The Missoula Jr Bruins entered the NA3HL draft on April 18 with new Head Coach and General Manager Cliff Cook having only been hired a week prior, but despite the quick turnaround it was a successful first week of signed tenders and draft picks.
As the tenders began to flow and then eventually the draft picks began, a couple themes became clear for Coach Cook. Sticking with the talent he knew, eight players from the state of Texas, including seven who played for the Dallas Blackhawks Elite, the organization Cook not only coached for but was Director of Player Development, while six Alaska players were either tendered or drafted. Another four players were drafted by Cook who played for him during his time with the Pikes Peak Miners in 2015-16.
So, familiarity was key in the decision-making process. But that familiarity included some very high-level talent.
Let’s meet the newcomers:
EVAN WILLIAMS – TENDERED
(6’1 – 155 – 2000 – Coppell, TX – Dallas Snipers-WSHL)
Evan Williams spent the 2017-18 season with the Dallas Snipers in the WSHL, just a season after helping lead the Dallas Penguins to the USA Hockey 16U Tier II National Title. This past season Williams finished with a 5-8-0 record with a .869 save percentage in his rookie campaign, but the previous season he finished with a stellar 1.72 goals against and .917 save percentage helping lead the Dallas Penguins to a National Championship.
PORTER SCHACHLE – DRAFTED
(5’8 – 145 – 2000 – Wasilla, AK – Alaska Oilers 18U)
Schachle gained the attention of the Bruins staff following a stand-out season for the Wasilla H.S. Warriors (AK), finishing the season with 69 points, including 35 goals and 34 assists in just 29 games, helping lead Wasilla to the North Star Conference Title and a fifth-place finish at the Alaska 4A State Tournament. Schachle was named the North Star Conference Player of the Year, recording at least one point in 25 of Wasilla’s 29 games. Schachle also had a strong season with the Alaska Oilers 18U AAA in which he led the team with 32 points in 24 games including 14 goals and 18 assists.
MARTIN PIETRASZEK – DRAFTED
(6’0 – 165 – 1999 – Colorado Springs, CO – Odessa Jackalopes NAHL)
Like several players Bruins Coach Cliff Cook either drafted or tendered, Marty Pietraszek is no stranger to the coach who drafted him. In 2015-16, Pietraszek played for Coach Cook as a member of the Pikes Peak Miners in the NAPHL. He finished the 2017-18 NAPHL season leading the Colorado Springs Tigers with 15 points in 22 games and earned an NAHL tender with the Odessa Jackalopes. Following the conclusion of the Tigers season, Pietraszek joined the Jackalopes for their opening round playoff series against the Lone Star Brahmas.
ALEX ENGAN – DRAFTED
(5’10 – 185 – 2000 – Wasilla, AK – Alaska Oilers 18U)
Engan a teammate of fellow Bruins draft pick Porter Schachle with both the Wasilla H.S. Warriors and the Alaska Oilers 18U AAA, was second on the Warriors with 39 points in just 24 games, including 28 goals and 11 assists and finished just behind Schachle on the Oilers with 26 points in 25 games, including a team-leading 15 goals along with 11 assists. Engan was named Honorable Mention to the North Star All-Conference Team.
NOAH ASHLEY – DRAFTED
(5’11 – 186 – 1999 – Anchorage, AK – Rocky Mountain Roughriders NAPHL)
Much like Pietraszek, Noah Ashley played for Coach Cook and the Pikes Peak Miners NAPHL program back in 2015-16. A high-skill forward, Ashley spent this past season with the Rocky Mountain Roughriders in the NAPHL, finishing the season with 11 points in 24 games for a career NAPHL total of 25 points in 49 games. In 2016-17, while back in Alaska, Ashley finished his South Anchorage Wolverines H.S. season with 27 points in 26 games, including 14 goals and 13 assists.
BRENDAN HIGGINS – TENDERED
(5’10 – 160 – 2000 – Carleton, MI – Airport H.S. MI)
Higgins caught the attention of Coach Cook at the inaugural NAHL Junior Combine in Detroit, MI with his high-energy, high-skill style of hockey. Higgins earned First-Team All-News Herald honors and Second-Team Division 2 Michigan High School Coaches’ Association All-State honors finishing the season leading the state and setting a team record with 41 goals and finishing sixth in the state with 65 points in just 23 games.
ALEXANDER McBEY – TENDERED
(6’0 – 185 – 1999 – Dallas, TX – Dallas Blackhawks Elite NAPHL)
McBey was a high-priority player for Coach Cook after the two were together this past season with the Dallas Blackhawks Elite in the NAPHL. After an admittedly slow start offensively to the season, the hard-working McBey exploded in the playoffs, leading the Blackhawks with six points in nine games. A multi-year AAA hockey veteran, McBey is a high-skill player who can take a game over with his speed, physicality and quick-release shot.
DEVON AMENT – TENDERED
(5’10 – 195 – 2000 – Anchorage, AK – Alaska Wolves 18U)
Ament comes to the Bruins as another example of big, skilled hockey players from the Anchorage, AK area. In 2017-18 he finished third on the East Anchorage H.S. Thunderbirds with 20 points in 23 games, including 10 goals and 10 assists. With the Alaska Wolves Ament finished sixth on the team with 18 points in 34 games and helped lead the Wolves to the USA Hockey National Tournament. A big body player who isn’t afraid to mix it up should fit right in to the junior-style of hockey.
