Rochester Grizzlies' leader Bauer taking his game to Alaska
Hastings native Kyle Bauer acclimated quickly to the North American 3 Hockey League last season as a rookie with the Rochester Grizzlies. The reigning NA3HL Rookie of the Year hopes to do the same while taking a step up this season. Bauer is one of close to 80 players in Rochester this weekend at the main tryout camp for the NAHL's Anchorage Wolverines, coached by Rochester native and former Grizzlies assistant Mike Aikens.
ROCHESTER — Kyle Bauer knows what it’s like to play for a team with high expectations.
He did that at Hastings High School, when he helped the Raiders make deep pushes in the Section 1AA playoffs as a junior in 2019 and a senior in 2020.
He did it again last year as a rookie in the North American 3 Hockey League, helping the Rochester Grizzlies win the league championship in just their fourth season of existence.
Now Bauer hopes to do it again while taking another step up.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound forward — the NA3HL Rookie of the Year last season when he led the Grizzlies in scoring — is one of close to 80 players who have gathered at the Rochester Recreation Center this weekend for the main tryout camp of the Anchorage Wolverines.
“Junior hockey is definitely a grind,” said Bauer, who had 25 goals and 60 points in 49 games for the Grizzlies last season. “Last year taught me a lot — how to take care of yourself, how to keep a healthy locker room. That’s what really took us all the way; we took care of ourselves and took care of each other.
“It’s a long season. In the NAHL it’s even longer, so I have to be ready to go.”
Anchorage — coached by Rochester John Marshall graduate and former Grizzlies assistant coach Mike Aikens — advanced all the way to the North American Hockey League championship game a year ago, in their first season as a franchise.
The expectations are high again for one of the NAHL’s northernmost teams, who opened their main tryout camp in Rochester on Friday, just 73 days after falling to the New Jersey Titans 3-0 in the Robertson Cup, the league’s championship game.
“I’m just going to go in here and play my game and hope there’s a spot for me,” Bauer said about working to earn a spot on the Wolverines’ roster. “I definitely see myself as a 200-foot player. The goals last year just kind of came with that, with great linemates and teammates here (with the Grizzlies).
“I feel like I can adapt my game and if (Anchorage) needs a role filled, I know I can do it. … Whatever the coaches need out of me.”
Bauer’s statistics from last season — he led the Grizzlies in regular-season goals (24), assists (31), points (55) and plus/minus (plus-51) — don’t paint the full picture of his value. He played in all situations for a deep Grizzlies team, from being a top-line forward, to serving as a key cog on special teams.
The Anchorage staff is hoping Bauer will develop into the same type of player at the NAHL level. He’s expected be one of approximately 30 players who start the season on the Wolverines’ roster, before the mandatory NAHL roster cut-down to 25 players.
“We’re hoping that he can transition to the next level and do what he did here,” Aikens said. “He was the Rookie of the Year in the NA3, he’s got a ton of skill. It’ll be interesting to see how he does and how it translates to the next level.
“We’ll give him every opportunity. I’m planning mentally on him starting the season with us.”
Bauer said he’s grateful for the Grizzlies coaching staff — head coach Chris Ratzloff and assistant Tyler Veen — for helping him develop and sign a tender agreement with Anchorage.
“The summer has been good. I’ve been working a lot and have been on the ice a few times a week,” Bauer said. “(I’m) staying in shape, in the gym.
I’m excited. I think Ratty and the coaching staff here helped me get a great opportunity. It’s great being (with Anchorage). I want to capitalize on the chance and make the team.”