• 12°

Austin Bruins looking to compete in first NAHL season

The Austin Bruins are looking to do two things as they prepare for their inaugural North American Hockey League season, which opens Sept. 15.

They’re going to play aggressive and they’re going to try to win.

“It should be an aggressive, relentless style,” Bruins head coach Chris Tok said. “We’re going to get after at it and we’re not really concerned if we give up a three-on-two line rush, it’s the defenseman’s job to shut that down. We’re going to try to go after teams and make them make plays to beat us.”

Tok, who is originally from Coleraine, Minn., is hoping to get to the playoffs this season and compete for a championship as early as next season.

“We believe that through coaching and a little education and training that we can win games on a consistent basis and compete at Christmas and make the playoffs,” he said.

For now, the Bruins are focused on building their roster. The team has already held most of its camps, but there is one more in the Duluth area July 9. The Bruins are looking to bring 28-30 players to training camp, which begins Sept. 1, and 23 of those players will make the roster.

The team has already made some tenders, but some of those players have decided to play in the USHL or for college teams.

“It’s sort of a scramble and you never know what you’re going to end up with,” Tok said. “We’re wondering where the wheel’s going to spin on our first game September 15.”

Tok is pleased to be able to mold the team into what he wants, but he’ll miss out on having a veteran presence on his squad for the first season.

“(Having a new team) will be good and bad,” he said. “Won’t have veterans who understand the scars of the length of the junior season and what it’s like to live away from home. But players won’t have any bad habits or laziness, hopefully they’ll come in with open ears and are willing to listen to what we have to preach.”

It has been 25 years since a junior hockey team has played in Austin and Tok said that the reaction around town has been positive so far.

“I think around town it’s been a pretty good buzz,” he said. “There’s excitement and everybody seems to have questions. A lot of people have said they’re going to buy season tickets or they want to come see how it’s going to turn out.”

THE ROAD TO AUSTIN

Chris Tok had a few stops before getting his first head coaching job at Austin

— Played high school hockey for the Greenway Raiders in Coleraine, Minn.

— Played hockey four years at the University of Wisconsin

— Played pro hockey for six years in various spots

— Assistant coach for the Waterloo Blackhawks of the USHL for five years

— Assistant coach for Michigan Tech for four years