NA Now: Bismarck Bobcats
The NA Now series features a look at all 29 teams in the NAHL for the 2022-23 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: Layne Sedevie (13th Season)
2021-22 record: 60 GP, 29-27-4, 62 pts. (4th in the Central Division)
2021-22 leading scorer: Jake McLean (56 points)
2022 Playoffs: Lost to St. Cloud in the Central Semi-Finals, 3-2
2022-23 Division: Central
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 14th vs. Lone Star Brahmas
Home opener: Saturday, October 1st vs. Minot Minotauros
One of the better turnaround stories of recent NAHL memory was last year’s Bismarck Bobcats. Under veteran head coach Layne Sedevie, the 2021-22 Bobcats were a very inexperienced group and it showed to start the season. The Bobcats began the season 0-6, which included four losses at the NAHL Showcase. Things didn’t get much better as they had just 10 wins at the beginning of January. However, the Bobcats righted the ship, winning 19 of their final 30 games, which included five straight wins to end the regular season to clinch what was once an improbable playoff spot.
“It wasn’t a great start, but we just didn’t have a lot of experience. We had 19 guys that had never played at this level before, which is over 75% of our roster, and this level and this league is very tough. I think a lot of people wrote us off, so our guys did a great job of coming together and making something of the season. I think at Christmas time, the light at the end of the tunnel was dim, but they found a way to get into the playoffs. It’s probably one of the best memories I’ve had as a coach,” said Bobcats head coach Layne Sedevie. “To have it come down to the final games against our in-state rival Minot was pretty memorable, especially the way that we responded.”
The red-hot Bobcats gave the Central Division Champion St. Cloud Norsemen all they could handle in the Central Semi-Finals and had them on the ropes at home in Game 4., but the Norsemen would win Game 4 in overtime and then scored two 3rd period goals in Game 5 to beat the Norsemen 3-2 in the deciding game and the series. “For our fans and city, the buzz was like when we won a Robertson Cup back in 2010. “We made few mistakes in Game 4 and 5 and it cost us, but I was proud of our team. I think we were playing as well as anyone at the end of the season and that’s what you want as a coach,” said Sedevie.
The Bobcats also had another solid year with 10 NCAA commitments, which is something that Sedevie believes is a result of the status of the NAHL. “You are a part of something bigger than team success and its one of the many feathers in the cap that the league keeps producing. It speaks volumes to what everyone has done. It shows how our league as evolved and gotten better with the type of players we are developing and producing. I think it has a lot to do with the great events the league puts on and the quality of play.”
Whatever loss the Bobcats experienced in the playoffs will likely be their gain this upcoming 2022-23 season as they return a big portion of their roster. The Bobcats return most of their defensemen and some key forwards. “The goal is to win a Robertson Cup. Having so many returners back this upcoming season is really going to give is a chance. The experience they had last year in the playoffs is going to be invaluable and crucial this season,” said Sedevie. “We needed some more depth up front and add some pieces to the puzzle. We are trying to build the best hockey team we can and add the players that are going to push us over the edge. A big part is our leadership group. It is exciting to get those guys back this season.”
The Bobcats will return eight forwards and most of their defensive corps. Up front, some of the key returners include Calvin Hanson (33 points), Patrick Johnson (31 points), Drew Holt (27 points), Nico Chmelevski (23 points), Eddie Shepler (21 points), Paul Huglen (17 points), and Brandon Reller (10 points). Along the blueline, Michael Neumier, Chase Beacom, Luke Roelofs, Ian Engel, and Michael Neumeier are all back for another season. “We needed some more depth up front and add some pieces to the puzzle. We are trying to build the best hockey team we can and add the pieces that are going to push us over the edge,” said Sedevie.
Perhaps the biggest question mark will be in between the pipes, where the Bobcats have three new goalies for the ‘goalie guru’ Sedevie to work with. That includes Northern Michigan commit Linards Lipskis from Latvia, Lochlan Gordon from Canada, and CJ Kier, who had a standout career in the NAPHL the past two seasons. “Most of the goalies we have been fortunate to have and develop the last 12 seasons all come in with a certain style and tendencies, and I have just tried to play to their strengths. It’s such a sensitive position, so you have to fine tune what they do well and make sure you are communicating with them,” said Sedevie.
“It’s exciting to be back and get going and see what we can do. We haven’t had a lot of success at the Showcase. I don’t think there is a better opportunity in junior hockey. We just must make sure we are prepared to play.”
Next Up: Austin Bruins