As the Jacks are on the road for another 3-in-3 series, there are a few that were in action to start the week. In Pittsburgh, PA the NAHL was holding its annual Top Prospects Tournament at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. It was the first time that the NAHL was holding the event there. Four Jackalopes were selected to not only represent Odessa but also the South Division. They were also joined by Head Coach Scott Deur, who was the Head Coach for the NAHL Selects. The event took place across two days, giving every player the opportunity to showcase their skills in two games. This annual tournament allows players in the NAHL, who are aging out, the chance to play in front of hundreds of NCAA DI and DIII scouts.
Conner Couet had a remarkable NAHL Top Prospects debut as he scored the first goal for Team South on Monday. Couet went on a 2-on-1 breakout with Corpus Christi IceRays forward, Nathan Butler. Butler passed the puck across to Couet and he was able to snap it past the Jamestown Rebels goalie, Jon Howe. Later in the second period, Couet got the primary assist on a goal scored by the Amarillo Wranglers forward, Logan Cleary. In the final period, Team East pulled their goalie as they were trailing Team South, 4-2. This time it was Amarillo defenseman, Michael Spinner, who scored an empty-net goal but the lone assist on his goal went to Couet. Giving him three points in game one of two for Team South. Conner had this to say about his performance on day one, “It felt great, and I knew I had to get the jitters out in the first shift. I got lucky on a good rush with Butler, and he made a great play and it ended up in the back of the net.” Couet has played 39 games this season for the Jacks and has seven points (2g). He is two games away from reaching 100 in the NAHL.
Dayne Hoyord also had a stellar debut game against Team East as he scored the fourth goal for the South. His goal was assisted by the IceRays captain, Jude Kurtas. This is the second time Hoyord has been to the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament but the first time he has registered a goal. When asked about his goal Hoyord stated this, “It is a great feeling. It’s a blessing to just be able to come out here for this event.” Hoyord has played in 40 games this season for the Jacks. He is fourth on the team in points (24) and his 16 goals tie him with Chris Duclair for the team lead. His four game-winning goals are a team-high. In warm-ups for game two, Hoyord wore Liam O’Hare’s jersey. O’Hare was originally selected to the Top Prospects Tournament but could not play due to an injury.
Mike Manzo is in his final year of junior eligibility, and it was also his first time at the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament. After recording two shots in game one, Manzo entered game two with a lot of energy and determination. It was not until the third period when Manzo would finally have one of his shots reach the back of the net. His goal was assisted by Johnathan Horn of the El Paso Rhinos. Manzo has this to say about competing at his first Top Prospects Tournament, “It was awesome, it was very fun and entertaining for myself to see a different division and how they play. My legs were heavy on day one but after my first shift I was good to go.” Manzo is tied for sixth on the team in points (19) and his 15 assists are tied for the second most. He also leads all Jacks players in +/- with 16.
Alex Proctor played in both games but split the playing time in each one with New Mexico Ice Wolves goaltender, Beni Halasz. Proctor entered game one about halfway into the second period. At the time of his entry, the South was leading the East, 2-0. Out of the 16 shots he saw through 29:17 of gameplay, he was able to stop 14 of them. Both goals from Team East came off the sticks of players from the Maryland Black Bears. Proctor started game two as the South faced the Central. He had 29:54 of ice time in game two and came away with 15 saves on 18 shots. Team South would lose game two, 5-2. Proctor has a record of 17-8-1-3 this season for Odessa. His 17 wins are tied for the third-most in the NAHL. He is one win away from tying the second most for a Jacks goalie in one season. The record is held by Connor Hellebuyck (26). Also, his save percentage of .922% is the fourth-best in the league. Proctor has this to say about being at the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament for the first time, “I thought I played good. I did not have some bounces go my way but overall, I think I played a good game, I played my game.” He went on to add, “It is a little nerve-wracking, but you have to be ready for everything and everybody on the ice is good and is working towards a Division I scholarship.”
The Jacks tied the Maryland Black Bears and Amarillo Wranglers for the most goals scored during the Tournament (3). They have 19 games remaining in their 2021-22 season and are currently in third place (48pts). Eight of them will be played at the Ector County Coliseum. All games are broadcasted live on HockeyTV and audio-only on the Jacks YouTube channel.