Bulls name Russo new head coach
June 19, 2017
By Denis Puska, Amarillo Bulls
The Amarillo Bulls, Proud Members of the North American Hockey League, have announced that they have hired Rocky Russo as their fourth Head Coach in Franchise History.
A formal press conference/meet and greet will take place on Tuesday at 3 pm at Seven Grill and Bar located on Soncy Road in Amarillo. All fans and media are welcome to attend.
“It’s a humbling feeling to have the opportunity to be the Head Coach of such as prestigious organization,” said Rocky Russo. “With the ties that I have to the organization and the Amarillo community I thought it was a great fit. We are looking forward to do our best to getting Amarillo back to the level of prominence that is expected to our fans, community and CSH Organization.”
Russo was an Assistant Coach for the Bulls under Head Coach Dennis Williams for three seasons amassing a record of 153-41-20, Winning 2 South Division Regular season titles, 3 division playoff titles and earned 3 consecutive trips to the Robertson Cup National Tournament. The Bulls also won back to back President’s cup championships as NAHL regular season championships, finishing with a 46-7-7 record in back to back seasons and setting the NAHL regular season record at the time with 99 points. The Bulls culminated the 3 year run by winning the 2013 Robertson Cup National Championship.
During the past four years, Russo was the Head Coach of the Philly Little Flyers of the Eastern Hockey League where the program was quite successful posting a mark of 159-34-14-3 and advancing to two consecutive league championships. The Little Flyers were back-to-back-to-back Regular Season Champions, and four time EHL South Division Champions. This past season the Little Flyers won a record 30 games in a row and had a 33 game point streak. Russo was selected twice as EHL Coach of the Year.
“Obviously anytime you have the opportunity get extended Head Coaching experience that it helps to build character and decision making skills,” Russo. “It allowed me to take control of the organization from all parts that the Eastern Hockey League is extremely well run and that I was able to improve my necessary skill sets.”
Bulls Vice-President and General Manager Rick Matchett called it an exciting day for the organization. “This is an exciting day for the Amarillo Bulls to be able to bring Rocky back home!” Matchett said. “Rocky did an amazing job when he was here before and he’s had great success with the Flyers that we believe will continue in Amarillo for the 17-18 season. “The forward strides that were made last season will continue as Rocky and Tony will work to put the Amarillo Bulls back in the playoffs.”
The Amarillo Bulls made great strides during the 2016-17 season with a 24 point improvement in the standings. Russo said hats off to the Bulls Coaching Staff of Matt Nicholson and Tony Attanucci for getting things going in the right direction.
“We are going to do our best to build off of that and I know the next two and a half months are going to be very important from a decision of player personal stand point,” he said. “We are going to do our best to recruit top athletes that are great on the ice but also in the community and give back any way they can.”
Russo said fans can expect a hockey team that mimics the lifestyle of the people of the Texas Panhandle. “Our team will be hard working with a lot of fast paced physical play,” he said. “We are going to do our best to create offense and score goals as well as entertain our fans as best as we can. I know how tough the South Division is to play in and the Robertson Cup Champion Lone Star Brahmas will pose a huge threat throughout the year as well as the rest of the teams in our division. We are going to go back to the style that won us that Robertson Cup.”
Russo said he is appreciative of the Bulls and the CSH executives for believing in his abilities. “I want to thank Mr. (Bill) Yuill, Garry Davidson and Zoran Rajcic for giving me this opportunity,” he said. “I also want to thank Rick Matchett for being one of my big supporters and maintaining the friendship the four years that I have been gone. My family and friends and girlfriend Melissa who will be making the trip down to Amarillo and acclimating herself. The fans of the Texas Panhandle have been my biggest supporters so this is a journey we are taking together and I couldn’t be happier to represent Amarillo and the Bulls.”
Prior to joining the Bulls the first time, Russo was the assistant coach/director of scouting for the St. Louis Bandits in the NAHL. During his time in St. Louis, the Bandits won the South Division Playoff championship and advanced to the Robertson Cup National Tournament.
Before heading to St. Louis, Russo was the assistant coach/video coordinator for the Mahoning Valley Phantoms in his hometown of Youngstown, OH. While in Youngstown the Phantoms qualified for 4 consecutive Robertson Cups, including appearances in the National Championship game in 2007 and 2008.
He also served as the Head Coach/General Manager of the Youngstown State University Men’s hockey team. During his time with the Penguins the team won the 2006 CHA league championship. In 2007 Russo guided the team to a 18-14-4 record and entered the national rankings for the first time in the program’s history. The Penguins reached as high as #16 in the country that season, still the highest ranking the YSU men’s hockey program has achieved.
In total Rocky has coached and recruited 83 NCAA student athletes, including 63 at the NCAA Division I level. Rocky also Coach Brandon Saad, former Mahoning Valley Phantom, that went on to be the 43rd overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. Brandon was a member of the 2013 Stanley Cup Champions, and a finalist for the Calder Cup trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year.
Rocky played his college hockey at Kent State University, where he graduated from in 2005 with a degree in Business Management. The Golden Flashes played in 3 National Tournaments during his time with the University.