Rochester Grizzlies vs Alexandria Blizzard Hockey

Rochester Grizzlies forward Lucas Newman (9) handles the puck during a NA3HL game against the Alexandria Blizzard last season. Newman, a 2018 Rochester Lourdes grad, is the Grizzlies' top returning scorer this season. (PB file photo by Andrew Link / alink@postbulletin.com)

Chris Ratzloff has known Lucas Newman for almost as long as Newman has known how to skate.

And Ratzloff couldn’t be happier that Newman is on his team this season.

“Luke’s a great kid,” said Ratzloff, the first-year head coach of the Rochester Grizzlies of the North American 3 Hockey League. “I’ve known him pretty much his whole life and I love coaching him.

“He’s a quiet leader who does things the right way.”

The Grizzlies will rely on Newman’s experience and leadership heavily this season. The Rochester native is one of six returning forwards from last season’s team and the Grizzlies’ top returning scorer.

The 2018 Rochester Lourdes graduate averaged nearly a point per game in his first season of junior hockey, with 16 goals and 27 assists, for 43 points.

“We’ll look to him for a lot of points this year,” Ratzloff said. “We expect him to be one of the guys who is up near the top again for us.

“He’s not really a vocal guy, but he does things the right way. It’s good for the guys to see the way he does things. He’s a good role model, especially for the new guys.”

After a breakout season as a Grizzlies’ rookie last year, when he helped the team win 31 games in its inaugural season, Newman had his sights set on making the jump to the Tier II North American Hockey League.

He was drafted by the expansion New Mexico Ice Wolves and attended their training camp in July. Newman, who played three seasons of varsity hockey at Lourdes, made the Ice Wolves’ training camp All-Star Game, but…

“I made it there, but didn’t do enough to make the roster,” he said. “I disappeared a bit during that game. But they told me to work on moving my feet, using my speed, and going as hard as I can in practice.

“It was a good experience for me, to see how it is at the next level. You really have to work for it, and do your best every shift. It doesn’t just come to you.”

Newman quickly refocused on returning home and helping the Grizzlies improve in their second season. They open their regular season this weekend with a game Friday at Milwaukee and Saturday at Peoria (Ill.), both of whom will become Rochester’s rivals in the newly rearranged NA3HL Central Division.

“We have really good leadership in the locker room and that carries onto the ice,” the 5-feet-9, 190-pound Newman said. “And we have a lot of good young players coming in who saw how good we did last year and want to help us build on that.”

And while the training camp experience in New Mexico only fueled Newman’s motivation to get back to the next level, he said he only wants to help the Grizzlies win while he’s in Rochester.

“I just want to do my best here and if any (NAHL) teams are looking at me, great,” he said, “but I’m here to play as hard as I can every shift and play for the team. It’s about the team, not about me. I’m just trying to play for (the Grizzlies) but if an (NA) team wants me, I’ll jump at it.”

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Sports Reporter

Jason has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter and columnist since 2004 and covers high school football, volleyball, softball, golf, hockey, junior hockey and auto racing. He is a 1999 graduate of the University of North Dakota.