Bruins home opener is Saturday

Published 4:59 pm Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Austin Bruins goalie Alex Cantrell fights guards the net during a practice in Riverside Arena Wednesday. The Bruins have their home opener this Saturday against Owatonna at 7:05 p.m. -- Rocky Hulne/

After a 25-year absence, the North American Hockey League Association is coming back to Austin this Saturday.

The Austin Bruins will make their home debut when they host the Owatonna Express Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in Riverside arena and the squad is ready to go.

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“Our guys have had 14 days (since their last game) and they’re looking forward to hitting someone besides themselves,” Austin head coach Chris Tok said. “You really need to take care of your home ice and win every game at home. If we don’t have that attitude we need to make adjustments with players, but I think guys are coming into the game expecting and planning to win.”

The Bruins began their season in Blaine at the NAHL showcase, where they went 1-3 overall against some top competition. They didn’t lose a game by more than four goals at the showcase and they’re hoping that provided a boost to get them going.

“We were right with them (at the showcase), we just didn’t finish the way we wanted to,” said Jonathan Gehrt, a 5-11, 175-pound defenseman from Woodbury Minn., who has a goal and an assist. “They have a lot of veterans and we still competed with them. As long as we keep getting better, we should be able to turn the tide if we see them again.”

The Bruins plan to play at an up-tempo pace this season and their roster is filled out with players who have played that way in the past.

“If you can’t move your feet, get off the ice, basically,” said Jeremy Finger, a 6-3, 210 pound forward from Orlando, Fla. “I’ve played that style of hockey my whole life, and it matches us perfect.”

Finger netted two goals and got in his first fight at the showcase in Blaine. He’s ready to continue to improve along with the rest of his squad.

“I’m more confident,” he said. “I was nervous the first game, but we’ve settled down and I think we’ll play better hockey throughout the season.”

The Bruins roster has a mix of players from all over the country and beyond. There are eight players from Minnesota, two from overseas, and other players have come from as far as Alaska.

Most of the Bruins are glad to get their chance to play on an NAHL team.

“Wearing the jersey for the first time is definitely something special,” said Gehrt, who was an All-Suburban East player at Woodbury. “We’ve got a good coaching staff and its fun coming to the rink to compete every day. It’s a really good experience.”

Tok is hoping his team can find a steady dose of leadership and keep its work ethic high throughout the year.

“It fluctuates every day,” he said. “Sometimes they work hard and sometimes they don’t. It’s our job as coaches to make them work every day and understand the consistency. I think we’re going in the right direction.”

All of the players showed a strong work ethic last week, when they were out putting sand bags in front of Riverside Arena before floodwaters hit Austin.

“ Our guys did a great job of helping out and (the flood) was rough on the community,” Tok said. “Hopefully we can provide some fun entertainment in the town of Austin and show that there’s good things to do out there.”

The Bruins will feature a laser light show with their pre-game introductions and they have installed a jumbotron in Riverside Arena.

John Kirby, an Austin native, is a defenseman for the Bruins.