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Lehrke signs pro contract with CHL team

Tyler Lehrke, shown celebrating a goal against Miami of Ohio last season, recently signed a professional contract to play hockey for the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees of the Central Hockey League.

When Tyler Lehrke began playing hockey at the age of 7, his dream was to become a professional hockey player.

That dream has come true.

Lehrke signed to play for the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees of the Central Hockey League, which is a mid-level professional minor hockey league. The Killer Bees play at the State Farm Arena in Hidalgo, Texas.

"Tyler is a kid that I targeted as soon as our 2009-10 season ended," said Killer Bees head coach Chris Brooks in a press release. "I've seen him play since he was 15. He fits with the culture of our team. He is a smart and hardworking player that has been well coached through junior hockey and college. He wants to play at the highest level he can possibly play at and deciding to play in Rio Grande Valley is the first step in helping him chase his dreams."

"It's always been a dream of mine (to play professional hockey)," said Lehrke, who graduated from Park Rapids Area High School in 2004. "(Brooks) called me a week after the (BSU) season ended. I weighed out my options and picked Rio Grande Valley. I am extremely excited to head down south to play for the Killer Bees. They have a first-class organization and I want to do everything I can to help the team win and succeed."

The Killer Bees begin their eighth season in the CHL on Oct. 15. Rio Grande Valley finished sixth in the eight-team Southern Conference last season with a 27-27-10 record.

The CHL, which begins its 19th season, will merge with the International Hockey League this season to create an 18-team league. To date, 88 players have advanced from the CHL to the NHL.

Rio Grande Valley will remain in the Southern Conference with the Allen Americans, Arizona Sundogs, Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs, Laredo Bucks, Mississippi RiverKings, Odessa Jackalopes, Texas Brahmas and Tulsa Oilers. The Northern Conference consists of the Bloomington PrairieThunder, Colorado Eagles, Dayton Gems, Evansville IceMen, Fort Wayne Komets, Missouri Mavericks, Quad City Mallards, Rapid City Rush and Wichita Thunder. Rapid City won the Ray Miron Presidents' Cup title last season. The Killer Bees will play 66 regular-season games this year with 16 of the 18 teams making the playoffs.

Playing for a professional team is just another step in Lehrke's remarkable hockey career.

Lehrke graduated from Park Rapids as the all-time leading scorer with 89 goals and 103 assists for 192 points. He still holds the school record for career assists and is second behind Zach Lehrke's 113 goals and 212 points.

In two seasons of junior hockey for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL, Lehrke played in 112 games and had 18 goals and 25 assists for 43 points.

Lehrke moved on to Bemidji State University where he helped the Beavers reach the Frozen Four for the first time in school history as a junior in 2009. In four seasons at BSU, Lehrke tallied 18 goals and 28 assists for 46 points in 123 games. Lehrke had nine goals and 15 assists for 24 points as a senior.

"I'm just going to do my best, try to adjust and be productive," said Lehrke. "I'm going to take it a year at a time and see how it goes. I'm going to try to play at the highest level I can."