AUBURN — The so-called State of Hockey is well-represented on the Twin City Thunder’s opening day roster.

Five players from Minnesota will be suiting up for the Thunder in their USPHL National Collegiate Development Conference season opener against the Jr. Bruins on Saturday in Marlborough, Massachusetts.

Twin City’s five Minnesotans are goalies Owen Carlsson and Dane Couture and defensemen Lazarus Kaebel, Ben Monson and Jack Anderson.

Twin City Thunder players, from left, Dane Couture, Jack Anderson, Ben Monson, Sky Solig and Owen Carlson are from Minnesota or played high school hockey in the so-called State of Hockey. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“It’s always fun to have fellow Minnesotans on the team,” Carlsson said. “It gets you a little more comfortable, gets you out of your shell. It shows the high skill that’s coming out of Minnesota.”

Another Twin City player, Sky Solig, is a forward from Bismarck, North Dakota, but he played high school hockey in Minnesota.

Thunder co-owner and head coach Dan Hodge said that recruiting players from the Midwest is good for the NCDC.

“We have a lot of Minnesota kids this year, but that’s a good thing,” Hodge said. “It means the league is starting to get into (recruiting) in the middle of the country.”

The six players with Minnesota ties should have plenty of opportunities to make a mark with the Thunder in 2021-22.

Fourteen players from last year’s team are now playing college hockey, and five who could have returned instead moved on to different opportunities in junior hockey: Forwards Tristan Thibeault (Kenai River Brown Bears), Colton Friesen (Anchorage Wolverines), Talon Siguerdon (Anchorage Wolverines) and goalie Devon Bobak (Shreveport Mudbugs) are now in the North American Hockey League; and Timur Alishlalov joined the Philadelphia Hockey Club of the NCDC.

Forwards Dominic Chasse and Nate Chickering are Twin City’s only returning players from 2020-21.

Despite the team being made up mostly of new players with limited familiarity, Jack Anderson that it has been easy for everyone to come together.

“The two returners have made it easier for everybody to come in and get along with each other,” Anderson said. “(Chasse and Chickering) are friendly faces, in a way.”

Hodge and the rest of the coaching staff made a point to have a younger roster this year — the average age of the roster is 18.9 years old — because the Twin City wants to continue to have high college commitment numbers.

“It’s the sign of the times, you want to get the younger players,” Hodge said. “We made the conscious choice to go with a young group to get those kids the (college) looks and the college commitments. We want to get these kids the college commitments, if we can.”

The Thunder have 12 players born in 2002 who have two years of junior hockey eligibility remaining, and two players born in 2003 who have three years of eligibility. One player was born in 2004, and six were born in 2001 are in their final year of eligibility.

Defenseman Ryan Hintz , one of the 2003-born players, joined the team after not making the Sioux City Muskateers of the United States Hockey League.

Earlier this week, the Thunder brought in 2004-born forward Artyom Kazakov from Moscow, Russia. He initially came to the United States to attempt to make the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL, but did not, so he joined Twin City.


Goalies: Owen Carlsson (last year: St. Louis Jr. Blues, NA3HL), Dana Couture (Wichita Falls Warriors, NAHL).

Defensemen: Jack Anderson (Tampa Bay Juniors, USPHL Premier), Ryan Hintz (Chicago Mission 18U), Ben Monson (Lakeville North High School, USHS-MN), Lazarus Kaebel (Tampa Bay Juniors, USPHL Premier), Nolan Sargent (Northern Colorado Eagles, USPHL Premier), Trenton Skaggs (Wisconsin Riverkings, USPHL Premier), Tobin Winslow (Soo Eagles, NOJHL).

Forwards: Steven Armstrong (Rhode Island Hitmen, 18U AAA), Nate Chickering (Twin City Thunder, NCDC) Dominic Chasse (Twin City Thunder, NCDC), Harrison Dumais (Philadelphia Little Flyers 18U, AYHL/NAPHL), Tyler Healey (St. Michaels Buzzers, OJHL), Artyom Kazakov (CSKA Moscow U18, MHL), Ethan Lim (Connecticut Chiefs 18U, AYHL), Trace Norwell ( Rocky Mountain Roughriders 18U, TIEHL), Devin Oliver (Team Maryland 18U, AYHL/NAPHL), Emile Pichette (Swan Valley Stampeders, MJHL), Tristan Rand (Oklahoma City Jr. Blazers NA3HL), Sky Solig (Warroad High School, USHS-MN), Sam Stitz (Team Maryland 18U, AYHL/NAPHL).

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