The past year has been one to remember if you’re a supporter of the St. Louis Jr. Blues: another division title, a second straight trip to Chicago for the NA3HL Silver Cup (now Fraser Cup) Finals, and then a 23-match winning streak to cap it all off. But those achievements are just the ones that were printed in the standings pages. Indeed, 2017 may go down as one of the best years in Jr. Blues history not just because of what happened on the ice, but also what happened off it as well.
Moving players on to higher levels of hockey has always been the Jr. Blues’ main goal as a club, and 2017 saw that incredible track record continue. Defenseman Trevor Wilhelm, who had previously signed a 2017-18 tender with Corpus Christi of the NAHL, was the first success story when the IceRays called him up for a weekend series to help an injury-riddled blue line: after scoring a goal in only his second NAHL game, Corpus elected to keep him on the roster for the remainder of the season and beyond. Forwards Ivan Galaguzov and Jack Hatton also spent valuable time with NAHL clubs (Springfield and Shreveport, respectively) this year, while in the 2017-18 campaign the club has already celebrated one NAHL call-up in the form of Will Baginski (Austin). On the college front, the club was proud to see Sam Maddox (Buffalo State) commit at the NCAA Division III level, while Brandon Bornkamp (Trine), Joe Nolan (Illinois) and Ryan Reader (McKendree) are all impressing on the ACHA stage. In addition, two Jr. Blues alumni signed NCAA Division I letters of intent, Adam Roeder to Northern Michigan and Frankie Melton to Ferris State.
“All of us here at the Jr. Blues want to see our players succeed at the next level of hockey, no matter what or where it may be,” said Jr. Blues head coach Chris Flaugher. “To see our players and alumni do well after playing with us is a great feeling and just goes to prove that our methods and style of hockey that we practice here are the best way to prepare young men to take that next step.”
Off the ice, the Jr. Blues have made a renewed commitment to becoming more active in the St. Louis community and supporting those in need. Whether it’s their charity jersey games for Brendan’s Buddies (supporting area children with debilitating illnesses) or The Frozen Cup/Shut Out Autism, the annual First Responders Night which this year honored former Jr. Blues player Matt Crosby, assisting at local learn-to-play hockey sessions or adopting area families for Christmas through St. Patrick Center, Jr. Blues players and staff have touched many lives in St. Louis this year.
Flaugher added that “we want our team to not just improve as hockey players, but also young men and citizens of their community. Instilling quality values like selflessness and solidarity with those around you is something that I believe is just as important as whatever the scoreboard says during a game.”
For all the great accomplishments the club had in 2017, as the calendar gets replaced with the 2018 edition the Jr. Blues know that they can’t afford to rest on their laurels. “There’s a reason people call this part of the season ‘the business end’, and we don’t have very many easy days ahead of us,” noted Flaugher. “We have big road trips to Granite City and North Iowa, Metro’s coming into town for a weekend series, and in general the road to the Fraser Cup is a tough one, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.”