SIOUX CITY – The Sioux City Musketeers certainly showed the kind of talent they have on Wednesday, but it wasn’t on the ice.
It came in the form of National Signing Day.
The Musketeers signed national letters of intent to 10 of their players during the national celebration.
The 10 players who signed were: Mikey Adamson (UMass), Ralfs Bergmanis (Vermont), Axel Mangbo (Vermont), Luke Antonacci (Maine), Ben Steeves (Minnesota-Duluth), Dylan James (North Dakota), Charlie Schoen (Arizona State), Peteris Purmalis (Lake Superior State), Tabor Heaslip (UConn) and Grant Slukynsky (northern Michigan).
Steeves was one of the many Musketeers who put their green and gold in the closet for a few minutes to wear their college colors.
He put on the brown and gold of Duluth, who played in the Frozen Four last season. Steeves grew up a few hours south of Duluth.
“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Steeves said. “It’s definitely a special time in our life. I’m sure everyone on our team will eventually reach Division I level. As an older guy it’s special to lead the way.
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As the players signed their NLI, Musketeers coach Luke Strand stood behind the television cameras that were there, proud to be part of a player’s path to college and maybe even further afield.
When players make their college decisions, it also helps Musketeers in their recruiting.
They can show players coming out of the US Hockey League that they are going to college and above, and show school-aged players that Sioux City can be a place where they can be successful.
“I think what makes their trip a reality is this next step to college,” Strand said. “Sioux City is becoming a place of destination. To see them succeed at the college level and now 35 percent of the NHL (National Hockey League) goes through college.
A bright future for the guys, and it’s exciting to watch them grow up before our eyes.
Steeves said he was lucky to have played for the Musketeers.
“It’s a world class organization, and the way they develop the players is pretty amazing,” Steeves said. “The player that I have become, I definitely evolved as a player here.”
Sluskynsky also realized the enormity of the event on Wednesday.
“We have a special group here and everyone is going to play college hockey,” Slukynsky said. “It forces you to put more pressure on yourself to become a better player. Twelve months ago, I had no idea I would be in Sioux City, and I have loved my stay here so far.
After those 10 guys signed their NLI, their attention returned to this weekend’s two-game win at the Tyson Events Center.
The Musketeers host in Fargo for a two-game series starting at 7:05 p.m. Friday, and this is the first time the Musketeers have hosted the Force again since last year’s Western Conference Finals.
The Musketeers start the two-game weekend with 15 points. That’s good enough for third place in the conference, as the Force has nine points.
Last weekend, Sioux City came away with a point, following an overtime loss to Tri-City on Saturday.
“We just have to get back to our way of playing,” Steeves said. “We have to simplify things. I think sometimes we are just frustrated. We’re moving away from our game, but if we stay tough with the pucks, win battles, and keep making smart plays in predictable areas, we can get four points.
Strand said this week was all about getting up and getting some momentum back before the Musketeers hit the road next week to Sioux Falls and Waterloo.
“I’m proud of what the work ethic has been like this week,” Strand said. “It’s a long season and for us to go through a moment of shock and not score a point on Sunday, it was disappointing. We want to get back to it right away.
Strand also provided an update on Captain Kirklan Irey. He sustained a lower body injury on Saturday and said he was hand in hand.
“He’s handling his rehab like a real pro,” Strand said. “It could be two weeks, it could be two months. He’s not having surgery right now, that’s the plan. I think it’s just step by step.