by John Peterson
On the heels of its first Robertson Cup Finals appearance in franchise history, the Austin Bruins have seen three players commit to NCAA Division I schools in the two months since season’s end. The third, Sam Kauppila (Gurnee, IL), announced his commitment Tuesday to St. Lawrence University in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC).
Kauppila was the Bruins’ 2013 first round draft pick, and instantly made an impact in his rookie season in Austin. In 42 regular season games, he scored ten goals and added six assists, including two short-handed goals and two game-winners. After missing the entire Central Division Semifinals series due to an injury, he erupted for seven points (4-3–7) in ten playoff games during the Bruins run to the finals.
In his return to the lineup in Game 1 of the Central Division Finals against the Bismarck Bobcats, Kauppila provided the overtime heroics at Riverside Arena in Austin. The following weekend, with the Bruins’ on the brink of elimination, he scored two goals in a do-or-die Game 4 on the road in Bismarck to help force Game 5.
Back in February, Kauppila scored two goals in two games for the NAHL 18U Selects Team at the Top Prospects Tournament in Troy, MI. He was one of six Bruins who participated in that tournament, and the only one under 18-years-old. Less than one month after turning 18 on May 12, he graduated from Austin High School.
Before joining the Bruins last season, Kauppila played for Chicago Mission of the High Performance Hockey League (HPHL), the same program that produced Austin defenseman Jake Arroyo (Bolingbrook, IL).
Last week, Bruins veteran center Easton Viitala (Marquette, MI) announced he’d be joining the Northern Michigan University program in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) next season. A month prior, forward/defenseman Lucas Kohls committed to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell in the Hockey East Conference. In total, nine Austin players from last year’s roster have earned Division I college commitments, as well as two former Bruins who spent last season in the United States Hockey League (USHL).
St. Lawrence competes in the same conference as the last two NCAA National Champions, Yale University (2013) and Union College (2014). Kauppila won’t head out to Canton, NY just yet to join the Saints. In all likelihood, he’ll spend next season either with the Bruins or the Green Bay Gamblers, who have his rights in the USHL. Down the road, look for Kauppila to make an impact at the collegiate level with his physical style of play and a knack at finding the back of the net.