NAHL Report

Pellegrino sparkles in victories over Traverse City

It’s only October, but with just six points separating the first- and sixth-place teams in the NAHL’s North Division, the Alpena IceDiggers aren’t discounting the importance of their two wins over the Traverse City North Stars last weekend.

“For us to be able to pick up four points was huge because our division is so tight right now,” said IceDiggers coach-GM Kenny Miller, whose team improved to 6-4-1. “You can’t afford to give away points or you’ll find yourself playing catch-up.”

On Friday, goaltender Nate Pellegrino turned aside all 30 shots as the IceDiggers blanked the North Stars, 1-0. Jimmy McCusker scored the only goal of the game in the second period, with assists going to Erik Peterson and Isaac Viau.

The next night, four different IceDiggers struck for goals in a 4-1 win over Traverse City. Defenseman Ryan Sell netted the game-winner, while Joe Puskar and Viau each added a goal and an assist. Between the pipes, Pellegrino made 33 saves.

“For being a young team, I’m happy with the way we’ve started,” said Miller, whose team has 13 points after 11 games, tied with Mahoning Valley and Traverse City. “We compete every night and, as a coach, that’s all you can ask for.”

The IceDiggers couldn’t ask much more of Pellegrino. With five straight periods of shutout hockey last weekend – Traverse City’s only goal came in the third period on Saturday – the 19-year-old from Woodlyn, Pa., has fueled Alpena’s recent success.

“When we picked him up, this is the type of play we thought we would get from him,” said Miller, who acquired Pellegrino in a trade with Alaska in the offseason. “Nate was the difference last weekend. When we needed the save, we got it, and that allowed us to win both nights.”

On the offensive end, veterans Peterson, who leads team in scoring with 16 points (five goals) after 11 games, and McCusker (four goals for 11 points) have also lived up to early expectations.

“Erik and Jimmy put up numbers last year for us, too, and we knew we’d need scoring from them this year in order to have success and they’ve come through so far,” said Miller. “They need to continue to be a force for us every time they go out on the ice.”

One pleasant surprise has been the offensive production from the first-year Puskar, an 18-year-old who ranks second on the IceDiggers’ scoring chart with 13 points (five goals).

“I knew he was a hard-working kid, but I didn't realize the skill set that he has,” said Miller. “He’s a threat to score every time he’s out there.”

Viau is also seeing results through his strong work ethic (“He just plays at full speed all the time,” said Miller), as has Tyler Pilmore, whose efforts should translate onto the scoresheet in short time, according to his coach.

“For a first-year guy, he’s playing like a veteran,” said Miller.

On the blue line, veterans Evan West, Carl Nielsen and Tim Olson are doing their part in helping lead a relatively inexperience defensive corps.

“Our defense is starting to play the way I thought it would,” said Miller. “They’re moving the puck and getting us going on the offense end. We feel we have guys that can score, we just need to continue to get better in our on end.”

Up next for the IceDiggers is a two-game set against Mahoning Valley. The teams split a pair of games in Alpena earlier this month.

“They’re a strong team with a lot of veterans so they know how to win,” said Miller. “With our division so tight, we have to come ready to play both nights to give our team a chance.”

North Division
St. Louis 11 9-2-0 18 .818 48 28
USNTDP 13 8-4-1 17 .654 48 33
Alpena 11 6-4-1 13 .591 37 34
Mahoning Valley 10 6-3-1 13 .650 31 33
Traverse City 11 5-3-3 13 .591 32 29
Marquette 11 6-5-0 12 .545 42 42

South Division
Wichita Falls 10 8-1-1 17 .850 39 24
Fairbanks 12 6-5-1 13 .542 35 34
Topeka 10 5-3-2 12 .600 30 27
Texas 10 4-6-0 8 .400 30 34
Alaska 11 3-7-1 7 .318 26 50
Kenai River 11 1-9-1 3 .136 24 51

