NA Now: Jamestown Rebels
The NA Now series features a look at all teams in the NAHL for the 2021-22 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. NA Now looks into each NAHL team including interviews with all the head 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: Joe Coombs (8th Season)
2020-21 record: Did not play
2021-22 Division: East
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 15th vs. Springfield Jr. Blues
Home opener: Friday, September 24th vs. New Jersey Titans
After taking a year off because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Jamestown Rebels return to the NAHL for the 2021-22 season. Behind the bench and leading the way is head coach Joe Coombs, who returns for his eighth season as an NAHL head coach.
The last time the Rebels were in action was during the 2019-20 campaign when the season was interrupted in mid-March by the pandemic. At that time, the Rebels were in the thick of the East Division playoff race and playing some of their best hockey of the season. Prior to the cancelation of the season, the Rebels had strung together an impressive record of seasons, which included Robertson Cup appearances in 2016 and 2017, winning the East Division regular season crown in 2017-18, and qualifying for the playoffs in every season since their move to the East Division in 2015-16.
“I think last year was the right decision. It was very difficult not to be playing and isolated away from the game, but I think the circumstances for us to play were just not there. As difficult as it was not to play, it would have been just as difficult to play. We were a pretty good hockey team when the season shut down in the Spring of 2020, so we have been chomping at the bit to get back,” said Coombs. “We are excited to be back. We have worked very hard to put together a roster for this season, which essentially is starting over like an expansion team. It is going to take some time to really get to where we want to be.”
"I think the teams in the NAHL that do well have the right amount and a good group of veteran players. We think we have a nice group of young players, who may lack a little experience, but are certainly going to have the opportunity to get their feet wet. I focused a little more on getting some guys with size. The NAHL tends to have some bigger players, and we weren’t very big during the 2019-20 season, and I know that the bigger and stronger players tend to do well in this league, so we focused on that. I think we enter this year a little more skilled that we were that last time we touched the ice," said Coombs.
The Rebels will have a familiar face in the line-up the Coombs will look to right away for leadership in 20-year-old forward Brett Morich. The 6’0/194 lbs. native of Evanston, IL, played in the NAHL with the Rebels during the 2019-20 season. “Brett is an absolutely wonderful guy. He is so prepared on and off the ice. He is going to be a great guy to help in the lockerroom with the younger guys this season,” said Coombs.
“With a division like the East, it is solid from top to bottom, so I expect to have some bumps and challenges, but I fully believe we can be a playoff team in 2021-22. I think a good example is what a team like Wichita Falls did last season. Garrett Roth is a good friend and I respect what they were able to do from scratch and the success they had last season. We know early in the year is going to be challenging, but it’s a long year. Where is start is not as important as how we grow as a team and how we are playing when we finish at the end of the season. I don’t think on September 1st we will be there, but by the end of the season we have the expectation to be in the mix and be a playoff team.”
Some other players with junior experience on the Rebels roster to start the season include forward Emerick Nadeau, who had 46 points with Cornwall in the CCHL during the 2019-20 campaign. The Rebels also acquired forward and UMass commit John Lundy from the Austin Bruins. Last season, Lundy had 23 points in 41 games played.
“You could have 14-15 veterans and they could not be right ones. We are just looking for the right ones, so I know we will need to acquire a few more in August and September. We are just going to take it a day at a time and see what happens,” said Coombs. “You could go 0-4 at the Showcase and you could go 4-0. I have been on both sides. You aren’t handing out any trophies or cups at the end of the event, so we are really using to make some final decisions on players, gauge where we are as a team, and what we need to do to get better as we head into competition in the East Division.”
Next up: Janesville Jets