enough so that when I go to the NCAA, I can be a player that is going to make an impact right away and not just someone who is settling on a commitment. I want to make a difference.”
Runner-Up: Josh Bretner, Austin Bruins
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Dunk Abbott, Port Huron Fighting Falcons – Drew Brevig, Brookings Blizzard – Josh Hartley, Wenatchee Wild – Nick Hinz, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Nick Neville, Texas Tornado – Jeremy O’Keefe, Bismarck Bobcats – Michal Pastor, Topeka RoadRunners – Ruslan Pedan, Janesville Jets – John Rey, Amarillo Bulls – Alex Robert, Soo Eagles – Jack Sloan, Springfield Jr. Blues – Wayland Williams, Corpus Christi IceRays.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Mark Evan Auk, Port Huron Fighting Falcons – October 2012, Cody Dixon, Austin Bruins – November 2012, Casey Nelson, Johnstown Tomahawks – December 2012, John Rey, Amarillo Bulls.
Brian’s Custom Sports NAHL Goaltender of the Month: Hunter Leisner, Texas Tornado
The Texas Tornado completed their January with a perfect 8-0 month, which combined with the tail-end games in December, gave them team an NAHL season-high 10-game winning streak. In goal for every game was Hunter Leisner. The 20-year-old native of Garland, Texas, has been a work horse this season for the Tornado and January was no exception. He started and played in every single game during the month, compiling a perfect 8-0-0 record. He faced 207 shots during the month and stopped 192 of them, good for a save percentage of 92.8% and a goals against average of 1.84. Leisner (6’0/170) also recorded his first shutout of the season during the month of January and never allowed more than three goals in the game. At one point this season, Leisner had won 14 straight starts, which included the eight in January. Leisner currently leads in the NAHL wins (28), games played (39), minutes played (2,299) and ranks in the top 15 in goals against average and save percentage.
Tornado head coach Tony Curtale says that Leisner has the mentality and skill to handle the rigors he has been put through so far this season. “I think every team needs a go-to goaltender and Hunter has been that guy for us for a year and half now. He has been sharp and works very hard on the ice and is quick to analyze his game and be his own strongest critic,” said Curtale. “He has been a real work horse for us this year. He has tremendous quickness and a calm confidence when he is in goal.” When asked about Leisner’s work load the past season and a half, Curtale was quick to back up his decision to play Leisner in almost every game. “I think someone of Hunter’s caliber, experience and age is able to handle the amount of work that is required of him. We are only playing two, sometimes three games a week, so he has had enough experience, both on and off the ice, to know how to handle a work load like that. He played all the games down the stretch for us last year and I thought his best hockey was played when it mattered most during the final games of the season in the Robertson Cup.”
Leisner agrees that having such a big workload by NAHL standards isn’t a big deal to him. “I just try and stick to a routine that helps me physically and mentally. You can get too high when you win or too low when you lose,” said Leisner. “It is easier for me when I am playing all the time because I develop and good rhythm knowing I am going to be in the game and there isn’t any guess work involved. I prepare the same way for each and every practice and game.” Leisner was also quick to praise his teammates for January’s success. “I think my play is a direct reflection of how the team has played, particularly in January and early in the season. We were firing on all cylinders. We have a great team this year and I feel it is my job just to try and play as well as I can for them each and every game.” As for the motivation for the goalie who led his team to the Robertson Cup last season, Leisner has plenty of it. “There is a group of veterans on this team that believes we can do it again and we have tried to instill that thought into our rookies so that everyone wants to experience that feeling. I think we are on the right track.”
Runner-Up: Jason Pawloski, Austin Bruins
Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Paul Berrafato, Amarillo Bulls – Alex Blackenburg, Port Huron Fighting Falcons – Brock Kautz, Janesville Jets – Tyler Marble, Soo Eagles – Ben Myers, Corpus Christi IceRays – Aaron Nelson, Bismarck Bobcats – Robert Nichols, Wenatchee Wild – Alex Okicki, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings – Steve Perry, Fairbanks Ice Dogs – Chris Truehl, Johnstown Tomahawks – Drew Weigman, Brookings Blizzard.
Previous Winners: September 2012, Drew Weigman, Brookings Blizzard – October 2012, Tyler Marble, Soo Eagles – November 2012, Robert Nichols, Wenatchee Wild – December 2012, Nick Lehr, Austin Bruins.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)