Central Division
North Iowa 8 6-1-1 13 .813 27 13
Fargo-Moorhead 10 6-3-1 13 .650 43 33
Springfield 11 6-4-1 13 .591 42 35
So. Minnesota 10 5-3-2 12 .600 35 34
Bismarck 10 2-7-1 5 .250 22 46
Alexandria 8 2-6-0 4 .250 21 32

Cardwell, Adam WIC F 10 7 12 19
Everett, Grant WIC F 10 5 12 17
Salazar, Luke WIC F 10 8 8 16
Peterson, Erik ALP F 11 5 11 16
McCabe, Andrew FBX F 12 4 12 16
Jendras, Corey TPK F 10 8 7 15
Rowe, Darren SPR D 11 4 11 15
OKane, Kyle STL F 11 6 8 14
Warda, Ben STL F 11 4 10 14
Graham, Derek MVY F 10 4 10 14

Moss, Robby NIO 6 366:52 5-0-1 1.31 .948
Jarboe, Mike WIC 9 523:50 6-1-1 2.18 .932
Merriam, Bryce TPK 9 545:30 4-3-2 2.20 .911
Callaghan, Thomas TXS 5 300 3-2-0 2.20 .929
Graves, Nick SME 5 293:17 2-1-2 2.25 .930

Salazar, Luke WIC F 10 8
Jendras, Corey TPK F 10 8
Moser, Scott MVY F 10 8

Cardwell, Adam WIC F 10 12
Everett, Grant WIC F 10 12
McCabe, Andrew FBX F 12 12

Merrifield, Mike STL F 11 +12

Alpena goaltender Nate Pellegrino backstopped the IceDiggers to a pair of wins over Traverse City last weekend, turning aside 63 of 64 shots. On Friday, the 19-year-old made all 30 saves as Alpena blanked the North Stars, 1-0. The next night, the Woodlyn, Pa., native stopped 33 shots in a 4-1 IceDiggers win.

HONORABLE MENTION: Mahoning Valley forward Brent Dexter; Team USA forward Kyle Palmieri

Alaska defenseman Kent Detlefson notched four goals and two assists last weekend as the Avalanche split a pair of games with Alexandria. On Friday, the 20-year-old tallied a goal and an assist in a 6-3 loss. The next night, the Lakeville, Minn., native recorded a hat trick and assisted on Larry Kincaid’s game-winning goal as Alaska trumped the Blizzard, 4-1.

HONORABLE MENTION: Topeka defenseman Aaron Gens; Wichita Falls forward Luke Salazar

Southern Minnesota forward Brandon Brodhag scored four goals last weekend as the Express skated to a pair of wins over Bismarck. On Friday, the 19-year-old struck twice in a 6-3 triumph. The next night, the Brooklyn Park, Minn., native notched two more goals, including the game-winner, in the Express’ 5-4 win over the Bobcats. He was also a plus-4 on the weekend.

HONORABLE MENTION: Bismarck forward Kyle Maggard and defenseman Andy Keough; Fargo-Moorhead forward Roman Krivda and defenseman Mark Johnson

Tuesday, October 9
Springfield 2 @ St. Louis 5 (STL: Brooks, 3A, +2)

Friday, October 12
Alaska 3 @ Alexandria 6 (ALX: Kaiser, 3A)
Traverse City 0 @ Alpena 1 (ALP: Pellegrino, 30 saves)
Wichita Falls 4 @ Fairbanks 3 (SO) (WF: Salazar, G, SOG)
Fargo-Moorhead 5 @ Marquette 4 (FM: Benedict, 2A, +1)
Bismarck 3 @ Southern Minnesota 6 (SM: Spalding, G, GWG)
St. Louis 1 @ Springfield 5 (SPR: Greco, G, 2A)
Texas 2 @ Topeka 5 (TOP: Hartmann, G, A)
Mahoning Valley 3 @ USNTDP 4 (SO) (USA: Palmieri, 2G, +1)

