The Central Hockey League Report





TEMPE, Ariz. – The big news around the league this week had to do with the sudden departure of the Quad City Mallards’ head coach and G.M. David Bell from the flock after nearly 14 months in the position.
Bell returned to Ontario to become an assistant coach for the Sudbury Wolves (OHL). After a brief search, the Mallards announced they had named former Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees head coach Terry Ruskowski as their new bench boss. Ruskowski, 57, has over 17 seasons experience as a professional head coach and has compiled a hugely impressive record of 589-416-102. 

Terry Ruskowski

Terry Ruskowski

Ruskowski is approaching the start of his tenth season in the CHL.  He enjoyed great success over eight years with the Laredo Bucks before taking over the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees last year. Ruskowski piloted the Bucks to four straight finals appearances between 2004 and 2007 and twice won the CHL Ray Miron President’s Cup title in 2004 and 2006 with Laredo. The Killer Bees rebounded to post a 32-27-7 record under Ruskowski last year after enduring back-to-back losing seasons prior to his arrival.    “I have a lot of admiration for the Mallards after playing against them with my teams for three years. In particular, I greatly admire both the organization and the way the fans of the Quad Cities respond to and support the team,” Ruskowski said. “The people there have always been extremely nice to me going back to the days when I was playing and I’d come over to the area for golf. I look forward to coming there and putting a quality team together for the fans.”
In other news around the league: Allen Americans
There was no news of note from the Americans organization this week.
 
Former Americans defenseman Trevor Hendrikx has reportedly signed with the expansion San Francisco Bulls (ECHL). In addition, former Americans left wing Colton Yellow Horn has reportedly signed with the Ontario Reign (ECHL).
Arizona Sundogs
On Friday, the Arizona Sundogs announced the signing of netminders Adam Russo and David Brown to their roster for the 2012-13 season.
Russo was acquired in a trade from Wichita Thunder for future considerations. Per club policy, no contract terms were announced. The 5′ 9″ Montreal native began his professional career in 2004-05 in Italy where he played for four seasons before joining the French league in 2008-09. He returned to North America in 2009-10 to play for the Port Huron Icehawks (IHL). At the end of the season Russo participated in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships in Germany. In 2010-11 he played for the Quad City Mallards where he had a 15-13-0 record in 29 games and a 2.88 GAA and a .919 Save Percentage. Last year in Wichita he put up a 27-11-3 in 42 games and a 2.61 GAA with a .910 Save Percentage.
Adam Russo

