AUSTIN — It's game time at Riverside Arena once again and for the first time in more than a year, the Austin Bruins will play a North American Hockey League game with no limitations on the number of fans allowed in the building.
The Bruins open their 2021-22 home schedule against Minot tonight and Saturday (7 p.m. both nights) on a hot streak, having opened their regular season by going 3-0-1 at last week's NAHL Showcase.
They're off to a good start, but just who are these Austin Bruins? Here's a player-by-player look at the Bruins roster as it stands heading into tonight's home opener.
• Niko Goich (6-4, 170; Homer Glen, Ill.): Just a 17-year-old, Goich has good size and moves well in goal, and he'll learn from watching and practicing with veteran Hudson Hodges on a daily basis. Goich played in one game at the NAHL Showcase and didn't have a big workload, but he stopped 12 of the 13 shots he faced in a 4-1 win against New Jersey. Goich played last season with the Team Illinois U16 AAA program after playing the previous two seasons for the Chicago Fury AAA program.
• Hudson Hodges (6-2, 175; Moorhead): The second-year Bruin is the veteran in net, and is expected to lead and help Goich, just as Tyler Shea did for Hodges a year ago. Hodges, a Moorhead native, was the Frank Brimsek Award winner (the award given annually to the top goalie in Minnesota high school hockey) as a senior in 2019-20. He went 2-0-1 with a 1.95 goals-against average in three games at the Showcase last week. Last season, Hodges was 9-9-2, but he went 6-1-1 in his last eight starts.
• Frank Dovorany (6-0, 190; Wausau, Wis.): The 20-year-old left-shot defenseman is committed to play Division I college hockey at Michigan Tech. Dovorany played in 50 games for Austin last season, scoring one goal and 10 total points. Prior to that, he played two seasons in the USHL, with Omaha in 2018-19 and Madison in 2019-20 (eight assists).
• Marian Haborak (5-11, 181; Bratislava, Slovakia): Haborak is off to a strong start in his first season playing hockey in the U.S., having recorded three assists in four games last week as Austin went 3-0-1 at the NAHL Showcase. A former teammate of fellow Slovakian and fellow first-year Bruin Michal Jasenec, Haborak has represented Slovakia on its international junior teams on three occasions.
• Xavier Jean-Louis (6-4, 200; Montreal): The Bruins' first-round NAHL Supplemental Draft choice, Jean-Louis comes to Austin as a 20-year-old. The left-shot blue-liner is one of the fastest skaters on the team, which combined with his size, makes him an opposing presence. He was born in Miami, but grew up in Canada, playing the last two seasons for the Carleton Place (Ontario) Canadians in the CCHL. He had two assists in four games at last week's NAHL Showcase, and had 13 shots on goal, tied for second on the team.
• Jack Malinski (5-10, 170; Lakeville): A talented two-way, right-shot defenseman, Malinski had two points in four games at the NAHL Showcase last week. The former Lakeville South standout played in a half-dozen games with the Bruins at the end of last season after South's season came to a close. He played four seasons on South's varsity, including on state-tournament teams in 2019 and 2020, becoming a varsity regular as a sophomore. He had 21 goals and 52 assists, for 73 points, in his final three high school seasons.
• Nick Recupero (6-0, 185; Avon, Mass.): Still just 17, Recupero has good size and will battle for ice time in a deep defensive corps this season. He played in one game at the Showcase last week. He comes to Austin after recording 13 goals and 22 points over the past two seasons for Archbishop Williams High in Braintree, Mass.
• Braidan Simmons-Fischer (6-7, 220; Waterford, Mich.): The big, physical and skilled Simmons-Fischer is making the transition to defense this season after playing forward for most of his hockey career. Like teammate Carson Riddle, Simmons-Fischer recently opened up his recruitment after being committed to Western Michigan University. He has already received interest from other Division I programs, who likely will want to watch his progress as a defenseman this season. Simmons-Fischer is a net-front fixture on the power play for Austin. That's where he scored his one goal at the Showcase, on a highlight-reel re-direct of a point shot. He has played in 22 games in the USHL (for Green Bay) over the past two seasons.
