West Bend, WI – The West Bend Power are assembling for a two-game series versus the defending Fraser Cup Champion Granite City Lumberjacks this Friday Sept. 29 and Saturday Sept. 30. This is military appreciation weekend for the Power, so all active military members and veterans receive free admission. Service members will be honored before both games and the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight Traveling Art Show will be on display. Friday’s game is sponsored by West Bend Laser Engraving while Saturday is presented by Culligan Water of West Bend. Both matchups start at 7:30pm CST
Resilience through offense
Friday’s 4-2 win versus Peoria started out gradually for West Bend in the first period being outshot 19-7. The Power initially had a 3-0 lead in the third period, but saw it slip to 3-2. However, a penalty kill going 5/6 and an empty net own goal by Peoria won the day. Gavin Wohlmacher turned away 26 of 28 shots on goal. The tension rose significantly during Saturday’s 6-1 win. After creating a 2-0 advantage going into the second period, the hitting intensified. Three Mustang players were given misconducts during the game, two of them being ejections for boarding Liam Fraser
and Zach Wolverton. The final misconduct was a two-handed intentional slashing to the Cole Fenske. Despite the illegal hits, West Bend rallied around their battered teammates with a perfect penalty kill and three third period goals to secure victory. Brooks Barofsky played spectacularly in his first NA3HL start and win, saving 20 of 21 shots on goal.
Across the Aisle
The Granite City Lumberjacks are a veteran heavy and playoff seasoned team. They went all the way to the Fraser Cup Championship in 2022, where they lost to the Rochester Grizzlies. In 2023, they made it over the hill. After being down 5-3 to the Alexandria Blizzard going into the third period of the Fraser Cup Championship game, the Lumberjacks scored three goals in eleven minutes with the game winner from Carson Van Zuile with :09 remaining. Van Zuile comes back for his third season in NA3HL, all with Granite City. While not the flashiest producer on the team, Van Zuile steps up in tight scenarios when his teammates need him. He had 23 points (7goals, 16 assists) in 31 games played last year. Leading the charge of offensive returners is Hayden Johnson. 2023-24 will be Johnson’s second full season with the Lumberjacks with an additional four game stint in 2021-22. Johnson was second in goals and fourth in points last season for Granite City with 34 points, (18 goals, 16 assists) in 41 games played. There is some new blood on the forward core. Wisconsin native Jack Marske looks to make a splash in his first season for junior hockey. During his junior year at his local Verona High School, he averaged almost two points a game with 45 points 22 goals, 23 assists) in 24 games played.
On defense there is a blend of experienced players and rookies for the Lumberjacks. After a single game in 2022-23 with Granite City, Coltin Johnson went back to Little Falls High School in Minnesota to develop further. He exploded at the high school level, where he was second in assists and third in points on his team with 32 points (6 goals, 26 assists) in 32 games played This year, he readies for a full season of play on the blue line for the Lumberjacks. Johnson will most likely be mentored by veteran AJ Schemenauer. Schemenauer is a enforcing staple on the back end for Granite City, entering his third season with the team. He was third last season in penalty minutes on the Lumberjacks notching 80 minutes in 38 games played. Having been a part of the finals loss in 2022 and the Championship win in 2023, Schemenauer is a perfect fit to mold the next generation of defensemen.
The biggest question for Granite City this season is in goal, having two rookies between the pipes. Both goaltenders played youth hockey together last year on Arizona Jr. Coyotes AAA 18U. Samuel Schowalter started five games for the Jr. Coyotes. Although stats were not kept for the team, Schowalter had an .893 SVV and 2.95 GAA. Schowalter shared duties on Jr. Coyotes with Anyon Bennett last year. Bennett’s started seven games posting a .906 SVV and 2.72 GAA.
Both contests against the Granite City Lumberjacks will be streamed on NAHLTV with puck drop at 7:30pm CST broadcasted by Frank Zawrazky. The pregame show with Frank will begin around 7:15pm. Streaming information can be found at the link provided. https://nahltv.com