Adam Russo

Brown, started his rookie season in 2007-08 with the Wheeling Nailers (ECHL) playing in 13 games before being called up to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL) where he finished the season. The 6′ 0″ goaltender spent the next two seasons in the ECHL before heading to the Quad City Mallards. The Stoney Creek, Ontario native spent 2010-11 with Quad City and finished with a 17-16-1 record in 37 games played with a 2.33 GAA and a .930 Save Percentage. He continued his tenure in Quad City last season, recording a 14-10-1 record in 26 games played with a 2.86 GAA and .907 Save Percentage.
Russo and Brown are no strangers, having played together in Quad City during the 2010-11 season. 
“We wanted to shore up our situation in net and have done that with Adam and David,” Sundogs head coach David Lohrei said. “Both are quality individuals and quality players and give us a chance to win every night. We will count on each of them to play big minutes for us and push each other.”
In other news, former Sundogs defenseman Jesse Perrin has reportedly signed with the Evansville IceMen (ECHL).
Bloomington Blaze
The Bloomington Blaze announced on Monday announced the signing of Nicklas Lindberg, who played the past two seasons with the Evansville IceMen. A native of Sweden, Lindberg has played professionally since 2004. His stops include the Pensacola Ice Pilots and Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL, Corpus Christi Rayz of the CHL, Port Huron of the IHL and Evansville. In his two seasons at Evansville, he scored 126 points (30 G, 96 A) with 132 penalty minutes. “Nick is a proven player at this level who is capable of putting up a lot of points,” Blaze coach Brian Gratz said. “He creates opportunities for the players around him and has been a part of successful teams in the past.”
Denver Cutthroats
The Denver Cutthroats announced today they have signed former NHL forward Brad Smyth and rookie forward Matthew Gordon to their roster for the upcoming season.
Smyth brings with him a 19-year track record in pro hockey that includes 88 games at the National Hockey League level with the Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators, New York Rangers, and Ottawa Senators.  The Ottawa, Ontario native also holds 610 games of American Hockey League experience where he tallied 326 goals and 341 assists for 667 points. Smyth, 39, was the recipient of the AHL’s Les Cunningham award as the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1995-96 after scoring 126 points (68 G, 58 A) in 68 games for the Carolina Monarchs.
“Brad Smyth is another veteran leader that will be a big asset to our club,” Cutthroats head coach Derek Armstrong said. “He’s played significant time at every level. He’s been an MVP. He’s made deep playoff runs. And he’ll have an impact both on and off the ice for our team this season.” Smyth and Armstrong are former teammates who competed together as members of the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack from 1997-01 in the New York Rangers system. By joining the Cutthroats, Smyth will end a six-year run of competing overseas in Europe where he registered 225 points in 236 games across Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom, Italy, and France. The 6′ 0″, 200-pound forward was a product of Canada’s Ontario Hockey League, scoring 152 points in 153 games for the London Knights from 1990-93.
Gordon, 23, begins his professional career after a three-year run at Holy Cross College, where he scored 38 points (10 G, 28 A) in 99 games. The 5′ 11″, 180-pound native of Perth, Ontario becomes the second rookie to join the team (Tyler Atkins). “Matthew is coming from a good college program at Holy Cross, and is ready to take the next step in his career with us,” Armstrong added. “He’s going to have a great network of older players to learn from, and we’re excited to watch him grow and contribute in his first season of pro hockey.”
Missouri Mavericks
There was no news of note from the Mavericks organization this week.
Quad City Mallards
In addition to their new head coach and G.M., the Quad City Mallards announced this week that they have signed forward Jeff Hazelwood. Per club policy, no contract terms were announced. 
Jeff Hazelwood/Photo Credit: Les Stockton

Jeff Hazelwood/Photo Credit: Les Stockton

Hazelwood, 27, started last season in the CHL with the Arizona Sundogs before moving on to the Huntsville Havoc (SPHL) and then finishing the campaign with the Las Vegas Wranglers (ECHL). The Dublin, California native scored eight goals and totaled 20 points in 35 games with the Sundogs, produced three goals and five assists in 10 outings for the Havoc and notched two goals and two assists in 14 games as a Wrangler.   The 6′ 0″, 185-pound Hazelwood is no stranger to new Mallards coach and general manager Terry Ruskowski, for whom Hazelwood played in 2010-11 with the Laredo Bucks.   “Jeff has great speed and very good hands,” Ruskowski said. “If he plays with the right players who compliment his game he is capable of putting up some big numbers. When he played for me a couple of years ago we only had 15 skaters for the entire month of February and I had to double shift every game for the entire month. He never complained, he just accepted the challenge. I look forward to coaching him again this year.”   During his time in Laredo, Hazelwood scored 17 times and recorded 40 points in 59 games. Hazelwood joined the Bucks after playing three games – and scoring one goal – with the Texas Brahmas at the start of the 2010-11 season.   Last  season’s stint in Las Vegas was a return trip for Hazelwood, who broke into pro hockey with the Wranglers in 2009-10. Hazelwood scored eight goals and totaled 20 points in 53 ECHL games as a rookie. Hazelwood turned pro after a sterling collegiate career at first St. Norbert and then Curry College. In 2008-09, he was voted ECAC Northeast Conference Player of the Year and was named to the Division III All-American East Second Team after scoring 25 goals and piling up 48 points in 27 games as a senior at Curry. Over four seasons of college hockey, Hazelwood rang up 67 goals and 153 points in 113 games.    Hazelwood also enjoyed plenty of team success as a collegian. As a freshman, he reached the 2006 NCAA Division III national title game with St. Norbert and returned to the Frozen Four with the Knights the following season. After transferring to Curry, Hazelwood helped the Colonels to the 2008 ECAC Northeast regular season conference title as a junior.  
 
