Bruins are ready to roll

Published 8:43 pm Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Jeremy Finger returns to the Austin Bruins defense this season, the Bruins' second in Austin. - Eric Johnson/

As the Austin Bruins prepare for their second season in the NAHL, there’s one thing they’re most focused on — getting the puck in the net.

Austin returns its top scorer in Charlie Adams, who had 41 points last season, and it will turn to three Minnesota products to give the squad even more firepower this season, which began in Blaine Wednesday.

Bruins head coach Chris Tok pointed out Riley Colvard, who had 43 points at Lino Lakes, Minn. last season, Austin Nelson of Hastings, Minn. and Brandon Wahlin of White Bear Lake, as three possible goal scorers.

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“The thing we lacked last year is guys who could put the puck in the net,” Tok said. “Those guys have strong career track records in high school and we’ll lean on those guys, as well as Charlie Adams to score goals.”

After a preseason scrimmage with Aberdeen, Wahlin has already learned goals will be a lot harder to come by in the NAHL than they were in high school.

Austin Bruins coach Chris Tok leads practice at Riverside Arena Tuesday. The Bruins are heading into their second season with hopes of a playoff run. - Eric Johnson/

“The bounces aren’t always going to go my way like they did in high school,” Wahlin said. “I’ve just got to keep working hard and keep doing what coach tells me to do, and I’m sure I can get a couple in.”

Wahlin is eager to play alongside a talented front-line on a nightly basis. He’s already picked up some pointers from Adams and he doesn’t mind sharing the puck with his teammates.

“I like playing with more talent, it takes more pressure off me and it’s nice that it can be spread around,” Wahlin said. “I played with a couple of guys in high school that were pretty good and they kind of dropped off. It’s pretty even keel around here.”

Before the Bruins can become a high-scoring squad, Tok said his players need to learn to play together and scrap their one-on-one style that may have gotten them goals in high school.

“Guys think they can score the same way they did in high school, but you’ve got to work to get shots in this league,” he said. “They’ve got the hands to do it, but you’ve got to do it a little different way than you did in high school.”

Defensively, the Bruins bring back most of their key players from last season.

Trevor Waldoch, who has already signed his letter-of-intent to play at Air Force on a scholarship, had 25 points last season, Austin grad John Kirby had 17 points last season and Jonathan Gehrt and Connor Quinn also return from last year’s squad.

The defenders will have to get used to a new goalie as Tyler Bruggeman, who is a Mankato West grad and played in the USHL last season, takes over in the net.

“He’s a proven winner in this league and at a higher level,” Tok said. “(Tyler ) should be solid in the net if he plays the way he did the year before.”

With multiple years of junior hockey experience, Bruggeman’s ready to provide some leadership this season.

“The guys will figure out that I like to play the puck a lot and I’m kind of like a third defenseman,” Bruggeman said. “I’m always talking on the ice and letting everyone know what’s going on. If guys are messing around, it’s no problem for me to put them in their place. I’m kind of the grandpa on the team.”

The Bruins finished 23-31-4 overall last season and finished fifth out of six teams in the Central Division as they went 9-10 down the stretch. This year, they enter the season with familiar faces and Tok said that has made a huge difference.

“It’s been a lot different this year having veterans returning that can teach the younger guys instead of starting at ground zero with everything,” he said. “ We’re looking forward to getting into game action that counts. Our expectation is to win every game and I think everybody has that belief. We’ve got core guys that know what it takes to win in this league.”

Tok expects his team to be solid on and off the ice.

“Our guys will get back out in the community and hopefully the community embraces them again,” he said. “On the ice, we’ve got to make it an entertaining brand so people will watch them and have fun.”

After a four-game series in Blaine, the Bruins will open their home schedule against Aberdeen Saturday, Oct. at 7:05 p.m.