The Kenai River Brown Bears announced today the hiring of Brent Agrusa as the team’s new head coach. He replaces Mike Flanagan, who resigned from the position last month.
Agrusa is armed with the task of turning around a team that finished in last place in its inaugural season while managing only 12 wins.
“We focused on finding a coach who excels in the areas of both recruitment and college placement,” said Brown Bears GM Nate Kiel. “We’re confident that Brent not only meets this criteria, but is also a great coach and great fit for Alaska.”
A Michigan native, Agrusa was chosen from a pool of over 60 applicants and comes with a very impressive background and a proven track record in junior hockey.
In the late 1990's, he took over a Central States Hockey League Metro Jets team that was in last place but would become contenders within one season. In his second season, Agrusa led the Jets to a 24-1 record while also scouting for NAHL teams.
In 2002, Agrusa was named head coach of the Helena Bighorns of the AWHL/NAHL and asked to turn the franchise around. The Bighorns improved throughout his first season and made a statement in the playoffs, sweeping a series with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
Helena made the playoffs in each of the following two seasons as well, and was one of the NAHL leaders in scoring and the least-penalized team.
Agrusa compiled over 100 victories in his three seasons in Helena and moved over 30 players onto the Division I, Division III and minor-pro levels.
In 2005-06, Agrusa was out of hockey with some major health problems, but would jump back into coaching the following season by starting an entire junior program in Chesapeake, Va.
In his first season, he guided the Hampton Roads Whalers’ Junior B team to a 35-0-5 record as the only undefeated junior team in the country. Last season, the Whalers formed a new independent junior team, traveling across the country playing teams from the NAHL, EJHL, AJHL, OPJHL, CSHL and others in an exhibition schedule, ending the season with a 41-19-4 record.
The Junior Whalers’ B team was impressive as well, posting a 29-2-3 regular-season record. Agrusa again demonstrated his ability to move players onto the NCAA ranks and has built Hampton Roads into a recognizable power on the East Coast.
The Brown Bears have announced several changes in the infrastructure of their organization in recent months. Kenai River, founded by Barry Schoenly, has recently transitioned to a program under the newly-formed Kenai Peninsula Youth Foundation, a non-profit entity.
Schoenly, a cancer survivor, brought the team to the peninsula to provide the community with a developmental program for aspiring student-athletes.
“Mr. Schoenly has been a leader in promoting youth hockey across the state of Alaska and our community is lucky to have such a committed individual,” said Kiel. “Several community leaders have joined with him to continue this tradition.”
The Brown Bears’ staff has been working overtime to prepare for the upcoming season.
“Coach Agrusa is excited to lead off with our first of three open camps at the University of Alaska-Anchorage on June 6,” said Kiel. “Interest has been high and we’re very pleased with the progress the organization has made to date.”