Also this week, the Mallards announced they have signed goaltender John Murray.   Murray, 25, has been reunited with new Mallards coach and general manager Terry Ruskowski after excelling for the Ruskowski-coached Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees last season. Murray last year finished tied for first in the CHL in shutouts (3), tied for fifth in save percentage (.919) and tenth in goals against average (2.66) while going 16-14-2 in 36 games.    “Getting hired to the team and seeing that John Murray was already signed was a pleasant surprise,” Ruskowski said. “Knowing that I had him as my goalie last year in Rio, I know firsthand just how competitive he is. He’s got a great goaltender mentality – he’s never too high and never too low. “He takes on every game as a personal challenge and more times than not he meets that challenge. I am delighted to have the opportunity to coach him again with the Mallards. He will be a huge asset for the team.”   Murray returned to North America with the Killer Bees last season after heading to Serbia to join HK Partizan Belgrade for the 2010-11 campaign. The Lancaster, Pennsylvania, native turned in superlative numbers – a 1.98 goals against average and a .941 save percentage in 25 games – while backstopping Partizan to a league title.  
John Murray/Photo Credit: Les Stockton

John Murray/Photo Credit: Les Stockton

The 6′ 0″, 197-pound Murray tended goal in the ECHL for the bulk of his first two professional seasons. He started 2009-10 with the Victoria Salmon Kings before going on to spend the majority of the year with the Johnstown Chiefs. As a rookie in 2008-09, Murray saw action with the Ontario Reign – and briefly – Mississippi Sea Wolves and was also chosen to play in the 2009 ECHL All-Star Game. Murray also played one American Hockey League game- for the Syracuse Crunch – during his first full year as a pro. The Lancaster, Pennsylvania, native got his first taste of the professional ranks when he took the ice with the Reading Royals (ECHL) for eight games at the tail end of the 2007-08 season. Before turning pro, Murray played two years of junior hockey in the United States Hockey League and two more north of the border in the Ontario Hockey League. He suited up for the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede from 2004 to 2006 and represented Sioux Falls in the 2006 USHL All-Star Game. 2006-07 saw Murray earn team Most Valuable Player honors with the Kitchener Rangers and make another All-Star appearance, this time in the OHL’s mid-season classic. He closed out his junior career with the Kingston Frontenacs in 2007-08.   Rapid City Rush
On Thursday, the Rapid City Rush announced two more players signed for the upcoming 2012-13 Central Hockey League season. Joining the fold is veteran forward Jarrett Konkle and rookie defenseman Mike Glaicar, bringing the total number of players signed to fifteen.
Konkle, 29, is a 6-foot, 200-pound winger that is coming off of one of his best seasons, leading the EIHL’s Dundee Stars with 22 goals in 53 games.
“We’re very excited to get a player with the credentials that Jarrett brings for the upcoming season,” Rush Head Coach Joe Ferras said. “He is a proven goal scorer and has been an impact player everywhere he has played, including the ECHL and AHL levels. He is a dynamic player that can play both wings, has a tremendous shot, and is a player that will go into tough areas to score goals. With the experience that Jarrett brings to the pro game, he knows that he will be looked upon to be a leader both off the ice and in the locker room to help groom all of the new young talented hockey players that we have.”
Prior to taking his game overseas, Konkle spent nearly his entire career in the ECHL where he suited up for six teams, appearing in 246 regular season games. In that span, Konkle totaled 85 goals and 107 assists for 192 points and also added 167 penalty minutes.
“I’m ecstatic to join the Rush,” said Konkle. “Having never played in the CHL, I did a lot of research, asked guys that have played for and against Rapid, and everybody spoke very highly of the organization and town. I hear it’s the toughest place to play if you’re an opponent and I definitely wanted to be a part of such a storied and supported franchise. I’ll be able to add some offensive punch to the lineup, but also focus on my all around game, helping on the penalty kill and in defensive situations. I’m also looking forward to being a leader and working with the younger players on our squad.”
