Pete's Point: Hockey players advance to next level
It’s a compliment for a high school hockey program when its players continue to pursue hockey careers after graduation.
The Northern Lakes boys’ high school hockey program can be proud that three former Lightning players are competing at the junior level – goaltender Joey Bergquist, a 2012 Pequot Lakes graduate; and forward Kegan Couture and defenseman Connor Chambers, both 2013 Pequot Lakes graduates.
Bergquist has four goaltending wins for his hometown Breezy Point North Stars of the North American Tier III league while Couture is the second leading scorer with the Bozeman (Montana) Icedogs of the America West Hockey League, also a Tier III junior team; and Chambers has been a starter at the blue line with the Odessa (Texas) Jackalopes of the North American Hockey League Tier II team.
“I haven’t talked with Joey or Connor lately, but we look at each other’s numbers online,” Couture said in reference to statistics on each junior team’s website. “We will probably see each other when we’re home for the Christmas break.”
Following are mid-season updates on the three players:
Joey Bergquist, goalie, Breezy Point
Bergquist has compiled a 4-12-1 record this season as the primary goalie with the North Stars.
“I originally signed with Breezy Point (last year), but I played for a junior team in Texas,” Bergquist explained. “I wanted to play in Breezy Point this year.”
Bergquist has compiled a 4.88 goals-against average and 87.7 save percentage in 17 games for the North Stars, who are 6-18-2 overall. He said his best game was a 48-save effort in a 7-3 win at Alexandria on Nov. 29.
“Our record doesn’t reflect how we’re playing because we’re improved dramatically,” he said. “The division we’re in is so tough with teams like the North Iowa Bulls (defending national champions) and the Granite City (St. Cloud) Lumberjacks.”
Playing at home has also allowed Bergquist to volunteer as a goaltending coach with the Northern Lakes girls’ hockey team this season.
“I’ve been coaching at the Breezy Point summer hockey camps the past couple years,” he said. “I enjoy coaching. I’m not sure about (attending) college, but coaching could be an option for me.”
Kegan Couture, RW, Bozeman, Mont.
Couture currently has 13 goals and 32 points, including 12 points on the power play, in 23 games this season with the Icedogs. He has been among the top 10 players in the league at times.
“I really wasn’t expecting it,” Couture said of his first-year success. “My game has improved a lot. I’ve been playing on a line with Gunnar Mogck, who is third in the league in scoring. We are two of the younger players on the team.”
Couture originally attended a tryout in Duluth for a different junior team when he was noticed by Bozeman coach Mark Vichorek.
“I hadn’t even heard of the league,” Couture said about the AWHL. “It has been fun. I started out hot, then I had a slump, but now I’m getting my confidence back.”
Couture added that the Icedogs are off to a “tough start,” a 4-19 record. The team is scheduled to play two league games this week and then participate in a Las Vegas Showcase tournament.
“We will then have 10 days off, and I plan to come home,” said Couture, who can play juniors again next year with hopes of eventually playing college hockey.
Connor Chambers, Def., Odessa, Texas
Chambers has been a regular on defense with seven points in 20 games for the Jackalopes.
“I’ve had a big role on the team, but I’m still one of the younger guys,” said Chambers, who also played junior hockey last year before returning home to finish his senior year of classes at Pequot Lakes High School. “It can be tough playing against guys who are one or two years older than me.”
Chambers has played well enough to earn a two-game promotion to the Lincoln, Neb., team that competes in the United States Hockey League.
“The USHL is the top level for juniors,” Chambers said of the Tier I league. “I do like playing in Odessa. The players live with host families, and the community really supports us. We average over 1,000 people a night at our games.”
Chambers said his ultimate goal is to earn a Division I college scholarship for hockey.
“It would be nice to be on a winning team,” said Chambers, whose squad is 10-23 overall, “but personally, I care about how I’m developing as a player.”
Shawn Chambers, Connor’s dad and former Northern Lakes coach, played at the NHL level in Texas as a member of the Dallas Stars.
“My coaches know my dad, but the players don’t know about him,” said Connor, who added that four other players from his team are from Minnesota. “I do plan to come back home this summer. But for now it’s kind of nice. Last week, it was 80 degrees here (and heavy snow and cold in the lakes area).”