CADE WEBER – TENDERED
(5’11 – 160 – 2001 – McKinney, TX – Dallas Blackhawks Elite NAPHL)
Weber is another member of the former Dallas Blackhawks Elite program where Coach Cook was Director of Player Development and was able to keep a close watch on young talent like Weber. A big, strong forward with good speed, Weber finished the 2017-18 NAPHL season with 14 points in 49 games along with 86 penalty minutes. The previous season, with the Hockey Club Dallas 16U National Tournament Runner-Up team, Weber finished with 35 points in 56 games.
NOAH SCHEMBRI – TENDERED
(5’6 – 125 – 2001 – Southlake, TX – Dallas Blackhawks Elite NAPHL)
Don’t let his size fool you, Schembri is a high-skill player who spent the 2017-18 season with the Dallas Blackhawks Elite program along with several the new Bruins. While his point production was down a bit in 2017-18, with 25 points in 54 games, he added an impressive defensive element to his game that helped him grow into a solid all-around, intelligent player. Like Weber, Schembri was an important member of the 2016-17 Hockey Club Dallas 16U National Runner Up team.
ROBBY SOURS – TENDERED
(5’6 – 145 – 2001 – Dallas, TX – Dallas Blackhawks Elite NAPHL)
Much like his former Dallas Blackhawks Elite and current Bruins teammate Noah Schembri, Sours never let his size get in the way of his high-energy and hard-working style of play. In 2017-18 with the Blackhawks, Sours finished the season with 15 points in 54 games and was also a part of the 2016-17 Hockey Club Dallas 16U A team where he finished with 27 points in 38 games.
JJ FABECK – DRAFTED
(2000 – Anchorage, AK – Alaska Oilers 18U)
Bruins fans may recognize this name from the 2017-18 season. JJ Fabeck spent a weekend with the Bruins this past season, skating one game with the Bruins vs the Helena Bighorns on Dec. 30. Holding to a theme of the draft, Fabeck was a standout defenseman for the Alaska Oilers 18U AAA program along with Porter Schachle and Alex Engan. Fabeck finished the 2017-18 season with 15 points in 25 games, including six goals and nine assists. He also finished his South Anchorage Wolverines H.S. season second among the team’s defensemen with 17 points in 21 games, including six goals and 11 assists.
NOAH KIEMEL – DRAFTED
(6’5 – 200 – 1999 – Colorado Springs, CO – Colorado Rampage T1EHL)
With the wing-span of a 747, Kiemel plays a smart, physical style of hockey that is tailor-made for the NAHL and beyond. Coach Cook is very familiar with Kiemel having coached the 6-5 defenseman three years ago with the former Pikes Peak Miners organization in the NAPHL. Kiemel has NAHL experience already, having played four games with the Amarillo Bulls in 2016-17. In 2017-18 he finished his final season of AAA hockey with eight points in 24 games for the Colorado Rampage in the T1EHL.
CONNOR KARO – DRAFTED
(5’9 – 150 – 1999 – Golden, CO – Wenatchee Wolves NAPHL)
Another in the line of talented players who played for Coach Cook with the Pikes Peak Miners, Karo spend the 2016-2018 seasons with the Wenatchee Wolves in the NAPHL. A high-skill, sweet-skating defenseman, Karo finished his Wenatchee Wolves career with 15 points in 47 games, including five goals and 10 assists.
JORDAN STEAR – TENDERED
(5’8 – 140 – 2001 – Frisco, TX – Dallas Blackhawks Elite NAPHL)
Stear was an NAPHL All-Star selection in his first year of AAA hockey with the former Dallas Blackhawks Elite program. In his lone AAA season, the smooth-skating, highly intelligent Stear finished with 26 points in 54 games including nine goals, 17 assists and an impressive 10 power play points. Yet another member of the 2016-17 Hockey Club Dallas National Runner-Up team, Stear has big-game experience, finishing that season with 28 points in 60 games.
MATTHEW ANGUIANO – TENDERED
(5’11 – 165 – 2001 – San Antonio, TX – Dallas Blackhawks Elite NAPHL)
Anguiano was, arguably, the surprise of the 2017-18 season for the Dallas Blackhawks Elite program. The San Antonio-native developed into one of the top 16U defensemen in the NAPHL with good size and playmaking ability. After teaming up with former Blackhawks teammate and current Bruins teammate Jordan Stear, the two blossomed with Anguiano finishing with nine points in 54 games and becoming a force on the power play and penalty kill units.
CONNOR FRYE – TENDERED
(6’3 – 170 – 2001 – Mansfield, TX – Dallas Blackhawks Elite NAPHL)
Frye is yet another of the talented former Dallas Blackhawks Elite players that Coach Cook was thrilled to bring to Montana for the 2018-19 season. Frye, a big stay-at-home defenseman, who still has plenty of ability to be an offensive weapon, finished the 2017-18 season with seven points in 43 games for the Blackhawks. He is a strong presence on the penalty kill with a big enough shot to be effective on the power play.
MATT HAGEL – TENDERED
(5’6 – 165 – 2000 – Soldotna, AK – Alaska Oilers 18U)
Rounding out the solid group of Alaskans who are headed to the Zoo next season, Hagel is coming off a season where, as Captain of Kenai Central H.S., he was named to the North Star Conference First-Team Defense. As a member of the Alaska Oilers, Hagel also helped lead his 18U team to a Tier II State Championship and a berth at the USA Hockey National Tournament.