During the 2008-09 season, the Toronto, Ontario native played 13 games for the Binghamton Senators of the AHL where he picked up three points (1G, 2A). After four years of NCAA Division III hockey at Elmira College, the seven-year veteran turned pro with the Elmira Jackals of the UHL in 2005-06.
In addition, the Rush added rookie defenseman Mike Glaicar who brings a 6-foot 5-inch, 220-pound frame to the blueline.
“Mike just completed a very good four-year career at Quinnipiac where he was one of the top defensive d-men in the ECAC,” Ferras continued. “He has tremendous size, plays with an edge, and takes pride in shutting down other teams top players. Having been the top conditioned athlete at his university, we know he takes his training seriously and will come to camp in shape. We’re looking for Mike to make the transition from college to pro smoothly and be a physical force on the back end.”
In four years at Quinnipiac University, the 23-year-old Glaicar skated in 139 games where he picked up 12 assists and 104 penalty minutes. In back-to-back years (junior & senior), Glaicar was named the Quinnipiac Strength and Conditioning MVP which is awarded to one male and one female athlete.
“I’m thrilled to join the Rush and get my pro career started,” Glaicar stated. “With all of the research that I’ve done, Rapid City seems like a premier place to play and live. The organization is well run with solid ownership, has a great coach, and a well-established fan base. Personally, I see the pro game matching my style a lot better as opposed to college. I’ll be able to use my size to my advantage since the pro level is more positional and structured.”
Glaicar, a native of Kamloops, British Columbia, is looking to complete his Masters degree in Business by October, just over four years after starting undergraduate classes.
In other news, former Rush defenseman Justin Sawyer has reportedly signed with the Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL). Also, another former Rush defenseman, Andrew Smale, has reportedly signed with the Fayetteville FireAntz (SPHL).
Texas Brahmas
There was no news of note from the Brahmas organization this week. That’s been the running joke all off-season, but no one thinks it’s funny, the least of which, their fans.
Tulsa Oilers
The Tulsa Oilers announced the signing of rookie forward Cody Esposito this week for the upcoming season.
Esposito, a 6′ 4″, 225-pound left wing, is the fourth rookie the Oilers have signed this offseason. The Airdrie, Alberta native comes to the Oilers from the University of Regina where he played the 2010-11 season and finished with two goals and three assists in 18 games. Prior to his time in Regina, Esposito played five years of Canadian junior hockey in the AJHL, WHL, and MJHL.
“Cody is a big, physical forward who will bring some toughness to our club,” Oilers Head Coach Bruce Ramsay said. “He can be very effective for us on the forecheck by using his size and speed to possess the puck and he’s just a solid, all-around hockey player.”
After his season in Regina, Esposito had thoughts of hanging up his skates for good.  The 23-year old kept playing at the senior AAA level and rediscovered his passion for the game.
I got in touch with the fun of the game again,” Esposito remarked. “I realized there’s still some fire there and it motivated me to keep training. I have the hunger back and I’m extremely excited to be heading to Tulsa. “Even though his collegiate career lasted only one season, Esposito knows it was an experience that will serve him well as he takes this first step as a professional.
“I’m a lot more mature now than I was before I went to school,” Esposito said. “I know the CHL has been getting stronger over the last couple of years and I know it’s extremely competitive at that level, but I think I’m well prepared for what I’m going to face and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
In other news, Sly Naud and Craig Hamelin, Tulsa teammates in the 1990’s, will be reunited on the ice at the fourth annual Oilers Alumni Game on Saturday, August 25th.
Also, former Oilers center Mike Ullrich has reportedly signed with the South Carolina Stingrays (ECHL).
Wichita Thunder
The Wichita Thunder of the Central Hockey League brought back two key pieces from last year’s team today, announcing the signings of forward Matt Summers and defenseman Jarred Mohr as well as adding rookie forward Todd Hosmer to the roster for the 2012-13 season.
Matt Summers

