The Vermont Lumberjacks are making a slow and steady climb through the Eastern Hockey League Premier Division standings by making the most of the speed of veteran wings Dom Kuziak and Nate Foster.
Kuziak and Foster, who begin playing together midway through the 2015-16 season, are two of the biggest reasons why the Lumberjacks have moved above the .500 mark. They have teamed with center Kyle McDonald, who moved up after playing on the Lumberjacks EHL Elite-19 Division team last season.
“We’re just the same type of player,” said Kuziak, a 20-year-old right wing from Burnt Hills, New York. “We both are pretty fast. We use our speed to our advantage and Kyle’s a very good playmaker.
Kuziak and Foster join Johnny Andrews-Mike McPherson of the Boston Junior Rangers and Chris Peters-Kayser Raei of the Walpole Express as the only teammate combinations with 50 points each.
Their success has helped the Lumberjacks improve from 17-22-2 to 20-18-8 as they head for the EHL stretch run.
Kuziak is tied for second in the EHL Premier with 30 goals and ranks third with 60 points in 46 games. He has more than doubled his full-season point production of eight goals and 19 assists from 2015-16.
“I don’t know where it came from, but I just find myself playing way more confident,” Kuziak said.
Foster is ninth in the league with 50 points. His assists are up from one in 24 games last season to 30 this season. McDonald has one more assist than his linemates and is tied for eighth in the league with 31.
“I knew we had a strong group of returners coming back,” said Kuziak, who recently committed to play NCAA Division III hockey at Castleton State University in Vermont. “I felt like we could have a way better run than the year before, so I felt way better coming back.”
Kuziak went to a USA Hockey national championship game with his youth team, the CP Dynamo from Clifton Park, New York, in 2012. Kuziak won a New York state title with the Dynamo in 2014.
When he arrived in Vermont, Kuziak was not sure how long he would play junior hockey. The decision to play another year has paid off in a confidence boost and a chance to solidify plans to head to Castleton to study biology.
The Lumberjacks were happy to have him back.
The team recently gave out its regular-season awards and Kuziak was named Most Valuable Player. In addition to his scoring production, he was credited with his effort killing penalties and on the power play.
Foster was honored as the team’s Outstanding Offensive Player.
The team also recognized Ben Lau as the Outstanding Defensive Player and Ryan James as the Most Improved Player. Captain Conner Hyden was honored with the Lumberjack Award, considered the most prestigious award a Vermont player can receive, for the second straight season.
That group had led the Lumberjacks to wins in five of their last six games prior to losing to the East Coast Wizards, 5-2, Thursday. Vermont will finish its regular-schedule March 4-5 with a home-and-home series against the New England Wolves.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc
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