Valeri Rykov of the L/A Nordiques controls the puck against the Northeast Generals in a game in 2019. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

A scoring threat who is familiar to the Twin Cities has been added to the Twin City Thunder’s roster.

Valeri Rykov reached out to his former coach with the L/A Nordiques, Cam Robichaud, who is now an assistant coach with the Thunder, in search of an opportunity with Twin City’s National Collegiate Development Conference team.

Rykov made his debut during last week’s two-game series against the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs. The teams split the series, with the Thunder winning on Saturday 5-1 and then losing 3-2 on Sunday.

Thunder coach Dan Hodge put Rykov on a line with a former L/A Nordiques teammate for those two games.

“He reached out to Cam and we brought him in and he has done real well,” Hodge said. “He’s still adjusting to our system, but him and (Alex) Rivet know each other and they played real well together. They have a chemistry there and I believe they played together before.”

Rykov, a 20-year-old Moscow native, was a acquired by the Nordiques during the 2018-19 season during their run to the North American 3 Hockey League Fraser Cup final. Rykov had 26 goals and 27 assists in 15 regular season games, and then added four goals and seven assists in eight playoff contests.

Rykov is third member of the 2018-19 L/A Nordiques team to play for the Thunder’s National Collegiate Development Conference team this season, joining Rivet and Sergei Anisimov, who started the season with the Thunder and is now with the New England Wolves of the Eastern Hockey League.

Rykov was drafted in the 2019 North American Hockey League draft by the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, for whom he appeared in four games before being released. He played the majority of the 2019-20 season with the Jamestown Rebels, scoring six goals and recording 12 assists in 32 games. He finished out the season with the Northern Cyclones of the NCDC, going scoreless is three appearances.

“I think he will be a kid that will put some points up,” Hodge said. “We will give him an opportunity to get settled and see where he can go.”

RASHKOVSKY COMMITS TO WILLIAMS

Nick Rashkovsky attempts a shot on goal during a scrimmage at the Twin City Thunder’s main camp at Norway Savings Bank Arena in August. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Thunder captain Nick Rashkovsky has chosen his college hockey home.

The second-year forward for the Twin City Thunder’s National Collegiate Development Conference team will play next season at the NCAA Division III level with Williams College (Williamstown, Massachusetts). The 19-year-old forward from Los Angeles, California, has appeared in 10 games this season and leads the Thunder with six goals and ranks second with nine points.

He had his eyes on the schools that have a strong balance of education and hockey.

“Williams is the best NESCAC (school) academically, and last season they finished first place for hockey in the conference,” Rashkovsky said. “It was kind of one of those things, when I got the opportunity it was almost no-brainer to take that.”

Williams head coach Bill Kangas was impressed that Rashkovsky plays an all-around game and can be a contributor right away next season.

“As a player, he kind of told me he likes how I see the ice, how I compete, and all aspects of the game, I am able to contribute,” Rashkovsky said. “Even though I am known for my scoring abilities, he said he likes the way I can make an impact even when I am not scoring, such as on the penalty kill and in the (defensive) zone.”

Rashkovsky becomes the second Thunder player to commit to a NESCAC school this season, joining defenseman Jack Gilligan, who committed to nearby Bowdoin College earlier this season.

“Nick truly earned this, he did not have a commitment coming into the year,” Hodge said. “He was talking to four or five schools and Williams was really impressed with him. They had a couple of good talks with him, and I think Nick really valued the education piece. He knows Williams is going to offer that and he wants to continue to play hockey, which will be great for him. He will play hockey and get an education while he’s doing it.”

The Thunder had three players last year who committed to play hockey at NESCAC for the 2020-21 season. Goaltender Alexander Kozic and defenseman Gonzalo Hagerman were set to play for Bowdoin before the COVID-19 pandemic stalled the season, and defenseman Andy Antiles, who was a midseason acquisition and was already committed to play for Middlebury College.

NCDC HONORS GILLIGAN

The USPHL announced the NCDC players of the week, and Thunder’s Jack Gilligan was named the conference’s defenseman of the week.

The 18-year-old from Salem, Massachusetts, had a goal and an assist in last Saturday’s 5-1 win over the Monarchs. He averaged 26:03 minutes of ice time and blocked three shots during the two-game weekend series.

Gilligan has a goal and six assists in 10 games this season.

“He’s a really good defenseman; for a (2002-born player), he’s very mature,” Hodge said. “He scored a goal on Saturday and (is) just a guy that we count on for big minutes. He earned it and did a great job. It’s nice to see the league recognize him as (defenseman) of the week. Unfortunately, we haven’t played a lot of games this year, but when we do play, he’s one of the kids that stands out.”

The forward of the week was Junior Bruins’ Colin Graf. The Union College commit had two goals and two assists last week. Damon Beaver of the Jersey Hitmen was named goalie of the week after stopping 72 of 73 shots in two games against the Connecticut Jr. Rangers.

FORMER THUNDER PLAYER DEALT IN ONTARIO LEAGUE

Zachary Desmarais, who spent the past two seasons with the Twin City Thunder organization was traded in the Ontario Junior Hockey League this week.

Desmarais played for the Thunder’s Premier League team in 2018-19 and the NCDC team in 2019-20. He had his sights on playing a third season for the Thunder, but the USA-Canada border closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic spurred him to instead play in Canada this season.

He signed with the Trenton Golden Hawks, but on Wednesday he was traded to the Lindsay Muskies.

The Ontario Junior Hockey League is currently in its preseason, and Desmarais has scored two goals in five games between the Golden Hawks and Muskies. The regular season will begin in January.

Desmarais joins former Thunder teammates Stavros Rigas and Matthieu Lapierre on the Muskies.


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