A pair of Steele County Blades newcomers had notable debuts in a season-opening win for the junior hockey team based in Owatonna. Noah LaFleur had a hat trick and Levi Preugschas made 39 saves in goal in a 5-2 win over the Minnesota Blue Ox in Coon Rapids.

LaFleur, playing in his first-ever junior game, was quick to thank and credit his linemates for his memorable first game, "There's only one way to start one and that's full speed for me. And that's what I did. And I was fortunate enough to have a good group of guys behind me. It's not tough to go in there and try and make a play, to trust in these guys."

Brody Ward (Annandale, MN) assisted on two of his goals and scored a pair himself. LaFleur is playing on a line with Brady Rossbach (New Berlin, WI) and Arturas Laurynavichus (Minsk, Belarus), "I think everybody was just really amped up for the first game," LaFleur added. "Preseason. A couple of scrimmages...But there's nothing like the real deal, especially when we've got a good group of guys here."

LaFleur moved to Wisconsin in about eighth grade after living in Alaska. Hear his full interview below.

Noah LaFleur

Preugschas landed Player of the Week honors with his solid night in goal. It's his second year of junior hockey after playing in New York in the USPHL last season and comes from a hockey family. His father was also a goalie, paving a clear path for his role in the crease. He is also proud to be an assistant captain, "I'm taking that with a chip on my shoulder. So I can lead these guys on the team in the right direction."

The team has a significant international feel, "There are some guys that speak a little less English than others. We all work together. We have our own little translators. We use our teammates to help us out."

Levi Preugschas

Blades coach Nick Adamek told the USPHL.com website, "We have a highly optimistic group coming in from all over the globe. By far the most international flair we've ever had. We have players from Czechia, Hungary, Australia, South Korea, Russia, Belarus, and Canada (and of course the USA). All are ready to bring it every night.

Steele County plays at the Minnesota Mullets Friday, September 30  at 7 pm at the Augsburg Ice Arena. The Mullets topped the Blades 3-1 last Sunday. The Blades go to the expansion Minnesota Squatch in Elk River Saturday, October 1, and open their home schedule on Friday, October 7 against Isanti at the Four Seasons Centre in Owatonna.

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