Many hockey players have family roots in the sport. That holds true for forwards Connor Movalli (Boston, MA) and Charlie Smith (Waterdown, Ontario). Each player is in his second season with the Steele County Blades junior hockey team. The club returns to home ice for games at Four Seasons Centre in Owatonna Friday, January 14 versus the Minnesota Mullets and Saturday, January 15 against the Minnesota Moose.

The Blades are also quickly approaching their history-making appearance as part of Hockey Day Minnesota in Mankato. Steele County will face the Mullets at Blakeslee Stadium on the Minnesota State University-Mankato campus on Sunday, January 23 at 4:30 pm. It is the first time a junior hockey game has been featured as part of the longtime Minnesota tradition.

Movalli has never played an outdoor game before and is looking forward to the chance. He says players have been discussing ways to stay warm for the event. Movalli joined the Blades in January 2021. He brother Justin played with the team previously.

Steele County player Connor Movalli

Movalli (12 goals, 11 assists) was named to the Premier All Star Team for the division by the Dan K Show. Defenseman Evan Axell (5 goals, 17 assists) was also recognized.

Smith (12 goals, 16 assists) found his way to southern Minnesota for the 2020-21 season as Canadian leagues were shutting down due to COVID. Junior hockey saw limitations in the U.S. but played a full, albeit abbreviated season last winter.

While his dad and brother were both goalies, Smith quickly realized his skills leant better to scoring goals than stopping pucks.

Smith played in an outdoor game in his youth hockey days during a big event in Canada that he has fond memories of and talks about in the following interview.

Blades player Charlie Smith

Entering this weekend, the Blades are fifth in the Midwest West division standings of the United States Premier Hockey League. They are tied with the Mullets, who they play on Friday, January 14. Steele County is five points behind the Moose, who they play Saturday, January 15. Each game is at 7 pm in Owatonna.

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