Photo credit: ABC Newspapers
Just about six minutes into his first career junior hockey game on Friday against the Minnesota Magicians, Luke Notermann had already put a puck into the net. Making his Austin Bruins debut just about one month after his commitment to the Minnesota Golden Gophers NCAA Division I program, Notermann’s blazing wrist shot from the bottom of the left faceoff circle made its way over Magicians goaltender Will Ulrich’s right shoulder and in and out of the net so quickly that even the referee didn’t see it go in. Despite the misfortune, Notermann would get his goal in the 2nd period, deflecting in a shot from the point for what would turn out to be the game winner in a 6-2 Bruins victory. A week removed from Blaine High School’s sectional semifinal upset loss to Maple Grove, the next chapter of his hockey career had begun.
The 6’1, 160 pound forward entered his Senior year at Blaine with an already impressive track record. He was coming off a Junior campaign in which he led the Bengals with 51 points and 26 goals in 23 games and a stint in the Upper Midwest Elite league where he was to top scorer for the Northeast team. He had doubled his point total from his Sophomore season, and the sky seemed to be the limit for 2015-16. Notermann shot out of the gate, scoring seven goals in his first four games, including a hat trick on opening night against Osseo. He was averaging nearly three points per game when the Bruins came calling in mid-December.
“Once Austin contacted me and offered me a tender, I took it right away because I knew everything is great down here,” said Notermann
He signed a tender agreement with the Bruins on December 17th, a move that had been in the works for quite a while. Head coach Kyle Grabowski said that he and his staff really did their “homework” on Notermann.
“He was at our camp this summer. He’s someone that we spent a lot of time recruiting. He has ties to Austin – he has family here. That’s something that’s a big deal for us.”
Notermann had an abundance of family and friends at his NAHL debut this past weekend on Friday in Austin and then Saturday at Richfield, making his new environment feel comfortably familiar.
“I had a lot of uncles and aunts plus my parents at both games. It feels just like home. To be able to go out to eat with them after the game, have the usual talk with my dad about what I need to do better and what I did well. It’s just very nice doing that.”
It was after the tender that Notermann’s season really skyrocketed, as he scored 11 goals and added 16 assists in the nine games after signing. Then, he got the big call – from the Gophers.
“[The initial contact] was a couple weeks before I committed. I was talking to a couple of other colleges and [the Gophers] came to two of my games and there was a lot of interest after that. They took me in and took me on a visit and I fell in love with it.”
Luke finished the season with 78 points (28 goals, 50 assists) in 25 games for Blaine – good for third in the state. He joined the Bruins last week after the Bengals playoff loss.
“I’m liking it a lot [in Austin],” said Notermann. “My housing family is awesome. They’ve made it very comfortable for me down here. The team’s great, the coaches are great, it’s a nice facility.”
The Bruins coaching staff put Notermann on a line with two forwards that are also committed to Division I programs. AJ Drobot (Maine) was placed on Luke’s left wing with Jacob Paganelli (Princeton) on his right. The trio put up five points in the weekend series against the Magicians.
“They move the puck well and they work hard,” Notermann said of his new linemates. “It’s always easy to jump on a line when guys do that for you and I think we work well together right now.”
Grabowski rewarded Notermann’s strong play with a lot of ice time in his first two games with Austin and had rave reviews for what he saw.
“He was good both nights – he had opportunities to score – he’s good on the powerplay – he’s a real ‘hockey player.’ He has those elite qualities – his hockey IQ is very high. He skates really well and he has a gift for scoring goals.”
Notermann is committed to the Gophers for the start of the 2017-18 season, meaning one more season in Juniors. While the Bruins would love to keep him, it seems likely that he’s destined for the tier I level next year.
“I would imagine he will get drafted in the first round of the USHL draft,” said Grabowski, knowing his time with Notermann is likely limited. “He’s been a gifted goal scorer at every level. He scores in the elite league, he scores in high school, but [juniors] is a different level. To make sure he has translatable skills to junior hockey is what I can help him with.”
Sioux Falls took him in the 2015 USHL draft but does not hold his rights. Before getting too far ahead of himself however, Notermann is focused on the present and his time as an Austin Bruin, knowing that every step along the way is a learning experience and a chance to get even better.
“I’ve heard [the Robertson Cup] playoffs are really fun and really intense so I can’t wait for that to help me become a better player out there.”
From what everyone has seen so far, from Blaine to Austin to Minneapolis, he’s already a pretty good one.