• Therien Thiesing (6-0, 180; Franklin, Tenn.): The second-year Bruin, still just 18 years old, played in all four games at the NAHL Showcase last week. He appeared in 28 games for Austin last season, recording three assists. The left-shot blue-liner will push for playing time all season as a veteran on a deep defensive corps.
• Liam Whitehouse (6-3, 205; Mount Kisco, N.Y.): The Bruins made a sharp trade to acquire Whitehouse in the offseason. The big, strong blue-liner was an assistant captain for the NAHL's Johnstown Tomahawks last season. He's not a goal scorer or big point producer (11 points in 96 career NAHL games), but Whitehouse is a physical presence and a locker-room leader. He'll be a mainstay in Austin's lineup this season.
• Nick Blood (6-2, 170; Minnetrista, Minn.): Still a high school senior, Blood, 17, has been a standout at Holy Family Catholic in Victoria the past three seasons. He was the Fire's third-leading scorer last season with seven goals and 17 points. In his three high school seasons, he has compiled 23 goals and 30 assists, for 53 points. Blood comes from a talented hockey family. His sister, Grace, was a standout defenseman for Holy Family for five seasons (2013-18). He also has three cousins who have played Division I college hockey — Erin Blood, who played for the Boston U. women's program from 2004-08; Ben Blood, who played at North Dakota from 2008-12 and was a fourth-round pick of the Ottawa Senators; and Danny Kristo, a second-round pick by Montreal, who played four seasons at North Dakota (2009-13).
• Isaak Brassard (5-10, 170; Montreal): One half of a twin-brother tandem from Quebec, Isaak Brassard is a right-shot center who played in two games at last week's NAHL Showcase. He played in 140 games at Bishop's College School in Quebec, where he scored 40 goals and had 87 total points from 2017-20.
• Matys Brassard (5-10, 165; Montreal): The other half of the Brassard twins, Matys is a left-shot centerman who, much like his brother, plays a hard-nosed style and can get under the skin of opponents. He scored 105 goals and had 182 points in 170 games at Bishop's College School in Sherbrooke, Quebec, over three seasons from 2017-20. He played in all four games at the Showcase and had two assists.
• Evan Burkle (6-1, 190; Battle Creek, Mich.): Burkle, a big left-shot forward, tendered with the Bruins last year, when he recorded 24 goals and 72 points for the Meijer AAA 18U team in Michigan. He played in three games for the Bruins at the Showcase and put five shots on goal. Burkle played four games in the NAHL for the Corpus Christi Ice Rays in 2019-20, recording one assist.
• Nick Catalano (5-9, 160; Pewaukee, Wis.): Catalano has already doubled his points total from a year ago, when he had one assist in 37 games. He opened his second season as a Bruin with two goals in four games at the Showcase. He was a scorer in high school and midget hockey, having scored 41 goals and 80 points at Arrowhead High as a senior in 2019-20.
• Dylan Gajewski (5-10, 165; Woodhaven, Mich.): Gajewski was a point-per-game player for Willmar in the NA3HL last season (14 goals, 26 points in 26 games), and he's needed no time to acclimate to the NAHL. He averaged more than a point per game at the Showcase last week, with three goals and two assists in four games. He has recorded at least one point in each of his first four games.
• Nakodan Greyeyes (6-0, 190; Winnipeg): Greyeyes played in just one game at the Showcase as the Bruins ease him into the lineup after recovering from an injury, but the veteran center could be a key player for Austin this season. The 20-year-old left-shot centerman comes to Austin after playing for Dauphin of the Manitoba Junior League for all or parts of the last four seasons. The pandemic limited him to just one game last season, but Greyeyes scored 32 goals and 92 points in the two previous seasons combined.
