We’re just a month and three weeks away from the official start of the 2015-2016 Springfield Jr. Blues season.
In case you haven’t been following all the news with the team this off-season, there’s been plenty of activity.
We told you in June about the new divisions of the North American Hockey League. Since then, the Jr. Blues schedule has been posted. The Blues face teams in their division almost exclusively again this season, with the main exception being twelve games against the Topeka Roadrunners.
Besides the Topeka games and the four contests the Blues are scheduled to play in the Showcase Tournament in Blaine, Minnesota in September, all the action this year is against Midwest Division opponents, including the old divisional rival Janesville Jets, the Kenai River Brown Bears and Fairbanks Icedogs, both Alaskan teams, the Coulee Region Chill, and the Minnesota Wilderness.
No doubt the journey will be a challenging one for the Blues this season on paper alone, with the Wilderness winning the Robertson Cup Championship over the Austin Bruins in two convincing games. The Ice Dogs were the previous NAHL champs, as well.
By the way, the Roadrunners almost moved this off-season, but reached an agreement to continue playing at their current arena in Topeka.
The Blues won’t play the former division rival Johnstown Tomahawks this regular season, nor will they play any other team in the newly-created East Division.
The Blues open the regular season at home the weekend of October 2nd and 3rd against the Coulee Region Chill. They’ll take on Lone Star, Austin, Corpus Christi, and Odessa in the NAHL Showcase, which takes place over a four-day period from September 23rd to the 26th.
We’re pleased to announce that we’ll be providing coverage of the Jr. Blues on FastHockey during their four-game Showcase schedule. Jim McCabe will return for his third season of play-by-play for all the action at the Schwan Super Rink, and keep you updated online as well.
After being drafted by the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL, goalie Dryden McKay was traded to Corpus Christi, one of the teams the Jr. Blues will face in Blaine next month. The Blues got a tender and a conditional draft pick in return. McKay excelled on the ice in 37 games this season with a 2.77 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage, and off the ice as well, winning league educational honors.
Defenseman Nikolai Pavlov was drafted 56th overall in the 3rd round of the Kontinental Hockey League’s draft by HC Amur Khabarovsk.
Former Blue forward Nikita Prishivalko was signed by the KHL’s Dinamo Minsk, as well.
Other former player notes includes NHL goalie Mike McKenna getting a two-year deal with the Florida Panthers. The St. Louis native spent the 1999-2000 and 2000-20001 seasons with Springfield and has had cups of coffee with four NHL squads. Former Blue Zack Kamrass signed an AHL contract with the Texas Stars.
In other off-season news, the Jr. Blues have hired Patrick Schafer as an assistant coach. The Blues parted ways with assistant coaches Mike DiPuma and Brad Stoffers earlier this year. Schafer retired from professional hockey in 2014 and spent last season as the head coach and general manager of the USPHL’s Providence Capitals.
Also, Head Coach Tony Zasowski got to do some work in Russia over the summer.
We are counting down the days until the first puck drops. We’ll let you know about any preseason games the Jr. Blues play in September, and keep you informed on any other major team happenings in the meantime.