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Brown Bears send players to college: Nearly all the departed will continue with hockey

Brown Bears send players to college: Nearly all the departed will continue with hockey

By Mike Nesper | Peninsula Clarion

Nearly all of the nine Kenai River Brown Bears too old to play next season are making moves to further their hockey careers. Four have committed to playing college hockey next season.

Defenseman Jake Musselman will skate for the U.S. Air Force Academy, an NCAA Division I program. Braden Kinnebrew, Mike Martin and Brad Fusaro will play for Division III programs.

Kinnebrew, who was traded from the Avalanche to the Brown Bears in October, will play for Castleton State College, located in Vermont. Kinnebrew, who attended South Anchorage High School, finished the 2009-10 season tied for 20th among top-scoring North American Hockey League defensemen with 24 points.

\”Kinnebrew is extremely strong and very capable,\” Brown Bears head coach Oliver David said on Wednesday. \”He has very good hands and has played at the junior level for three years.\”

Kinnebrew was one of four players to represent Kenai River at the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in January.

\”He\’s ready to move on and completely capable,\” David said. \”He potentially could be moving on from DIII as well. For him, it\’s a matter of really buying in and becoming a part of the student body and really continuing his development.\”

Kinnebrew has control over his hockey future, David said.

\”I really think as far as he wants to take it, he can,\” David said. \”I don\’t think it should be the end of it for him at Division III. I think Kinnebrew could potentially parlay DIII into some professional opportunities at some point.\”

Joining Kinnebrew at the Division III level is Martin. The Kenai River net minder will play for Wisconsin-based St. Norbert College, the 2008 NCAA Division III national champs.

\”They are one of the best DIII schools in the country each year,\” David said. \”Mike is going to be part of a very prestigious, successful program.\”

And he has the potential to backstop the Green Knights.

\”He has a good chance at earning the starting job there,\” David said. \”Mike is a great, great person and a technically sound goalie.\”

Team captain Brad Fusaro was accepted to St. Mary\’s University of Minnesota. Forward Ryan Townsend has also applied to St. Mary\’s. He had not committed anywhere as of Wednesday, David said.

Team captain Johan Skinnars, who led all Brown Bears with 41 points, hasn\’t signed any contracts, but has several parties interested in him. David said Skinnars has a pro contract offer, which he hasn\’t accepted. Teams at the collegiate level, too, are interested in the Swedish-born Brown Bear.

\”Dozens of colleges are seeking his services,\” David said.

Getting Skinnars a tryout for the American Hockey League and East Coast Hockey League is also in the works, David said. David met with Skinnars\’ agent from Sweden last week while on a recruiting trip in Chicago to discuss his future.

All the attention Skinnars is receiving is no shock to David.

\”He\’s that kind of player, we all can see it,\” he said. \”He\’s got the world in front of him.\”

Brown Bears General Manager Nate Kiel said Iowa State University is interested in Matt Bennett. He did not know if Bennett officially committed to the school as of Thursday.

David said he\’s also been in contact with schools on Matthew Cinader\’s behalf.

\”I\’ve been working hard for all the guys,\” he said.

David said players may have to wait as long as August to sign with a program, as schools use the summer months to determine the number of returners they have for next season.

\”There\’s a lot of movement in the summer for hockey,\” he said.

All of the college attention Kenai River\’s players have received is positive for both the individual and the franchise.

\”It\’s definitely a two-way street,\” David said. \”There\’s a saying in sports that coaches make players and eventually players make coaches. In junior hockey, this level is developmental, but it\’s really the first opportunity that the team could potentially make a coach.\”

The give-and-take relationship is necessary for players to advance their careers and for a program\’s growth, David said.

\”I am here to promote these players and develop them so they can be promoted,\” he said. \”But in being promoted, they are kind of giving back to me as well. We\’re all here for each other, to put it simply. If we didn\’t have that commitment, we\’d be doing this for naught.\”