MOLINE, Ill – “Free Agent Frenzy” day has come and gone in the National Hockey League, and several big signings were announced – including John Tavares heading to Toronto and Ilya Kovalchuk signing with the LA Kings. However, NHL free agents isn’t the topic today. Rather, we’ll talk history – the first six players in Quad City Storm history, to be precise.
A successful team is built from the net out, and a goaltender who has won an SPHL championship is perhaps the most solid foundation for building a team. Keegan Asmundson is no stranger to Illinois, as the Huntsville Havoc defeated the Peoria Rivermen in game three of the President’s Cup playoffs in April. He’s also no stranger to the Quad City barn, as he went 1-1 against the Quad City Mallards in 2015-16 during an ECHL stint split between the Evansville Icemen and Indy Fuel.
Before turning professional, Asmundson spent three years in the North American Hockey League with the North Iowa Outlaws and Austin Bruins, the latter with whom he played 39 games in the 2010-11 season. The prior year, he played 18 games with the Outlaws, as well as two games for the Fargo Force and one game with the Des Moines Buccaneers. With Austin, he earned a .923 save percentage.
The Inver Grove Heights, MI native signed with the Canisius College Golden Griffins for the next four years, and helped backstop the Golden Griffins to an NCAA AHA championship in 2012-13. In 2015, he was awarded the NCAA AHA Goaltender of the Year award and named to the Second All-Conference Team before joining the South Carolina Stingrays for three games.
Asmundson then bounced around a couple of different ECHL teams, as well as making a stop with the Pensacola Ice Flyers, before the season was over. He played two games for Löwen Frankfurt of the tier 2 Deutsche Eishockey Liga before returning to North America and living out of a suitcase in the ECHL as he never called a team home for long.
This most recent season, he played 36 games for the Havoc in the regular season, going 16-11-5-2, with a 3.11 goals against average and a .901 save percentage. In seven playoff games, he went 4-3, with a 3.13 GAA and a .904 save percentage.
Andy Willigar, one half of the first defense pairing for the Storm, has spent the past five years in the SPHL. He began his professional career with the Columbus Cottonmouths, but in 2016 signed with the Havoc. He played 12 games for the Innisfail Eagles of the Chinook Hockey League that season as well. With the Havoc, the Innisfail, AB native totaled 35 points (10G, 25A) in 64 games. His most productive season was his sophomore one with the Cottonmouths, during which he amassed 24 points in 43 games.
Before joining the SPHL, Willigar spent five years in the Alberta College Athletic Conference with first Concordia University of Alberta for two years and then Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. In the college ranks, he won the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championship in 2012-13, as well as earning the most points as a defenseman from the CCAA.
Dylan Denomme, a recent rookie, came to the Storm via expansion draft from the Macon Mayhem. The right-winger scored a dozen times, earning the same number of assists, in 34 games with the Georgia-based team. The Riverside, ON native played only three years at the University of Windsor, his freshman year seeing him score 31 points in 27 games. For his work, he was named to the CIS (OUA West) All-rookie Team. He was also named CIS (OUA West) Rookie of the Year. In his last season in college hockey, he scored only six times but added 18 assists. He spent parts of five years in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, all with the LaSalle Vipers. He had a brief stint with the Nanaimo Clippers of the British Columbia Hockey League in 2013-14 to end his juniors career.
On May 10, it was announced that Denomme had signed with the Etoile Noire de Strasbourg (Black Star) of the SaxoPrint Ligue Magnus.
Austin Hervey, a center, joins the newest SPHL team from the Knoxville Ice Bears. Also a recent rookie, he earned 27 points (12G, 15A) in 55 games with the Ice Bears. Before joining the SPHL, Hervey attended Adrian College of the NCHA and totaled 52 points (27G, 25A) in 100 games. His junior year was his most productive, as the Brighton, MI native scored 11 goals and added nine assists.
Nick Lazorko will enter his sixth season in the SPHL in the 2018-19 season. He began his career with the Havoc, and then joined the Pensacola Ice Flyers midway through the 2014-15 season after two years with the Havoc. In that same campaign, he also played two games for Lindlövens IF of Sweden’s Division 1 league. During his time with the Havoc, Lazorko was named to the SPHL Second All-Star team in 2013-14. The Rockwall, TX native then re-signed with the Ice Flyers for the following season but spent most of the season with the Fayetteville FireAntz (now Marksmen). He went overseas to the Icefighters Leipzig of Germany for 2016-17, but returned to the Havoc the following season. He ended this season with the Evansville Thunderbolts. With the Thunderbolts, Lazorko amassed 23 points (11G, 12A).
The left winger spent three years at Castleton State College, scoring 23 goals with 17 assists in his sophomore year. The following season he played only 10 games before signing with Huntsville.
Brandon Pfeil makes up the second half of the Storm’s first defensive pairing in the team’s history. He just finished his second season in the professional ranks, playing with Denomme for Macon. The West Vancouver, BC native preferred to make his mark on the scoresheet in the assist column this past season, scoring only once but tallying 23 assists. He made brief appearances in the ECHL the past two seasons, dressing for the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, Orlando Solar Bears, and Atlanta Gladiators.
Pfeil played four seasons at Brown University before joining the professional ranks, first going overseas with Dunaújvárosi Acélbikák of the Erste Liga in Hungary before returning stateside.
The first Quad City Storm game is set to occur on October 20 at the TaxSlayer Center, the perfect place and time to watch these players and more in action.
Be sure to follow @SinBinStorm on Twitter for all the latest news about the SPHL’s newest franchise.