USA Junior Hockey Magazine — March 2011
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Northern Cyclones/Yellowstone Quake

Balaban has wide range of hockey development

From the beaches of southern California to the woods of southern New Hampshire, Max Balaban has traveled thousands of miles for the cause of good hockey.

He still has miles to go until he lands at the college of his choice, as well. However, the San Diego, Calif., resident’s decision to sign on with the Northern Cyclones of the Atlantic Junior Hockey League should help him cover those undetermined miles faster.

He grew up playing for various youth travel teams in California such as the San Diego Jr. Gulls and the La Jolla Jaguars (one of his youth coaches is now the head coach of the Jr. A San Diego Jr. Gulls in the WSHL).

Eventually, he headed east and began playing for The Tilton School, a prep school in New Hampshire. Why not go east? His father steve Balaban enjoyed hockey success while playing for the University of Connecticut, and is still among Uconn’s top 25 all-time scorers.

This year, however, he has been a regular scoring threat with the Cyclones, and he feels like he has found his true hockey home.

“It is a great organization, everyone takes it seriously,” said Balaban, who had 22 goals and 43 points through 42 games.Coach Bill flanagan does a really good job of keeping us all focused and doing a good job the whole year.”

Taking a lot from the more skilloriented prep game, he has been able to add a physical edge to his game in the more well rounded AJHL.

“All the guys here are bigger than in the prep game, and older for the most part, so you have to be really strong on the puck,” said Balaban.

Off the ice, Balaban has really enjoyed making the many new friends he has through the Cyclones. He is not so much a fish out of Pacific water here – his Cyclones teammates hail from Florida, Virginia, Ohio and teammate Wayne ravdjee is also from California (Sylmar)

“I’ve really learned to become a better teammate. I’m with the guys really all year round, so everyone’s pretty close,” he said.

Of course, down the road, many of these same teammates may become opponents in the college game. Balaban is not going to worry about that until early in 2012, as he plans to play one more junior season.

“I’ve talked to Hobart and Wentworth and am interested in both, but I’ll keep it open as I’m looking to come back to the Cyclones,” he added. He has also heard from Division 1 schools who are keeping an eye on his progress.

Quake venture forth into NORPAC playoffs

There wasn’t going to be much time to wipe the sweat from their brows.

After squeaking into the Northern Pacific Hockey League championships, the Yellowstone Quake were going to be right back on the ice on March 1. That day, they played host to the first two games of a best-of-five series against the America West Division champion Helena Bighorns.

The Quake were up and down throughout the season, but head coach Craig furstenau felt they improved through the second half to narrowly clinch the fourth and final playoff spot in the America West Division.

“Still continuing on with the one-goal games, the Quake have secured a place in the playoffs,” said Furstenau.

Yellowstone finished 21-29 overall.

After splitting a Feb. 11-12 weekend with the Bozeman Icedogs, the Quake were two points up on Bozeman. They won their next game as well against Billings, while Bozeman lost its final four games after the Bozeman vs. Yellowstone weekend.

Perhaps, what helped the Quake move forward was the fact that the team had 13 skaters finish with at least half a point per game.

“The team has had balanced scoring throughout the season with contributions from all four lines,” Furstenau said. “Players who have helped the team secure a playoff spot are forwards Brad tunesi, alex Johansons, Branden Morganroth, Evan dixon, Mitch Pijanowski and tyler roberts.”

Tunesi joined the team in January and finished with 18 points in 18 games.

Johansons scored 15 of his 23 points since January, as well. Morganroth closed the regular season with 35 points in 45 games.

Dixon, who finished with 45 points, had 20 of those in the 15 games from Jan. 22 to the end of the season. Pijanowski had 15 of his 26 points in the second half, and the third-year Quake and 1992-born Roberts scored six points in the final three regular season games to finish with 35 points in 48 games.

Justin dennis was one of the many forwards who “stepped back” to fill in on defense to help where injuries hit the team most.

“Despite significant injuries to six defensemen, the Quake have moved forwards back to defense to weather the storm and compete every night,” Furstenau added. “Goaltending has been solid from nic Wackerly since coming here in a trade from Helena.”

Wackerly went an even 6-6-1 and registered a .918 save percentage for the Quake after two and a half seasons with the Bighorns.