By John Peterson
Another Austin Bruins and NAHL player will add to the growing pipeline to the fast-rising University of Massachusetts-Lowell program to play his college hockey. Wednesday, forward/defenseman Lucas Kohls (Forest Lake, MN) announced his commitment to the RiverHawks, who compete in the Hockey East Conference.
Kohls becomes the fourth Bruin in the last three years to commit to UMass-Lowell, following Christian Folin (Gothenburg, Sweden), C.J. Smith (Richfield, MN) and 2013-14 teammate Guillaume Leclerc (Franois, France).
The 20-year-old was one of just two players on the Bruins roster to play in every regular season and playoff game this season. The other was Austin’s captain Josh Bretner (N. Potomac, MD). Kohls tallied 41 points in 74 games, including 18 goals and 23 assists while bouncing around from forward to defense. He was also a mainstay at the point on the Bruins’ power-play all season.
Kohls also was selected to play in the 2014 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament as he helped Team Central win the event by going undefeated with a 2-0 record. Kohls had an assist in the two wins. UMass-Lowell was in attendance to watch Kohls during the event.
In one of the most memorable games of the Bruins’ playoff run to its first-ever trip to the Robertson Cup Finals, Kohls provided the tying goal and game-winner 81 minutes and 15 seconds apart in Game 4 of the Central Division Semifinals in Minot to eliminate the Minotauros. His goal at 17:58 of triple overtime capped the longest game in North American Hockey League (NAHL) history.
Before landing in Austin for his final season of junior hockey eligibility, Kohls gained NAHL experience during the 2012-13 season, playing 34 games for the Kenai River Brown Bears and 16 games for the now-defunct Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings. The year prior, he racked up 45 points in 27 games as a senior at Forest Lake High School in Minnesota.
Now Kohls will have an opportunity to succeed at a program that has become a force in Division I college hockey the past few seasons. The RiverHawks are a year removed from their first-ever NCAA Frozen Four appearance, and made the NCAA Regional Finals this season. Folin, a sophomore defenseman for Lowell this year, signed with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild as a free-agent at season’s end, making him the first former Bruin to sign an NHL contract.
In the next few years, there’s a good chance three former Bruins could be wearing the Pigment Blue and Persian Red jerseys at the same time in Massachusetts. Leclerc, who committed at the beginning of the season, and Smith, who did so last season, could soon join Kohls out east when ready. The Bruins/RiverHawks pipeline is stronger than ever.