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By Wes Jirovec, 05/07/21, 4:30PM CDT

After the first six weeks of our 2021 Training Season, we are thrilled with the atmosphere in the building across all age groups & tiers. And while we've only covered a portion of the total season, we hope our athletes are excited and empowered by the early returns on the the work they've put in thus far.

Each year of our program tells a different story. And with a new mix of valued returners and promising newcomers, our staff is hungry to offer the utmost opportunities for each skater and goalie's working points and goals. We've got a long ways to go, but it's still important to recognize a few individuals who have "hit the ground running" in the early portion of the year. These are the Players of the Month for March & April of 2021.

Photo Credit: Lisa Orrey

Kade Nielsen | 18 Selects Tier | Burnsville HS

At this point, Kade is a seasoned veteran who has maintained his street cred in our building for a number of years. But his reputation in the hockey world is just starting to blossom. Kade’s senior season with the Blaze was one for the record books, tallying 50 points (30 goals, 20 assists) in just 20 GP. Even more impressive is that he either scored or had an assist on over 70% of all goals scored by his team during the season.

That momentum has clearly carried over into the training season. Kade continues to win battles and produce scoring chances, regardless of opponent or circumstance. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for Kade’s first season of junior hockey.

Honorable Mention: Sam Berry, Simon Houge, Spencer Klotz, Francis Lindgren

Photo Credit: Lisa Orrey

Evan Johnson | 18s Tier | Chicago Mission U16

We’ve never given out a Rookie of the Year award. But if we did, Evan would be an early front runner. While we have lots of our boys at the high school age levels putting in work, you would hard-pressed to find an individual who is more determined and more diligent on a day-to-day basis.

Evan also brings a versatile & scrappy impact on the ice. This is a two-way defensemen who is continually working toward his efficiency with puck and also as a shutdown presence. The next calendar year could be a monster one for this exciting prospect.

Honorable Mention: Charlie Drage, Jordan, Larkee, Carson Strapon

Photo Credit: Lisa Orrey

Henry Schrader | 16s Tier | St. Louis Park

Henry is another newcomer who has stormed out of the gates, both on and off the ice. Currently leading the entire program in workouts completed, this is a kid that LOVES to put in work. But this isn’t an ‘attendance award’ by any means. Henry has a tremendous work ethic and is a fast learner.

These traits are also regularly showcased on the ice, as the SLP blue liner is showing steady growth in his skating development and game awareness. For our staff to see traits like this up close, we can’t help but get excited about Henry’s long-term upside.

Honorable Mention: Owen Durigan, Sam Fuller, Alex Gelhar, Charlie Owens

Tristan Pownall | 15s Tier | Prior Lake

From the bantam age level, we have been thrilled with the early looks at the new crop of skaters and goalies. Standing above the crowd is a young defenseman who has fit in quite well with our culture. Tristan’s compete level and desire to improve were more than evident in a fantastic first year on the Lakers BAA squad. And as expected, that mentality has been an ideal fit for the challenges that are regularly put in front of him now.

On the ice, there isn’t a day that goes by where Tristan doesn’t showcase his effectiveness in the corners or his vision as a puck mover. At this pace, there is little doubt that Tristan will be a major force in his second year at the BAA level.

Honorable Mention: Ryder Betzold, Szilveszter Lippai, Caden Schlattman

Photo Credit: Lisa Orrey

Avery Buckner | 14s Tier | Burnsville/Apple Valley

Avery comes into this training season after a successful individual campaign with the Firehawks. But this young man clearly has something to prove with the work and focus that we’ve seen from him so far. His coachability has been as evident in the weight room as it has been on the ice.

Avery is setting a tremendous example for his peers and is a positive influence on the environment around him. That type of leadership-by-example fits perfectly in our building and is highly valued by every coach on the planet. We’re expecting more of the same from Avery as the year continues.

Honorable Mention: Henry Chimel, Erik Larsen, Gus Olson

Photo Credit: Lisa Orrey

Sam Wooter | 13s Tier | Eastview

Our staff was fortunate to get to know Sam a little bit before this year through his older brother, Zach. But we’re not sure any of us could anticipate what “Sammy WuTang” was going to bring to the table. Sam has turned heads in just about every aspect so far. He’s been a soldier in the workouts. He shows a high focus level and attention to detail in drill reps. And he’s been an absolute boss in Game Day skates.

Even for a younger player, it’s easy to see that Sam has a big passion for the game and even bigger passion to want to get better at it. With characteristics like this, Sam’s future is as bright as it gets.

Honorable Mention: Easton Bahn, Chase Crowley, Caden Zasada

Alya Puppe | Girls College Tier | Northfield HS

While there has been some exciting turnover in the Girls groups with lots of new faces, there is a strong core of returners that we’re honored to have back. Ayla is very much at the forefront of that conversation.

An electric player with and without the puck, Ayla is coming off of a baller freshman season for Northfield (31 points in 17 GP). But we know there’s much more in store for this young Raider. As she continues to put forth her work ethic and compete level, continued development will surely follow.

Honorable Mention: Maiah Aanenson, Celia Midtbo

Photo Credit: Lisa Orrey

Aurelia Meza | Girls HS Tier | Minnehaha United

Aurelia highlights the aforementioned new group of athletes in our Girls tiers. Since her first skate, we knew there was something special about her presence on the ice. Aurelia brings a valuable blend of physical tools, solid instincts with the puck, a willingness to battle and a great approach to the work in front of her.

With the way she plays, it’s sometimes strange to recall that she’s only coming off her freshman year with United. Needless to say, Aurelia shows all the ingredients of a successful recipe as her game continues to grow.

Honorable Mention: Paige Fasching, Ciera Garrity

Photo Credit: Lisa Orrey

Marko Belak | Goaltender | Cretin-Derham Hall

It’s always interesting to see what the response is from athletes coming off significant achievements in the past season. Marko posted a .926 SV% and 1.78 GAA with a 17-2 record in his junior campaign. But obviously, he is not satisfied. Marko continues to build off that success with a strong start to the Training Season.

His regular attendance and strong performance has shown he’s committed to taking the next step in his development. He continues to be extremely receptive to critical feedback and the results have been outstanding. It’s common knowledge to most that CDH has a legitimate window for a State title run, and Marko is preparing accordingly to accomplish that task.

Honorable Mention: Fuzz Aafedt, Sam Clements, Finn Jacques, Mason Lobe, Gabe Otis, Matt Schoephoester