Congratulations to our Northwest Division All-Stars, who were selected from votes made by the coaches with support from the League Media Director.
Alex Rene Bartakovics, Vernal Oilers
How is this guy an All-Star? Well, let’s perhaps start with the best regular season points total in USPHL Premier history, with 121. Is that all? Oh, no, way – you have to also look at the 84 assists, also a single-season record – and don’t forget joining Fresno’s Noak Persson as the only two players in league history to average more than three points per game over at least 20 games, thanks to Bartakovics’ average of 3.03. Don’t expect to see him any more in the USPHL Premier, as Bartakovics was an early season tender for the Provo Predators, who are joining the NCDC in 2023-24. Bartakovics also led the Oilers in the postseason, which included a Nationals berth, with 15 points in eight games.
Filip Molnar, Vernal Oilers
Joining his fellow Slovakian countryman and Oilers teammate Bartakovics on this list, Molnar will also join Bartakovics with the NCDC’s Provo Predators. Both players inked tenders last December, and just kept driving teams nuts by racking up the offense. In 35 games, Molnar racked up 42 goals and added 46 assists for 88 points, helping the Oilers enjoy some time over the early and middle portions of the season in first place overall. The Oilers were also the first Northwest Division team to reach Nationals after winning first the division regular season title and then both of their playoff series. In eight playoff games, Molnar had 12 points.
Raine Hodge, Seattle Totems
Seattle was a tough draw for any opponent through October and November. But by early December, they just became a total headache because they picked up a player who started his USPHL Premier career with a five-point game. Hodge (‘04/Waterloo, Ont.) had one more five-point game later on in the season and hit at least four points a total of eight times. When the dust settled, he had scored 40 goals in 24 games. He added 20 assists for 60 points. He added eight points in six playoff games. Hodge also earned a nine-game NCDC call-up with the Utica Jr. Comets and registered his first goal at that level.
Nahom Teshome, Seattle Totems
Teshome (‘02/Helsinki, Finland) impressed several around the Northwest Division, earning a vote outside of his own team to help cement his All-Star bid. On the ice, he posted better than an assist per game on average, putting up 36 helpers while also scoring 21 goals of his own for 57 points in 32 games. He was a point-per-game performer in the postseason as well with five points in five games.
Jorie Boyd, Rock Springs Prospectors
Like Hanson, Boyd was a local product for another first-year USPHL Premier team, in this case the Prospectors. An ‘02, he brought his own leadership style to bear for the Prospectors and the results were outstanding – 32 goals and 29 assists for 61 points in 43 games. He put up plenty of ice time in part because he played an honest game, spending just 14 minutes total in the penalty box this year, truly a class act.
Tyler Hanson, Rogue Valley Royals
A hometown product for the Medford, Ore.-based Royals, Hanson utilized his two prior junior seasons – including 2020-21 in the USPHL Premier, He mostly with the Motor City Hockey Club (now Gamblers) – to drive his leadership. He put in 52 assists, good for a spot in the Top 10 overall for helpers, and added 18 goals for a 70-point season in 38 games. That 1.84 points per game average was by far the best in his career.
Kieran Maloney, Bellingham Blazers
An ‘04 out of Kamloops, B.C., Maloney made his junior debut by crossing provincial/state lines from British Columbia into Washington state to star with the Blazers in their inaugural USPHL Premier season. He was very nearly a goal-per-game player by putting up 30 goals in 32 games. He added another 24 assists for 54 total points as a junior rookie.
Kyle Russell, Vernal Oilers
It’s not uncommon for USPHL Premier players to jump into a college hockey situation in midseason. It’s a little more rare to see a Premier player jump right into the professional ranks – and become a regular point contributor there. It’s just the Kyle Russell way, though. Russell spent his first 26 games of the 2022-23 season with the Oilers, racking up an amazing 14 goals and 37 assists for 51 points. His 1.96 points per game average was the best for a blueliner skating in at least half of his team’s games this year. In January, he moved south to the Mississippi Sea Wolves of the Federal Prospects Hockey League. He scored 15 points in 29 games to close the season with that pro squad.
Cole Bisson, Vernal Oilers
Committed to University of Utah
With Russell gone, the Oilers had to shore up their defense and boy did they ever. The former Charlotte Rush blueliner came in and put up a line of 6-19-25 in 19 games with his new team after 16 games earlier in the season with the Rush. An ‘03 from Colchester, Vt., he actually started in the USPHL Elite, so it was quite the improvement from not even starting in the Premier to becoming a Premier All-Star all in the same season.
Peter Konopka, Seattle Totems
Konopka (‘03/Kalispell, Mont.) was a great steadying force on the blue line for the Totems, bringing the Seattle squad a straight-ahead two-way game that produced seven goals and 28 assists for 35 points in 41 games in his rookie junior season. Konopka finished with a +19 and 58 blocked shots on the season as well.
Antonio Tarantino, Vernal Oilers
As offensively geared as the Oilers would seem on the surface, when viewing Bartakovics’ 121 points and the 88 points Molnar scored as the second-leading scorer, those new to hockey might think the team just skated in one direction. However, every team has to take care of their net and no one in the division was better at this than the Premier veteran Tarantino. The ‘02 from Fremont, Calif., put up a 20-2-1-2 record with a .935 save percentage (sixth in the USPHL Premier) and a 2.65 save percentage. For his career, he has a .936 mark, good for top 10 all-time among goalies with at least 20 career games played.
Kai Rivas, Bellingham Blazers
Talk about a bright future. Rivas, an ‘05 out of nearby Surrey, B.C., so impressed the division’s coaches that he tied Tarantino in votes. Rivas put together a .908 save percentage, and earned accolades by his poise and confidence while facing an average of 44 shots on goal per game. He had victories against Vernal (with 44 saves) and a couple against Seattle. His best performance of the year might have been a 50-save performance against the Totems for the win on Nov. 23. He was called upon to make 50 saves on five separate occasions this year. He has a ton of runway in his career to fly to some pretty lofty heights.