SIOUX CITY | Here’s a tale of two goaltenders, one who has arrived to the Sioux City Musketeers while another has been traded.
Matt Jurisik, a 6-foot-2, 188-pound goaltender from La Grange, Ill., is one of the newest Musketeers on Coach Luke Strand’s squad. Another goaltender, Tomas Vomacka, has been traded to the Lincoln Stars.
Jurisik came in a Aug. 15 trade with Bloomington for defenseman Luke Bass and a conditional pick. Jurisik was a freshman in 2015-16 when Strand was an associate head coach at the University of Wisconsin.
“Matt never played in Bloomington,” said Strand. “I brought him to Wisconsin before he played there. For me, it’s his experience. He’s a competitive guy who loves to win and wants to win at everything he does.”
Another brand-new Musketeer, forward Sammy Walker of Edina, Minn., may not join the USHL club until possibly March in time for a second straight Clark Cup Playoffs run. According to Strand, Walker is a Mr. Minnesota Hockey candidate.
Walker, a 2017 seventh-round NHL Draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning, came in the trade for Vomacka, a Czech Republic native and the Musketeers’ 15th-round selection in the 2016 USHL Phase II Draft.
The move to trade Vomacka, a 2017 fifth-round NHL Draft pick of the Nashville Predators, was made as the Musketeers followed the USHL’s rule of holding four import players. Last season, Vomacka had a 19-13-4 record with a 2.43 goals-against-average for the North American Hockey League’s Corpus Christi Ice Rays.
Among the foreign skaters on the Musketeers’ roster is 17-year old Sampo Ranta, a Finland native who was tendered by the squad prior to the 2016 USHL Draft. Sidelined by a knee injury that occurred during the 2016 preseason, Ranta had six goals and three assists in 30 games.
Forward Samuel Salomen also hails from Finland. Forward Martin Pospisil, the Musketeers' first-round 2017 Phase II pick, is a native of the Czech Republic, while defenseman Carl Ehrnberg is from Sweden.
“Tomas wants to be a starting goalie and we have found a starting goalie,” said Strand. “There’s an argument for both. Tomas is 18 and Matt is 20. Matt has 50 games of experience in Division I hockey. That’s notable. (Jurusik) had staggering numbers in the NAHL.”
Strand has a solid relationship with Jurusik, who went 17-23-7 from 2015-17 at Wisconsin. Prior to becoming a Badger, he was 33-5 with a .939 save percentage for the NAHL’s Janesville Jets.
Jurusik went 9-7 with a .882 save percentage in his final season. Strand said former Musketeer goaltender Kyle Hayton was planning to transfer to Wisconsin and Jurusik “did not want to share the net” with Hayton, who won Eastern College Athletic Conference goaltender of the year honors last season at St. Lawrence, going 16-12-7 with a .929 save percentage.
“Matt is very technical, very competitive and that competitiveness allows him to fight for the puck at the end of the day,” said Strand. “He’s probably more technical (than Matiss Kivlenieks). But Matiss is competitive. They’re comparable that way.
“The import situation was critical to handle the right way. The four we have kept, from Salomen to Carl, are impact players. You’ll see those jerseys fly around a bunch. We’ve got a good goalie. We needed to keep the other four.”
Jurusik is among 30 players who will arrive for the Musketeers training camp which starts Sept. 11 at the IBP Ice Center. Strand said eight of the players have already arrived and are taking high school classes in Sioux City while he expects 15 more the following week.
The remainder are expected to come the week of training camp in preparation for four exhibition games that will be played before the USHL Fall Classic Sept. 28-29 in Pittsburgh, Pa. Sioux City will have road dates against Omaha (Sept. 14) and Sioux Falls (Sept. 23) along with home games against Sioux Falls (Sept. 19) and Des Moines (Sept. 22).
“I’m really excited to see the whole group get here,” said Strand. “We’re out to reload. We’re young and talented as all get out. We’re not going to rebuild. Jay (Varady) had a ton of USHL experience last year and on top of that, talent. We have less experience, but our talent is high-end.”