• Michal Jasenec (6-3, 187; Bratislava, Slovakia): Jasenec played in just one game at the Showcase, but the Bruins' coaching staff has high hopes for the powerful left-shot forward, who is in his first season of playing hockey in North American and is still adjusting the style of play. He played with fellow first-year Bruin Marian Haborak last year for HC Slovan Bratislava in their native Slovakia, and they played together in 2019-20 on Slovakia's U18 junior team.
• Gavin Morrissey (5-11, 170; Dayton, Ohio): Morrissey had just one point in four games at the NAHL Showcase — a goal in a win against Fairbanks — but coach Steve Howard praised Morrissey's play without and away from the puck. A hard-working, blue-collar player, Morrissey fits right in with what the Bruins' coaching staff is looking for. He didn't get power-play time, but Morrissey took advantage of his time on the penalty kill and moved his feet well at the Showcase. His role may evolve as the season goes along — or he may have found his role already.
• Sutter Muzzatti (6-5, 225; Okemos, Mich.): Still just 18 years old, Muzzatti has learned how to use his size and skill to his advantage. The RPI commit had five goals and eight assists in 30 games last year. He already has six assists through four games, is third on the team in shots on goal (13) and tied for the team lead in power-play assists (3). He played a big role in Austin's 7-1-2 record over its final 10 games last season; Muzzatti had three goals and eight points in the final eight games.
• Jens Richards (6-3, 205; Callaway, Minn.): The second-year Bruin has started his season with a load of confidence and knowledge that he can be a go-to guy for the team. Richards leads the team with four goals -- all on the power play -- through four games. He's nearly halfway to his goal total from a year ago, when he had nine goals and 13 points. He's showing the scoring ability that he showed at Northstar Christian Academy from 2018-20, when he scored 56 goals in 118 games.
• Carson Riddle (5-9, 165; Holly, Mich.): The veteran forward is the poster child for the Bruins under head coach Steve Howard. Riddle is in his fourth season with the team, one of only a handful of players in Bruins history to play four seasons with the team. Riddle, Austin's captain this season, is off to a red-hot start. He has nine points through four games and was named the Central Division Star of the Week last week. He has played 158 games for the Bruins, compiling 30 goals and 81 total points. Riddle committed to Western Michigan when he was just 16, but recently re-opened his recruitment and already has a handful of Division I programs knocking on his door.
• Austin Salani (6-1, 195; Hancock, Mich.): The 18-year-old Salani was a standout at the Bruins' tryout camp last month at Riverside Arena. He was a dynamic forward in high school the past four years, accumulating 180 points (80 goals, 100 assists) in four seasons at Hancock Central High. Salani played in all four games at the Showcase, recording an assist in his first NAHL game.
• Niko Schoner (5-10, 160; Bloomingdale, Ill.): The 18-year-old Illinois native comes to Austin after putting up more than a point per game (21 goals, 37 points in 33 games) for the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs 18U AAA team a year ago. Schoner also spent two seasons in the Team Illinois Midget program, recording 15 points in 18 games for the 18U team in 2019-20.
• Alex Trombley (6-0, 180; Howell, Mich.): Overshadowed by captain Carson Riddle's 9-point effort at the NAHL Showcase last week was Trombley's hot start to the season. The Ohio State commit and second-year Bruin recorded two goals and five total points in four games. Trombley, 20, scored five goals and had 21 total points in 33 games in Austin last season. He's the team's second-leading returning scorer.
• Walter Zacher (5-11, 180; Buffalo): The 19-year-old skilled forward is Austin's second-leading returning goal-scorer this season. He scored 12 times in 39 games last season, including two goals in his first game as a Bruin. He also had four power-play goals, which tied him with Carson Riddle for the team lead. Prior to coming to Austin last season, Zacher scored 47 goals in 51 games for Nichols School in Buffalo, in his senior season.