Matt Summers

Summers, 26, enters his sixth season as a pro and second in Wichita. The Savage, Minnesota native led the Thunder in scoring last year with 61 points and was tied for ninth in assists with 42. He was named the Sher-Wood CHL Player of the Month last October and was third in the league in shooting percentage (.202). He beat out three local professional athletes to claim the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission’s Professional Athlete of the Year Award. Summers became just the fifth Thunder player to win the award that has been presented annually since 1998. Travis Clayton won the award in 2000 and 2008, Jason Duda in 2005 and Joe Blaznek was honored in 2006. “I’m real excited to come back to Wichita,” Summers said. “I have nothing but good things to say and good memories of my first year here. I am sure a lot of the other players have a bad taste in their mouth the way it ended with us coming up a little short. We won’t be able to get payback against Fort Wayne, but we will try to take out on other teams.” The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Summers has played in the CHL since turning pro in 2007-08 with the Laredo Bucks. In his rookie season, he registered 12 goals and 23 assists in 57 games. In 2008-09, Summers began the year in Laredo before being traded to the Mississippi RiverKings. He then went on to record 13 goals and 35 assists in 51 games. Summers spent three seasons with the RiverKings before making his way to the Air Capital last year. He had a career-best 61 points and 42 assists a year ago. Overall, Summers has accumulated 88 goals, 151 assists and 239 points in 290 games as a pro.
Jarred Mohr

Jarred Mohr

Mohr, 27, returns to the Thunder for a second season and his seventh as a professional. The 5′ 11″, 185-pounder was acquired in a trade from the Rapid City Rush before last year’s season opener. Mohr also had a career season, registering 38 points in 66 games. He was one of just two players on last year’s squad that appeared in every game, running his regular season consecutive-game streak to 132. “We were so close to bringing a championship to Wichita and I am excited to come back to see if we can get there again,” Mohr said. “As a team, we have some unfinished business here. With the new players that we are signing, I think we are going to be really competitive this year. I am excited to play hockey with these new guys and get the season going.” A native of Regina, Saskatchewan, Mohr began his pro career in 2006-07 with the ECHL’s Pensacola Ice Pilots before being dealt to the Cincinnati Cyclones. He has spent the last four seasons in the CHL, one with the Rocky Mountain Rage and two seasons with the Laredo Bucks. Mohr has registered 25 goals, 91 assists and 116 points in 254 CHL games. In 2009-10, Mohr was selected to the CHL All-Star Team. Hosmer, 24, comes to Wichita after playing four years of college hockey at the NCAA D-III level. A native of Scarborough, ONT, Hosmer was a stand-out for SUNY Potsdam before transferring to Morrisville State College. He registered 27 goals and 62 points and was tied for eighth in overall points in the SUNYAC in his last full season at Potsdam. The 6′ 1″, 215-pound forward collected 17 goals and 12 assists as a senior with the Mustangs to go along with his 97 penalty minutes.   “Matt and Jarred were a huge part of our hockey club last year and are very excited to be coming back,” Head Coach Kevin McClelland said. “I am also excited to have Todd on board with us as well. He comes to us after a strong collegiate career and has an edge to his game as well.” Also, the Thunder announced Friday that they have traded goalie Adam Russo to the Arizona Sundogs in exchange for future considerations.
 
In addition (and this news had been previously announced by his agent), former Thunder forward Matt Robinson has signed with the Alaska Aces (ECHL).
Contact the writer/photographer at robert.keith@prohockeynews.com Follow us on Twitter (@prohockeynews)

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