You couldn’t script a better season than what the Bismarck Bobcats drew up a year ago.
After winning the Central Division’s regular-season and playoff championships, the team went on to win its first-ever Robertson Cup while moving nearly 20 players onto NCAA hockey.
The Bobcats, however, know full well that kind of success won’t just fall into their laps this time around.
“So far we’ve had a decent start, but we’re a young team and have a lot of new faces,” said head coach Layne Sedevie, Bismarck’s head coach whose team owns a 7-6-1 record in the Central, tied for first in the division with Coulee Region.
Indeed the ‘Cat roster is green, with only four returning players - forwards Brett Bower, Bryce Schmitt and Emerson Auvenshine, along with goaltender Ryan Faragher - mentoring this season’s charges for another shot at duplicating last year’s good fortunes.
“That’s the biggest challenge we’ve faced,” Sedevie said of his team’s inexperience. “But I think that with our returning players being our leaders and helping out some of our younger guys, we’ve definitely made progress and are going in the right direction.”
Faragher headlines the Bobcats’ short list of vets. An All-Central Division Team selection a year ago, the 20-year-old from Fort Francis, Ontario, holds a 4-6-1 mark to go along with a 2.09 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage in 11 appearances this season.
If there’s one player who knows what it’s like to shine when the stage is at its brightest, it’s Faragher, who will take his talents to Dartmouth College (ECAC) next season.
“Being in those situations last year and leading his team to a Robertson Cup has definitely helped this team so far,” said Sedevie. “His work ethic, on and off the ice, is what we want to instill in our guys as a group.”
Among the newcomers, forward Charlie Mosey has wasted little time acclimating to the rigors of the NAHL. The 19-year-old from Prior Lake, Minn., leads the team in scoring with 16 points (six goals) and has five in his last six games.
“He’s a good skater and he’s great with the puck,” said Sedevie. “He’s been a go-to guy for us this year.”
Another first-year Bobcat, Matt Gates, 20, has done an excellent job guiding his younger mates, on and off the ice. He’s also chipped in on the scoresheet to the tune of six goals and four assists in 12 games.
“He’s an older guy who’s come in and taken on a leadership role,” said Sedevie. “His performance is showing up on the ice as well.”
In his first season as the team’s head coach after serving as an assistant last year, Sedevie is adjusting to a new role himself. The transition, he says, has been relatively smooth.
“It’s gone went well so far,” he said. “I think it’ll definitely be a learning process, but definitely a challenge I’m looking forward to.”
And that task includes molding his hard-working Bobcats into contenders again this year while getting his players plenty of attention from the collegiate ranks.
“I think that if we can establish ourselves early as a hardworking, blue-collar club, we’ll continue to get better and keep making progress in the right direction,” he said.
CENTRAL DIVISION NOTEBOOK
ABERDEEN WINGS: Goaltender Frederick Leisner backstopped the Wings to a two-game sweep over Alexandria last weekend, turning said 74 of 80 shots. The 18-year-old from Garland, Texas, has been in net for all five of Aberdeen’s wins.
ALEXANDRIA BLIZZARD: Forwards Adam Knochenmus (two goals), an 18-year-old from Roseau, Minn., and Alex Altenbernd (two assists), a 20-year-old from Moorhead, Minn., each picked up two points in the Blizzard's 5-2 loss to Aberdeen last Friday.
AUSTIN BRUINS: Trevor Waldoch, a defenseman from Forest Lake, Minn., came through with four assists in the Bruins' 7-4 victory over Owatonna on Friday. The 18-year-old has a goal and five assists through 10 games.
COULEE REGION CHILL: The Chill hosted a father-son trip during its swing through Bismarck last weekend. Eighteen dads rode the team bus, ate at the team’s pre-game meals and shared hotel rooms with their sons. “The dads had a great experience,” said head coach Garrett Strot. “They got to spend time with their sons and see what it’s like on the road.”
OWATONNA EXPRESS: Forward Andy Singerhouse is on a scoring tear, picking up nine points (goal, eight assists) in his last four games. The 20-year-old from Hudson, Wis., has a goal and 11 assists in nine contests on the season.