For Jack Boxer, it’s onward and upward, even if it means heading south.
Last week, the Colorado Rampage 18U AAA defenseman signed a NAHL tender agreement with the Amarillo Bulls, and subsequently played three games for the Bulls, netting his first junior goal.
With the Bulls, Boxer joins former Rampage teammate Ty Black.
“I started talking to Amarillo this past summer, and then they invited me and two teammates down to skate during the season,” said Boxer, a Colorado Springs native. “I had the opportunity to play in a game, and it went very well. I really liked playing for Coach (Rocky) Russo and we had a really good talk about me coming back down and playing again during the season. It just felt like a good fit while I was there, and I was really excited when they offered me a tender.
“I really enjoyed everything about my time there. Coach Russo and Coach (George) Lewis run a top-notch program. The players felt like teammates right away and the facility and fans were amazing as well. Ty and I keep in touch. He had really good things to tell me about Amarillo and helped me transition onto the team when I was there.”
Rampage Tier I director and 18U coach Luke Fulghum is thrilled to see Boxer advance up the hockey development ladder.
“The Rampage are extremely excited for Jack’s commitment to Amarillo,” Fulghum said. “His growth and development as a player have been fun to watch. Jack brings a very unique skill set that is very hard to teach. His hockey IQ is exceptional, and we are confident he will continue to develop. His trust in the process will undoubtedly lead him to more success as a player but more importantly, as a person.”
Boxer explained that he started playing hockey when he was 5 years old. He was actually born in Hancock, Mich., which is like a sister city to Houghton, widely considered the birthplace of professional hockey in the U.S.
“We moved to Colorado when I was just a year old,” said Boxer. “My dad (Marc) has been a big influence on me, for sure. He has coached me, but even when he wasn't coaching me, he was teaching me the game. He taught me on the ice and off the ice, just watching and helping me understand the game. “
A solid start to the 2019-20 NAHL season for Bismarck Bobcats goalie Andrew Miller has caught the eye of NCAA Division I coaches.
This past week, Miller committed to play college hockey at one of those schools, Minnesota State, which is currently the No. 1-ranked team in the country.
“I really love the program and the coaching staff is phenomenal,” Miller said. “It was an all-around home run for me.
“Luckily, I had a good start to the season. The boys really helped me out in the beginning. I got a call from (Minnesota State associate head coach) Todd Knott and he said they had some interest in me and continued to say he would keep watching me this season. Then about two weeks later, I got a call from him again and he asked if I wanted to go on an official visit that weekend and I joyfully accepted.”
Miller said one of the biggest selling points with the Mavericks was the environment.
“My biggest appeal was the tight-knit, family-like group of players that greeted me,” said Miller. “This, along with the excellent and experienced coaching staff, was definitely the biggest hook, to me, for the program.”
The Boulder native who played for the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders, Boulder Bison and Hyland Hills Jaguars during his youth days, ranks in the top 10 of all goaltender stats in the NAHL. His .931 save percentage is tied for seventh, while his 1.58 goals-against average is tied for sixth.
Talk about making a positive first impression.
After getting called up to the NAHL’s Topeka Pilots two weekends ago, Taber Gutschick figured he’d finish the 2019-20 season back with his Colorado Springs Tigers’ 18U AAA team with options for next season.
He was right.
Gutschick, a 2001-born defenseman (he turns 18 on Dec. 29), played well enough to have the Pilots sign the Colorado Springs native to an NAHL tender for the 2020-21 season.
“It was just a normal day in English class, and I got a text from (Topeka associate head) coach (Justin) DeMartino saying that they were excited for me to come down,” Gutschick said. “I had no idea what was happening and then after school, I got a call from my coach saying to pack my bags and be ready to play for Topeka for the weekend.
“It was different being around a new team and new guys because I’ve always been with the same team and same guys, but it was good. It just got most of my nerves out and playing two games in the NAHL was eye-opening for sure seeing how good you need to be every time you step out on the ice.”
Going to Topeka was not an unfamiliar setting either.
“I only knew of people on the team just because I played against them the past couple of years in Colorado but other than that, I didn’t know anyone,” he said. “I knew about Topeka and going to their main camp back in July made me feel comfortable with everything.
“Signing the tender was a great feeling knowing that I’m a part of such a great program in Topeka and it kind of lifted some weight off of me knowing that I don’t have to stress about a junior team wanting me. I know it is just the beginning because now I know the work starts on being on Topeka’s roster next year.”
Getting a call-up to the NAHL’s New Mexico Ice Wolves was an opportunity Alex Gomez wanted to make the most of two weekends ago.
After skating for the NAHL’s newest franchise, he was asked by the team staff to be a permanent member of the team's forward corps for the duration of the 2019-20 season.
“I had a really good showing at the USHL camp for Tri-City from which coach (Kenny) Brooks recommended me to several of the NAHL coaches with the intent to put on a few pounds and develop another year,” said Gomez, a 2001 birth year from Parker. “After talking with some coaches, I decided to go to Shreveport’s camp. I made it all the way through and was on the roster up until Oct. 19 when the coaches and myself decided that due to the number of ‘99s on the team that for development, it would be best to go back to 18U (with the Colorado Thunderbirds) so I could get some play time.
“After being released from Shreveport, a few coaches from the NAHL had contacted coach (Kelly) Hollingshead and myself about possibly skating with them. After being home for a week, I was asked by coach (Keenan) Kelly of the NM Ice Wolves if I could come down and skate a couple games on Nov. 1-2 as they had several injuries and a suspension. I went down, felt I played well, and they asked me to stay.”
Accepting the offer was a no-brainer, according to Gomez.
“From the moment I arrived in Albuquerque, I felt welcomed and appreciated,” Gomez said. “From the owner, the coaches, the equipment manager, the rink staff, just everyone involved with the organization had so much energy and positivity. The owner (Stan Hubbard), to me, seems to be going all out from renovations at the rink, a new bus for the team, a new workout facility next to the rink, just everything he seems to do is top notch. Coach (Phil) Fox and Coach Kelly seem to be working hard to field a competitive team.”
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