Leveling up: Dickinson High’s Kram, Martin find homes in junior hockey
Dickinson High's two highest scorers from the last boys hockey season are on their way to the next level.
Dickinson High graduate Jerzy Martin learned this week that he had earned a roster spot with the Estevan Bruins of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
And Dawson Kram — a Dickinson Trinity grad who played in the hockey co-op — took the next step forward in his own hockey career, signing with the Breezy Point North Stars, based in Breezy Point, Minn., of the North American Tier 3 Hockey League.
As both players make their respective leaps, Dickinson High head coach Dallas Kuntz said they will need the right mindset in order to succeed.
"Playing in a junior league is a grind," Kuntz said. "They're going to go from 25, 26 games a year to 55, 56 regular season games, plus the playoffs if they make it. If you're not playing a game, you're practicing. If you're not practicing or playing a game, you're in a gym working. In order for them to keep working and move on to a higher league and fulfill their goals, they have to show up every day knowing they're still not good enough. They have to know there are thousands of other kids working their butts off to move on. If they ever get to a point where they're satisfied where they're at, that's when problems start setting in. They have to never be satisfied."
Martin to the Bruins
The Bubble Bros are back in business.
Martin's decision to join the Bruins reunites him with former Midgets teammate Michael McChesney. While sharing the Dickinson ice, they (along with rising junior Ryan Bren) called their line the Bubble Bros as a reference to the model of facemask they all shared — instead of a wire cage, it was a clear shield that protected their face.
No longer in high school, they have aged out of having to wear a full facemask, so now they will sport clear visors, covering only their eyes. The nickname may no longer be usable, but Martin said he's grateful for the familiarity McChesney will provide.
"It's amazing because he knows how I play, and if he sees something I can do to improve or something I need to fix, he'll tell me right away," Martin said. "He's there to help me improve, and I'm there to see what he does."
Martin also said he will be roommates with McChesney for the upcoming season as they share the same billet family.
So far, he's adjusted pretty well to the hockey culture in Estevan. He joins teammates for post-practice meals at Black Beard's Restaurant; and two weeks ago, in the team's Gold and Black Game that pits returning players against star prospects at the team camp, he had quite the showing.
"I've been fortunate enough to make it (into the game) this year and last year, and this year I had a goal to tie it up and the game-winning goal in overtime," Martin said. "It was a great experience to play with some of the new guys and some returning players.
"Being able to score and play the way I was during those camps and the games was great because it just gave me more confidence that I'm becoming a better player and that I have a chance to play on this hockey team."
Martin led the Midgets with 37 total points as a senior at Dickinson High, leading Kuntz to believe this was the logical next step for him.
"I'm super proud of the kid," Kuntz said. "He's worked his butt off. I feel Jerzy's still growing, and I think this is just the beginning for him. ... His offensive skill is definitely a reason why he's there and that's where he's going to excel.
"He belongs in that league, he belongs at that level."
The Bruins season begins this Friday with a home game against the Melville Millionaires.
Kram to the North Stars
Kram's signing with Breezy Point also reunites him with a former teammate, Andrew Heckaman, a 2015 graduate entering his third year with the team.
Kram had been in contact with the head coach from the Granite City Lumberjacks, a team in the same league, but after he took the job with Breezy Point, Kram followed him there. Kram also said Heckaman put in a recommendation for him with the general manager, furthering the process. Heckaman was a senior on the DHS team when Kram was a sophomore.
"I went up and skated with them, thought it was a nice place to play and I thought it would be good for my development," Kram said. "I think it's pretty great to play there with some great guys, faster pace. I'm excited."
Kram, who won three Class B 100-meter dash titles and two 200-meter titles, has always been able to use his speed on the ice. He led the Midgets with 20 goals last season, and he hopes to find that same success as he moves on.
"I'm hoping I'm still able to use my speed to control the game on both ends of the ice, score a lot of goals, make things happen and help my team win," he said.
Kuntz envisions a quick transition for Kram at the next level.
"Dawson's a goal scorer," he said. "He played defense for us about two years and a lot of that reason was his recovery speed, but through and through, the guy's got a wicked shot, he sees the net well. Last year was kind of a coming out party for him."
Kram said he hopes that performing well at this level will prepare him for more hockey down the line. He skated for a few teams but decided that the North Stars were the best fit. Breezy Point also begins its season this Friday with a home game against the Alexandria Blizzard.
"I felt more at home at Breezy. I felt the practices pushed me more to make me a better player. I thought the competition would be better," Kram said. "I think it's great I'm one of the people that gets to keep playing their childhood dream, and I'm going to try to do that for as long as I can."
Other DHS hockey notes
Heckaman, who Kuntz described as "a big, solid defenseman," has scored eight times in 84 games for the North Stars in his two years with the team. He has also recorded 34 assists.
That's a body of work that Kuntz believes will get Heckaman, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, a few looks from colleges.
"After this last year of juniors, he's going to have the opportunity to go on and play Division III or ACHA college club hockey," Kuntz said. "He's got a few universities — I don't know which ones — that are already after him."
Elsewhere, former Dickinson High player Tim Knudson committed over the summer to play in the American Collegiate Hockey Association with the University of Northern Colorado, based in Greeley.
After graduating high school, Knudson played two seasons at Dakota College of Bottineau, which won the NJCAA national championship in 2015-16. He took a year off of hockey last year before committing to the Bears.
"Timmy's probably one of the most smooth skaters I've ever been around or coached," Kuntz said. "I only got to coach him one year at the high school level, but I did coach him a little bit at Bantams. When he was young, the best strategy to win a game was to get the puck to Timmy and get out of his way. He's one of the best youth hockey players, along with Michael McChesney, that just had it at a very early stage.
"Northern Colorado, where he's going, that's a good program. I'd put it on par with any Division III hockey program."