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NA Now: Springfield Jr. Blues

September 5, 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.

Springfield Jr. Blues

Head Coach: Todd Pococke (1st season)

2022-23 record: 60 GP, 26-31-3, 56 pts. (7th in the Midwest Division)

2022-23 leading scorer: Nikita Nikora (55 points)

2023 Playoffs: Did Not Qualify

2023-24 Division: Midwest

First regular season game: Wednesday, September 13th vs. Colorado Grit

Home opener: Friday, September 22nd vs. Kenai River Brown Bears

During the 2022-23 season the Springfield Jr. Blues were consistent at being inconsistent. After starting the season with a 3-3 record through September, the Jr. Blues dropped their next four games before going on to win three of their next four. This trend continued throughout the season as they never lost more than five in a row but unfortunately never had a winning streak longer than three. This kept Springfield in the playoff hunt late into the season before a late rough patch knocked them out of the playoffs for the first time since 2017. The Jr. Blues finished with 10 NCAA commits with seven of them being of the Division I variety.

This season there will be a change behind the bench as Tyler Rennette moves on to a different role in the organization. That opens the door for Todd Pococke to become the new head coach and general manager of the Jr. Blues. Pococke joined the Jr. Blues prior to the 2019-20 season as an assistant coach and now takes the reigns as the bench boss.

“I’m very excited. When I came to Springfield as an assistant four years, I had no idea I would be in this spot. Tyler Rennette has been an awesome mentor to me over the years and I learned a lot,” Pococke said. “Not only do my wife and I like the Springfield area but the organization as a whole represents what I’m about personally as well too. So very excited to stay within the organization, it’s been great.”

On the ice, the persona of the Jr. Blues may change slightly under Pococke but the foundation that was laid by the previous regime will still be represented in Springfield. “I think our philosophies together I agreed with everything we were doing. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here. A few different spins on a few things but nothing crazy to change. I learned a lot from him (Rennette) so going to continue with a lot of that stuff and just make some minor tweaks here and there that fit my personality,” Pochoke remarked.

Watch: NA Now video interview with Todd Pococke

The Jr. Blues return a handful of key players from last year’s club including third year defenseman Andrew Schultz. The blue liner from Dexter, Michigan has appeared in over 100 total games for the blue and yellow as he notched five goals and 13 points in 50 appearances last season.

Up front, Isaac Keller is back for his fourth season in the NAHL and third in Springfield. A year ago he logged a career high six goals and 20 points. He’s appeared in 162 total NAHL games for his career, lighting the lamp 14 times and grabbing 44 points. Landry Schmuck will be back with the Jr. Blues after coming over in the middle of last season. He totaled nine goals and 17 points while playing in 54 games last year. Lastly, Hadley Hudak will be back for another year in Springfield. He saw the ice in 59 of 60 games in 2022-23, finding the back of the net six times and racking up 14 points.

“I’m really excited about the returners we have. Not only with what they put on the ice but they represent the organization off the ice well too. Really good character guys. Andrew Schultz has been with us for a handful of years. Isaac Keller was an assistant captain for us last year and is just a workhorse and leads by example,” Pococke said. “Hadley Hudak, really expecting him to have a massive year and Landry Schmuck, he’s buzzing, he’s a great addition up front that we got last year. A lot of good guys that we have returning that I’m excited about,” Pococke explained.

The Springfield Jr. Blues have been a staple in Springfield since 1993 and the fans that have been cheering them on for 30 years are aiming to see their team win their first Robertson Cup championship since 1997. “Coming into town, we’re very well known, we try to do a ton of volunteer work with schools and the YMCA and others. The community really looks into these guys because they’re bright young men with bright futures. They really take them in and the support is incredible. We get pretty good fans, they’re loud and they have fun. It’s a really good backing from the town,” said Pococke.

Next Up: St. Cloud Norsemen

 
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