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NA Now: Austin Bruins

August 10, 2023

The NA Now series features a look at all 32 teams in the NAHL for the 2023-24 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.

Austin Bruins

Head Coach: Steve Howard (7th Season)

2022-23 record: 60 GP, 34-16-10, 78 pts. (1st in the Central Division)

2022-23 leading scorer: Gavin Morrissey (61 points)

2023 Playoffs: Won the Central Division. Lost in the Robertson Cup title game to Oklahoma, 4-3

2023-24 Division: Central

First regular season game: Wednesday, September 13th vs. Philadelphia Rebels

Home opener: Friday, September 22nd vs. St. Cloud Norsemen

It was a memorable ride for the Austin Bruins last season who not only claimed a pair of Central Division regular season and playoff titles last year, but also rode their success all the way to the Robertson Cup Championship game, along with securing 10 NCAA commitments.

The Bruins won the division by 12 points and lost just one game in the Central Division playoffs as they swept Minot and then beat St. Cloud, 3 games to 1. In the Robertson Cup Semi-Finals, the Bruins split the opening two games with the Maryland Black Bears, but won 4-2 in Game 3 to punch their ticket to the title game. In the Championship, the Bruins battled hard, but a late 3rd period goal was the difference as they fell to the Oklahoma Warriors, 4-3, which was their third Runner-Up finish in the last 10 years.

“Last year’s group was the most focused group I have ever had here. They were locked in all year and never really lost focus. Anything could have happened in that Championship Game and despite falling just short I think that doesn’t take away from the fact that this was a special group of players who accomplished a lot last season,” said Bruins head coach Steve Howard, who is entering his 7th season in 2023-24.

The off-season was a very active one for the Bruins organization. Longtime owners Craig Patrick and Mike Cooper made the decision to sell the team to new owner Brian Raduenz. “Craig and Mike have built a strong foundation and incredible record of success, and it’s an honor to build on their legacy going forward,” said Raduenz. In the 13-year span of Patrick’s and Cooper’s ownership, the Bruins had more than 140 NCAA commitments and the team went to Robertson Cup Championship Game three times (2014, 2015, 2023).

With the new change in ownership and the momentum built up from such a successful season on the ice and in NCAA commitments, Howard and the Bruins enter the 2023-24 season as not only a favorite to repeat their titles in the Central, but also make another appearance at the Robertson Cup thanks to 15 returning players.

“We want to be sure we keep the momentum going from last year. We must stick with what makes us successful which is our structure and systems. We know the Central Division will be a fight every year. You must make teams adjust to our style. We want to be tough to play against every night. I think the key for us early on will be to come out firing right out of the gate at the Showcase and lean on those returning guys to produce and lead us,” said Howard. “NCAA commitments is why we do this. You have a special bond with the guys and to be there when they realize that dream and know you were a part of it is a great feeling.”

Watch: NA Now interview with head coach Steve Howard

Despite having a lot of players coming back, the Bruins did lose some big time scoring with Jack Malinski (Vermont) and Walter Zacher (Robert Morris) leaving to play NCAA Division I hockey, so there are some holes to fill. The Bruins will have Austin Salani (47 points) and Dylan Cook (40 points) back to lead the offense in addition to twin brothers Matys and Isaak Brassard, who are both entering their third season in a Bruins uniform. “Austin and Dylan will play a big role in leading this team and our offensive production. The Brassard twins (Matys and Isaak) both return for their third year and are really fun to watch,” said Howard. “We are hoping some of our younger returning players or maybe a couple of the players that we drafted can step in and pick up where those guys left off."

Along the blueline, the Bruins return Parker Anderson, Kader Muir, Ashton Bynum, Giuseppe Fiorillo. Perhaps the biggest help defensively will be the return of goaltender Trent Wiemken, who burst on the scene last season as a rookie. Wiemken played in all 11 games during the playoffs and 30 games during the regular season. “Trent was a huge part of our success and run last season. He was an 18-year-old goalie last year, undrafted, untendered, and went through the camp process and made the team. He is a diamond in the rough and took advantage of the opportunity that was in front of him, so this year should be a big one,” said Howard.

Next Up: Bismarck Bobcats

 
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