Menghini has battled through injuries, found comfort zone with Austin Bruins
Anthony Menghini needed little time to become a prolific goal scorer in the North American Hockey League. The Brainerd native and former standout at Northstar Christian Academy in Alexandria has a team-leading 20 goals, as well as 31 points, in 37 games for the playoff-bound Bruins.
AUSTIN, Minn. — Anthony Menghini never doubted that he would work his way back into hockey shape.
But as he sat in the stands much of last season, recovering from two severe ankle injuries, the standout hockey player at Northstar Christian Academy in Alexandria couldn’t help but wonder when luck would be back on his side.
In November of 2020, his senior year, Menghini suffered two torn ligaments in his left ankle, which kept him out of action for three months. He meticulously worked his way back only to suffer three torn ligaments in his right ankle three weeks later. That injury required surgery and kept him out another three months.
“It was super frustrating,” the Brainerd native said. “Those were my first two big injuries that ever caused me to have to sit out a good amount of time. It was really hard to adjust and deal with, but my parents and family were really supportive and I just battled through it.”
Though Menghini knew his chances of getting selected in the USHL Draft were slim or none due to missing almost all of his senior season, he pushed through the rehabilitation process twice, knowing that he likely had a place to play in the 2021-22 season.
Menghini had signed a tender with the North American Hockey League’s Austin Bruins during his senior year of high school, so he rehabbed and prepared with the idea of making an impact in the NAHL this season. He still had to prove himself at the Bruins’ main tryout camp last summer, though, in order to make the team.
The speedy and powerful 5-foot-10, 175-pound forward not only impressed the Bruins at that camp, he impressed some other scouts in attendance.
“My plan was always to come (to Austin) to play,” Menghini said, “so I came here to main camp, then the GM from Des Moines (of the USHL) saw me and gave me an opportunity to go out there to play.”
Menghini couldn’t pass it up. The left-shot forward played in 16 games for the Buccaneers between late September and late November, recording two goals and an assist. He was let go a week before his 19th birthday, and was happy to immediately return to Austin, where he knew he would be a big part of the Bruins’ offense.
“(Des Moines) decided it would be in my best interest to come back here, where I could play,” Menghini said. “I’ve loved being here.”
Menghini’s comfort level has shown on the scoresheet and in his work ethic.
Bruins goalie Klayton Knapp — whom Mengini said is his best friend on the team — said Menghini is constantly smiling and is making the most of his time in Austin, on and off the ice.
Menghini played in just 37 of Austin’s 60 regular season games, but the pure goal scorer tied for the team lead in goals (20) with captain and fourth-year Bruin Carson Riddle.
Menghini has added 11 assists, for 31 total points, the fifth-most on the team. He also has been a standout on specialty teams, leading Austin with four short-handed goals and he sits second on the team with five power-play goals. His shooting percentage of 19.0% (20 goals on 105 shots) is the best among Bruins who’ve played in at least half of the team’s games.
He has one of Austin’s top offensive threats down the stretch in the regular season, with seven points in the final five regular season games and 10 points in the final nine games. A simple conversation with Bruins coach Steve Howard back in December gave Menghini confidence and set him on the right course.
“My playing style is a little unique,” he said. “Normally if someone is fast, they’re looked at as just a skill player, but I feel like I also have the toughness side of things. I’m big, bulky.
“I like to shoot the puck. … I had a meeting with (Howard) when I first got here and hadn’t been very successful in the first couple of weeks. He said ‘just start shooting the puck more.’ So every time I have the puck, I shoot to score, and that’s been working well.”
What: North American Hockey League Central Division playoffs; best-of-5 semifinal series
Who: No. 2 seed Austin Bruins (31-23-6) vs. No. 3 Aberdeen Wings (31-24-5)
Season series: Austin is 8-3-1 against Aberdeen this season
Tickets: Available at Games People Play or HyVee in Austin, and at AustinBruins.com
PLAYOFF SERIES SCHEDULE
Game 1: Friday, Aberdeen at Austin, 7:05 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday, Aberdeen at Austin, 7:05 p.m.
Game 3: April 29, Austin at Aberdeen, 7:15 p.m.
x-Game 4: April 30, Austin at Aberdeen, 7:15 p.m.
x-Game 5: May 2, Aberdeen at Austin, 7:35 p.m.
x — if necessary