24 in 24: Bismarck Bobcats
August 16, 2018
The 24 in 24 series features a look at all 24 teams in the NAHL for the 2018-19 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 24 in 24 looks into each NAHL team and will include video interviews with 24 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: Layne Sedevie (9th year)
2017-18 record: 24-30-6, 54 pts. (5th in the Central Division)
2017-18 leading scorer: Adam Stacho, Andrew Bellant (41 pts.)
2018 Playoffs: Did not qualify
2018-19 Division: Central
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 19th vs. Kenai River Brown Bears
Home opener: Friday, October 5th vs. Minot Minotauros
The Bismarck Bobcats find themselves in unfamiliar territory entering the 2018-19 season. The Bobcats have been the model of consistency and success on the ice since their arrival in the NAHL back in 2003, but after narrowly missing the playoffs the past two seasons, a renewed focus and drive has been the focus of the team heading into this season.
That Bobcats were in the thick of the playoff race is the always-tight Central Division in 2017-18, however, losses in their final nine games of the regular season led to their undoing and absence from the post-season. There were plenty of bright spots for the Bobcats despite missing out on the playoffs, most notably finishing the season with 11 players committed to NCAA schools, including nine NCAA Division I commitments.
“Our division and league parity overall has grown to the point where making the playoffs has become a huge battle every season and we can’t take anything for granted. The last two years have proven that for us. Everyone is well coached and teams are full of depth. It is a gauntlet that you have to navigate every year and I think when you look at the competition at the Showcase, the Top Prospects Tournament or the Robertson Cup, everyone is so closely matched that the difference between 1st place and missing out on the playoffs is a very fine line and may be a matter of a bounce or two in a game,” said Bobcats head coach Layne Sedevie.
“I think the biggest change in my nine years as a head coach is that the game is now at the point to where there are no easy games and every team has top-level talent. The buzz surrounding our league is real and is consistently growing. That is something we hear consistently from the NCAA coaches. Our league is the best it has ever been because everyone involved from owners, to coaches, to players, to staff, is working to develop players and the proof has been in the rise in NCAA commitments across the board,” stated Sedevie.
As is often the case with the Bobcats, one of their strengths as they open the 2018-19 season is between the pipes with veteran goalies John Roberts and Ryan Ullan. They follow in a long line of Bobcats goalies who have not only developed and had success in the NAHL, but then have seen that success grow in the NCAA and beyond. Roberts will be entering his third season playing in the NAHL and enters the year with a career save percentage of .923 in NAHL play. Ullan, who is committed to Northern Michigan, played the entire season last year as a 17-year-old and recently attended the USA Hockey Warren Strelow National Goaltender’s Camp.
As for the rest of the roster, the Bobcats were looking for the right kind of players to go along a veteran group that Sedevie is very excited about. “Not only do we have some good veteran guys coming back, but they are guys who were major contributors last season and are the right kind of guys in the lockerroom for team chemistry,” said Sedevie. “We are looking for the best team possible we can put on the ice, but more importantly, we are looking for players with the right kind of character. We take a lot of pride in moving them on, but also seeing them grow as young men.”
Some of those veterans returning include forward Adam Stacho, who tied for the Bobcats scoring lead in 2017-18 with 41 points and was also selected to the All-Central Division Rookie Team. Also returning are forwards Alex Pollock (30 points), Mitchell Walinski (16 points), and Jacob Marti (16 points). Along the blueline Sam Malinski (10 points) will be one of the key veterans. “We are excited about the group we have coming in and I think we are going to see some additional new players on the roster that have some junior experience, along with some guys that we selected in the draft,” said Sedevie.
“Getting back to the playoffs is priority #1 because if you look at what Minot did last year and Aberdeen did the season before, they were teams who got in the playoffs in the final spot and by the end of it were a goal or two away from potentially winning a Robertson Cup,” said Sedevie.
Next up in the 24 in 24 series: Brookings Blizzard