North American Hockey League team, Minnesota Magicians, brought strength and speed to the ice, according to head coach A.J. Bucchino, when they started off the season with a 3-1 record at the league’s showcase last week.
The Magicians faced the Aberdeen Wings, Topeka Pilots, Bismarck Bobcats and the Odessa Jackalopes.
Matthew Stanton, forward, led the team as a veteran ‘98 player, scoring five points in four games – four goals and one assist.
“I’ve been told my entire life just to shoot the puck, because I feel like that’s the best part of my game,” Stanton said. “Shooting the puck is something that I focused on and I brought to the showcase. Thankfully, I scored a couple goals and it worked out.”
All 24 NAHL teams participated in the annual showcase, earning the name as the “Greatest show on ice,” reported by the NAHL website. More than 9,000 people attend, with over 350 scouts from throughout the world.
This is Stanton’s second year in the Magicians program but his first NAHL showcase. Last season, the Stillwater, Minnesota native had a short stint on the United States Hockey League team, the Des Moines Buccaneers, before coming to the NAHL.
“[The showcase] is a great place for players to get recognized by Division I scouts,” Stanton said. “If you play well enough, people will give you attention and hopefully you can get a commit.”
But, the size of the showcase and pressure from the scouts on the sidelines didn’t bother the veteran player. Instead, Stanton said that his priority was to just play hockey with his teammates.
The showcase was also coach Bucchino’s first time attending it from the bench. He said that it was a great opportunity for all players to show their talent and strengths to the scouts watching.
Bucchino was particularly impressed with Stanton’s performance during the weekend.
“Matt was very consistent based on the role of the kind of player he was. He was very good on the power plays and special teams,” Bucchino said. “He did his job, he focused on his strengths – that’s shooting the puck and he really helped his linemates out.”
Stanton finished the weekend with a record of 1.25 points per game.
Both Bucchino and Stanton agreed that the team’s success can be attributed to the positive and excited energy from the locker room before the showcase.
“We created a team identity,” Bucchino said.
The veteran player also said that the Magicians program took a turn for the better. Bucchino is the newly hired general manager and head coach.
“We have a new change of management and new coaches, so there’s a little bit of a new mindset on the Magicians organization. His mindset, as well as all of the other players, know that everything has to be earned,” Bucchino said. “We’re a team that plays fast, has strong discipline in the defensive zone and take a lot of responsibility away from the puck. Most importantly, we’re a team that wants to attack offensively.”
Stanton said that he worked well on the bench with Bucchino. Although this is their first season together on the Magicians, Bucchino coached Stanton earlier in his hockey career.
“For the past year, the Magicians haven’t had that much success in the playoffs, but A.J.’s taken the guys under his wing and completely flipped the script,” Stanton said. “The changes to the locker room and to the rink has really brought life to the boys that came back.”
The Minnesota Magicians will face the Fairbanks Ice Dogs at their home opener on Sept. 28.