Saturday, October 13
Alaska 4 @ Alexandria 1 (ALK: Detlefson, 3G, A, +2)
Wichita Falls 5 @ Fairbanks 4 (WF: Cardwell, GWG, A)
Fargo-Moorhead 5 @ Marquette 6 (MAR: Macari, 2G)
Bismarck 4 @ Southern Minnesota 5 (SM: Brodhag, G, GWG, +1)
Springfield 1 @ St. Louis 5 (STL: Warda, G, 2A, +3)
Texas 5 @ Topeka 4 (SO) (TEX: Miller, G, SOG, +1)
Alpena 4 @ Traverse City 1 (ALP: Viau, G, A, +2)
Mahoning Valley 3 @ USNTDP 2 (MV: Boeckman, 2A)

MIDGET SHOWCASE FIELD ANNOUNCED: The 22-team field for the second tournament of this season’s NAHL Midget Showcase Series, which will be held Dec. 13-16 at The Summit Center in Chesterfield, Mo., home of the St. Louis Bandits, has been announced and can be viewed at

IN THE CLUTCH: Mahoning Valley forward Brent Dexter, 20, tallied two clutch goals last weekend as the Phantoms fashioned a 1-0-1 record against the U.S. Under-17 Team, including the third-period game-winner in Saturday’s 3-2 triumph. “Dex has shown in the past the ability to score big goals for us, and that’s what he did again,” said Phantoms assistant coach Curtis Carr.

KRIVDA FINDING GROOVE: Ukrainian forward Roman Krivda, 20, broke through with two goals last weekend for Fargo-Moorhead as the Jets split a pair of games in Marquette. “Roman’s points (four after nine games) don’t indicate his play so far,” said Jets coach Chad Johnson. “He’s had many opportunities and it was good to see him cash in.”

GOAL GETTER: U.S. Under-17 Team forward Kyle Palmieri, 16, scored four of Team USA’s five goals in two games against Mahoning Valley last weekend. “Kyle was a catalyst for our offense against a very tough Mahoning Valley team,” said U.S. coach Ron Rolston. “Not only did he score four goals, but three of them were highlight-reel goals.”

COOL HAND LUKE: Wichita Falls forward Luke Salazar, who turns 19 next week, notched two goals and two assists in the Wildcats’ two-game sweep of Fairbanks last weekend. He also scored a shootout goal in Friday’s 4-3 triumph.

POWER RANGER: Marquette forward Josh Bussell, 18, scored two goals and an assist last weekend as the Rangers went 1-1 against Fargo-Moorhead. He leads the team in goals (six) and is tied for the team lead in points (12) with Nick Condon, 20.

MAGGARD SHINES: Despite two losses to Southern Minnesota last weekend, Bismarck forward Kyle Maggard, 19, rang up two goals.

Tuesday, October 16
Wichita Falls @ Kenai River, 7:00 pm

Thursday, October 18
Alexandria @ Fargo-Moorhead, 7:35 pm
Wichita Falls @ Kenai River, 7:00 pm

Friday, October 19
Wichita Falls @ Alaska, 7:00 pm
Marquette @ Alexandria, 7:00 pm
Mahoning Valley @ Alpena, 7:00 pm
Texas @ Fairbanks, 7:30 pm
Bismarck @ Fargo-Moorhead, 7:35 pm
Springfield @ North Iowa, 7:30 pm
Topeka @ St. Louis, 7:15 pm

Saturday, October 20
Wichita Falls @ Alaska, 7:00 pm
Marquette @ Alexandria, 7:00 pm
Mahoning Valley @ Alpena, 7:00 pm
Texas @ Fairbanks, 7:30 pm
Southern Minnesota @ Fargo-Moorhead, 7:05 pm
Springfield @ North Iowa, 7:30 pm
Topeka @ St. Louis, 7:15 pm

Sunday, October 21
Texas @ Fairbanks, 5:00 pm

(all times local)

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