24 teams in 24 days: Amarillo Bulls
August 21, 2013
The 24 Teams in 24 Days series features a look at all 24 teams in the NAHL for the 2013-14 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season on Friday, September 13th as eight NAHL teams take to the ice on Opening Night. 24 in 24 will go in-depth into each NAHL team and will include interviews with all 24 head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the 2013-14 season, including taking a look at their roster and their strengths as a team. It will also take a look back on the 2012-13 season and how each team fared and what they accomplished. Best of all, 24 in 24 is done to provide the fans of the NAHL with an inside look at their favorite team and what to expect.
Head Coach: Dennis Williams
2012-13 record: 46-7-7, 99 pts. (1st in the South Division, best overall record in the NAHL)
2012-13 leading scorer: Mike Davis (59 GP, 28G, 31A, 59 Pts, +48)
2013 Playoffs: Won Robertson Cup National Championship, won South Division Playoff Championship
2013-14 Division: South
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 18th vs. Johnstown Tomahawks, 8:15pm
Home opener: Friday, September 27th vs. Odessa Jackalopes, 7:05pm
Every coach and team strives to have that ‘signature’ season. A season in which almost everything goes right and things go according to planned. That season occurred last year for the Amarillo Bulls, who won their first Robertson Cup National Championship in just their third year of existence in the NAHL. The numbers don’t lie… the Bulls were the best team, start to finish, in the NAHL last season. Not only did they win the South Division regular season and playoff titles, they posted the best regular season record in the NAHL at 46-7-7 and their 99-points equaled their own NAHL record set the season before. The Bulls capped it off on May 13th with a 5-0 win over the Wenatchee Wild to capture their first NAHL Robertson Cup National Championship.
Despite the Championship, the titles and the wins, head coach Dennis Williams said he still takes as much pride in the NCAA commitments as anything else. The Bulls lead the NAHL in NCAA commitments this past season with 16. “It was very gratifying to win because there was a lot of hard work put in by the players and the organization and the competition from our opponents in the NAHL last season was tremendous. However, we do take a lot of pride in continue to develop players to move onto the next level at the NCAA,” said Williams. “I think the development, the commitments and winning all go hand in hand. I think the players come here first and foremost to develop and move onto the next level. I think winning the Robertson Cup was more about the experience. It really gave us all a taste of what it was like to work all year for something and see it accomplished. That was a pretty special feeling.”
If the Bulls didn’t already have a bulls eye on their back as one of the perennial favorites to win the Robertson Cup each year, they will have a big one on them during the 2013-14 season as they try to defend their title and become the first team in five years to repeat as Champions. Williams said that heading into this season, he will rely on his veteran leadership to keep the new group motivated and driven to get back to the mountain top. “Every year is a different group with different strengths and weaknesses, but we have a good group of returning veterans who have been through it and can really set a good example. They know how to manage the season and get through the peaks and valleys that go along with it.”
The Bulls begin the 2013-14 season with a big piece of the puzzle already in place as both goalies from last year’s Championship team, Paul Berrafato (Holy Cross) and Collin Delia, will return between the pipes. “It is great to have both Paul and Collin back because both of them are very good goalies and have proven they can be successful and win games in this league. I think we begin the season with a healthy competition between the two to see who is going to start and play on a regular basis and although we haven’t decided what we are going to do all season, I think that they push one another to be the best they can be,” said Williams.
Williams also said that both goalies roles will be magnified because the Bulls will be young along the blueline, having graduated several key defensemen with experience. “We only have two defensemen returning in Joe Grabowski (Princeton) and Connor Frey, so there is going to be some rebuilding on the back end and a learning process there. Hopefully the guys coming in can learn quickly, but we feel confident with the goalies that we have that they will make the big saves when we need them to,” said Williams.
Statistically, not only were the Bulls the best defensive team last season, but they also boasted the league’s #1 offense as they averaged more than four goals and 38 shots per game. With six returning forwards from last year’s high-powered squad, the offense shows no signs of slowing down in 2013-14. The Bulls leading scorer last season, Mike Davis, will return for the 2013-14 season along with his 59 points registered a season ago. Brady Ferguson, who was one of the stars through the playoffs last season, will also return as will the likes of Omar Mullan, Matt Sieckhaus, Tyler Gernhofer and Carter Penzien. “I think our offense is going to dictate how good we can be,” said Williams. “These guys know what it takes to win and enjoy the pressure of the big moments, so having that depth up front will be important for us, especially at the beginning of the season.”
The Bulls seem to have reloaded judging by the talent of their crop of new players. Forward Roman Ammirato comes to the Bulls with junior experience and a fresh NCAA Division I commitment to Union College, and forward Kyle Gattelaro joins the Bulls after having a great season with Kalamazoo in the NAHL last season. Williams also said that forwards Brendan McGuire, a Texas native, and Timmy Moore, a Robert Morris recruit, will be two of the key new additions to the line-up. The Bulls also picked up veteran defensemen Brendan Vetter (Kalamazoo) and Brett Szajner (Jamestown). “We are really excited about the new players in our line-up because these are guys who have proven themselves at the junior level and can help us and contribute right away,” said Williams.
“I think there is a whole new level of expectation from our fans and our city now that we have accomplished something like winning a National Championship, so we hope to continue to meet those expectations, but at the same time keep developing players to get the opportunity to move onto the next level,” said Williams. “I think we will enjoy the challenge of trying to defend the title and I am eager to get the season going to see what type of group we have and how they respond.”
Next up in the 24 in 24 series: Austin Bruins