New Ulm hopes to extend winning streak
NEW ULM — The number 13 may be unlucky for most people, but the New Ulm Steel are looking to reach that number this Saturday when they travel to Sauk Rapids and look to extend their 12-game winning streak to 13 when they play the West Division-leading Lumberjacks.
The Steel’s 12-game winning streak is currently the longest in all of the NA3HL. The Texas Jr. Brahmas (North Richland Hills, Texas) is closest at 10-0-2-0.
The Bozeman (Montana) IceDogs had also won 12 straight earlier in the season so a Steel win on Saturday would give them the longest wining streak in all of the NA3HL this season.
That Steel winning streak has also clinched a playoff spot in the West Division. New Ulm is 20 points ahead of third-place Willmar and Alexandria, who are battling for the fourth and final post-season spot.
“Right now we are just trying to get more consistent,” Steel coach Zach Stepan said as New Ulm has just seven regular season games left before playoffs. “The team has done a good job of playing a good 50-55 minutes of hockey each game but we have not strung together a good 60 minutes. In order to be a good playoff team you need to string 60 minutes together in a game.”
And with the postseason on the horizon, the Steel had to cut down their postseason roster to 25.
To get down to that number the Steel did not include goalies Zac Hattan and Jack Raymond on the postseason roster. Stepan said that he will go with Igor Samokhvalov and A.J. Cohen. Cohen had seen time with the NAHL Chippewa Steel at times this season.
“We can emergency backup both Zac and Jack and they will be both sticking around. They can practice with the team,” Stepan said. “It is nice to have them both around just in case. So Igor and A.J. will get the games the rest of the regular season and into playoffs.”
The rest of the roster is basically remains the same.
“The only big difference over this deadline is we picked up a lefthanded defenseman from the Corpus Christi, Texas IceDogs of the NAHL who also played at Chippewa Falls in Dawson Schwengler,” Stepan said. “He is offensively gifted and I think that he will be a big help for us.”
Schwengler is an Eau Claire, Wisconsin native.
With the addition of Schwengler, the Steel did lose defenseman Brock Finn to Willmar.
The Steel did elect not to put New Ulm High School’s Glavine Schugel on the playoff roster.
Schugel played with the Steel prior to high school hockey starting.
“The players in the locker room now are the ones who put together this 12-game winning streak and you do not want to break up that chemistry.”
Stepan said that Saturday’s game on the road against Granite City — a team they beat 3-1 at home a week ago and a team they may meet in the first round of playoffs — is big both physically and mentally.
“We had a good game here and now we play there,” Stepan said. “So no matter who we play in the first round of the playoffs (Granite City or North Iowa), the first game is going to be on their home ice. So we need to see if we can pull one out on their home ice.”