24 in 24 Series: Brookings Blizzard
August 23, 2014
The 24 Teams in 24 Days series features a look at all 24 teams in the NAHL for the 2014-15 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season on Friday, September 12th as six NAHL teams take to the ice on Opening Night. 24 in 24 will go in-depth into each NAHL team and will include interviews with all 24 head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the 2014-15 season, including taking a look at their roster and their strengths as a team. It will also take a look back on the 2013-14 season and how each team fared and what they accomplished. Best of all, 24 in 24 is done to provide the fans of the NAHL with an inside look at their favorite team and what to expect.
Head Coach: Dan Daikawa (1st year)
2013-14 record: 18-34-8, 44 pts. (5th in the Central Division)
2013-14 leading scorer: Evan Hesse (58 GP, 16 G, 28 A, 44 pts, -19)
2014 Playoffs: Did not qualify
2014-15 Division: Central
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 17th vs. Springfield Jr. Blues, 8:00pm
Home opener: Saturday, September 27th vs. Aberdeen Wings, 7:15pm
After 32 wins and a spot in the playoffs during the 2012-13 season, last season did not go as planned for the Brookings Blizzard. The Blizzard began the season winless in their first 10 games and were behind the 8-ball from the start. It wasn’t until December that the Blizzard showed signs of hope as they won some key games against those at the top of the Central Division, but by then it was too late for Brookings, who finished with 18 wins and in last place in the division.
With the off-season came a change at head coach. Cory Laylin, who had coached the Blizzard during the past two seasons, accepted a job as the head coach of Hamline University, an NCAA Division III team. On April 24th, the Blizzard announced the hiring of Dan Daikawa as the club’s new head coach moving forward into the 2014-15 season. Daikawa is no stranger to coaching in the NAHL. Last season, he was an assistant for the Minnesota Wilderness. Prior to that, he was the head coach and general manager of the Jamestown Ironmen of the NAHL for two seasons. In 2012-13 he lead the Ironmen to a 37-19-4 regular season record, won the North Division Playoffs, and took his team to the Robertson Cup. This past season the Wilderness finished second in the West Division in their first season in the NAHL.
Daikawa said that he hopes to take what he learned in both Jamestown and Minnesota and translate that into a successful run in Brookings. “Every one wants to be a head coach, but I thought last year was a great experience with the Wilderness. I think most importantly, I have had three straight years of coaching in the NAHL and each of those years has taught me something new.”
Daikawa said that when he arrived in town after accepting the job, he knew that the turnover on the roster was going to be extensive. “We new we were going to replace a lot of players. The good news is the majority of that was because of the number of NCAA commitments from last year’s group, but after that group and the guys aging out, we ended up with only six guys who were a part of last year’s team that are coming back this year,” said Daikawa. “So the priority was getting players and getting some guys with junior experience. We just wanted to build a core group of guys that had some junior experience and understand this level.”
In building a team for this season, the needs for the Blizzards were in all three areas, but Daikawa wanted to start from the net out. Entering training camp, the Blizzard have three goalies who will be competing for two spots. They include Eric Hancock, who played in Odessa last year, Justin Ketola, who was with the Omaha 18U team in the NAPHL last year and another goalie from Norway. “I think it is going to promote some healthy competition among the three and we will see who steps up and grabs the role,” said Daikawa.
Brookings was second to last in scoring last season, which is why the offense was another need to address. Jared Goudreau will return to the line-up after tied for the team lead in goals last season with 16. Brandon Bistodeau is another forward who Daikawa expects big things out of after playing out East last season. Daikawa also mentioned that the team has two Swedish-born forwards who played in a top league in Sweden last year.
Daikawa’s message to the players to begin the year is very clear. “We want to get better every day. At the same time, I am trying to find hockey players who are going to buy into what we are trying to do here. I think getting that sense of team cohesiveness is very important,” said Daikawa. “I am starting early and bringing the guys in a little sooner than normal because the first week is very important for team-building. We take the first four days of camp when the guys get into town and just do things off the ice that help them get to know one another and start to become a unit. I think after that is established, then we have them a little more comfortable once they hit the ice.”
As for goals, Daikawa said that he is trying to keep things simple to start the season and play well enough where the team can be a factor at the end of the regular season. “We want to make the playoffs, pure and simple. Once you get in the dance, anything can happen. I think the team I coached in Jamestown two years ago proved that. No one expected us to go through and win the North Division Playoffs, but we got hot at the right time and didn’t have many injuries. So often at that time of year, it isn’t the top team that moves on, but the team that is on a roll, has some momentum and stays away from injuries.
“I think the league is at a really good point right now and I feel fortunate to be one of 24 head coaches. I think the league is starting to see the younger players play with and develop at the same rate and level as the older players,” said Daikawa. “The bottom line is, after leaving our league a year older, a year wiser and more developed, they go into the next levels of hockey ready to contribute right away. That is something we need to continue to do from our end and continue to promote.”
Next up in the NAHL 24 in 24 series: Corpus Christi IceRays, August 24th