The Twin City Thunder’s Tier II team started to build for its future beyond the 2019-20 season when they took part in the USPHL’s National Collegiate Development Conference Futures Draft for 2003 and 2004 birth years.

The Thunder’s strategy for the Jan. 31 draft was pretty simple, select the best players available. They certainly did that, as three of their six picks have already verbally committed to NCAA Division I schools, highlighted by defenseman Guillaume Richard out of Trois Rivieres, Quebec, who’s committed to the University of Maine for the 2021-22 season.

The other two NCAA commits are also defenseman Oscar Plandowski (of Halifax, Nova Scotia), who’s committed to Quinnipiac — where former St. Dom’s standout Joe Dumais is an associate coach — for the 2021-22 season. Owen Paskowski is committed to Colorado College for the 2022-2023 season.

The other three players Twin City drafted were defenseman Kalle Ervasti (Oulu, Finland), forwards Riley Ruh (Los Angeles, California) and Culin Wilson (Hingman, Massachusetts).

“All the kids we picked, we had some sort of connection with as well, which I think was important,” Thunder coach Doug Friedman said. “Whether it’s former teammates or friends we have that coach (the kids), and we definitely have seen these kids play, too. It just happened to work out that way that we were a little more heavy on the defensive players than we were with the forwards.”

Five of the six players are eligible for junior hockey next season, the only one not eligible is Paskowski, because he weas born in 2004, but Friedman expects most of the players they selected to stay with their current teams or programs in 2019-20.

The five 2003-born players can still get selected in the United States Hockey League, North American Hockey or a Canadian Hockey League (CHL) draft later this spring and summer. The USPHL Futures Draft was for teams to get playing rights to players if they decides to play in the USPHL’s NCDC league.

Richard and Plandowski are both highly rated for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft — one of three leagues that make up the CHL — in early June. The Lewiston Maineiacs were apart of the QMJHL from 2003-2011. If the players decide to play in the Q, they would forfeit their NCAA opportunities.

Richard has seven goals and 20 assists in 37 games with Seminaire St-Francois Blizzard of the Quebec Midget “AAA” League this season. Plandowski plays for the Selects Hockey Academy 15U team in South Kent, Connecticut, for which he has eight goals and 40 assists in 40 games.

Ervasti has four goals and 36 assists in 47 games for the South Florida Hockey Academy U16 team. Culin Wilson plays for Dexter Prep in Brookline, Massachusetts, and has six goals and six assists in 20 games. Ruh plays for the Los Angeles Jr. Kings 15U team and has 12 goals and 16 assists in 22 games.

Paskowski, who plays for the Buffalo Jr. Sabres Bantam Major team, doesn’t have stats available.

There will be a NCDC Entry Draft in May for players born between 1999 and 2002. That draft is designed for teams to build for the next season.

Mock’s late-night drive

Tristan Mock was acquired by the Thunder through a trade with the Richmond Generals in late January. He wasted no time making the 14-hour trip from Richmond, Virginia, to Auburn. He jumped in his car Sunday, Jan. 27, with a coffee in hand and made the trip overnight so he could practice with the Thunder on Monday, before their game Tuesday against the South Shore Kings.

“I thought it was important to get that skate in with the team before the first game to try to build some chemistry with my new teammates and introduce myself so I wasn’t the new guy showing up to the game,” Mock said. “I thought it was important to show my face and be present.”

While he didn’t score in the 3-1 loss to the Kings, his dedication and work ethic to get to Auburn and in the game left a mark with his new coach.

“Just how hard he works, it can be contagious,” Friedman said. “He’s been involved in both games, almost every shift he’s doing something. That can carry over and elevate some other guys.”

Enter a Wild, leave a Nordique

The L/A Nordiques shored up their goaltending for the remainder of the season by adding Andrew Ghimpeteanu from the Maine Wild on Jan. 30 after Owen Liskiewicz was called up to the Maryland Black Bears of the NAHL. The Nordiques and the Wild also played the afternoon of the trade in Biddeford, where the Nordiques won 10-0.

When he arrived to the rink, he was still unsure if he was going to start that day for the Wild.

“It was a little strange, I woke up that morning ready to go,” Ghimpeteanu said. “We hadn’t found out who would be playing in that game yet, so I woke up on game day prepared. It was a nice surprise (to get traded).”

The teams worked on the deal prior to the game — the Nordiques received Ghimpeteanu and sent a tender contract to the Wild. The Wild let Ghimpeteanu know he had been traded and was a healthy scratch because of it, but the rest of the players on both teams weren’t made aware of the deal until after the game.

Ghimpeteanu was brought in because of his championship experience from when he was a member of the New England Stars, who beat the Nordiques for the Coastal Division title and went to the Fraser Cup Championship in Woodbridge, Illinois, last season.

“I just want to motivate the guys to work hard on the ice and off the ice,” Ghimpeteanu said. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes. Since going to Chicago last year, I know what to expect again. So I can definitely stress on what it takes (to win).”

The Stars finished fourth of four teams in Pool B of the Fraser Cup Championship last season.


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