23 in 23 Series: Brookings Blizzard
August 18, 2017
The 23 in 23 series features a look at all 23 teams in the NAHL for the 2017-18 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 23 in 23 looks into each NAHL team and will include video interviews with 23 coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
Head Coach: Moe Mantha (1st year)
2016-17 record: 30-25-5, 65 pts. (3rd in the Central Division)
2016-17 leading scorer: Paul Cotter (60 points)
2017 Playoffs: Lost to the Minnesota Wilderness in the Central Division Semi-Finals, 3 games to 2
2017-18 Division: Central
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 20th vs. Odessa Jackalopes
Home opener: Saturday, September 30th vs. Aberdeen Wings
The 2016-17 season was a topsy-turvy one for the Brookings Blizzard, but ultimately one that was very successful for the Brookings Blizzard. The team’s 30-win season was the most wins since the 2012-13 season and the Blizzard ended up with the #3 seed heading into the Central Division playoffs. In the playoffs, the Blizzard would meet the Minnesota Wilderness and the series was an instant classic. Like a good prize fight, the two clubs traded blows and the Blizzard, who found them selves down 1-0 and 2-1 managed to storm back to tie the series at 2-2 to force a 5th and final game. The Blizzard jumped out to a 3-2 lead, but ultimately could not hang on and fell 6-3 to see their season come to a close.
Besides the nine NCAA commitments the team had during the 2016-17 season, the Blizzard also boasted the NAHL Rookie of the Year in forward Paul Cotter. Cotter, 17, had one of the best seasons for a young rookie in recent memory. The native of Canton, Michigan, led the Blizzard in scoring during the season with 60 points, which included 28 goals and 32 assists. Following the Showcase in late September, Cotter made his NCAA Division I commitment to Western Michigan University. His 60 points was the most for a Blizzard player since the 2010-11 season.
However, despite the 30-win season, the winds of change swept through Brookings in the off season as the club decided not to renew the contract of head coach Dan Daikawa, who had been with the team for the past three seasons. Enter veteran coach Moe Mantha, who comes to the Blizzard with a wealth of experience both playing and coaching throughout many levels of pro and amateur hockey.
Mantha coached for four years in the NAHL with stints for the USNTDP in Ann Arbor and most recently with the NAHL’s Michigan Warriors. Mantha led the Warriors to the 2011 NAHL Robertson Cup National Championship game, where they fell to the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, 4-2.
“I have a great deal of respect for what the North American Hockey League does in terms of advancing careers for their players, coaches, and staff members. In Brookings, I look forward to working with the players, and staff in continuing to build and develop community relations. Our players will strive for success both on and away from the ice, and I will do all I can for them to make their dreams a reality, and help them reach higher levels of hockey,” said Mantha.
The Blizzard also brought on a new assistant coach, Brock Wilson, who was in town for the NAHL coaches meetings in August. “Both Moe and I share a vision of developing and moving guys onto the NCAA. Moe is an amazing hockey mind and I think our personalities match very well,” said Wilson. “From the coaching staff on down, it is about showing up at the rink everyday prepared to do your best and giving 110%. While winning is a big priority for the Blizzard, I think the underlying mission of our team and league is to develop, prepare and get players committed to the NCAA.”
While the Blizzard will have some returners to the club in 2017-18, the majority of the roster will be made up of new players. Two of the new players that Wilson identified as those who he is excited about are Josh Boyer and Max Sasson. Boyer comes to the Blizzard after playing in the NAPHL last season for the St. Louis Selects 18U team and also for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the NAHL. Sasson, 16, is a University of Maine commit, who had 38 points in 31 games for the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies 16U team last season.
“We want to be a fast, in your face kind of team this season. We want to be a team that is able to possess the puck and win those little battles. We are looking for guys that are going to come to the rink with their lunch pails, hard hats and ready to work hard,” said Wilson. “Every player’s path is different and the NAHL is an amazing league to make those dreams come true, whether you are an older or younger player.”
Next up in the 23 in 23 series: Corpus Christi IceRays