Bruins do it with defense

Published 6:16 pm Monday, October 29, 2012

Bruins defenseman Cody Dixon, left and Josh Bretner, right, have given Austin a boost on both sides of the ice this season. -- Rocky Hulne/

The Austin Bruins have gotten a big lift from a couple of newly acquired offensive minded defensive players as they are off to their best start in franchise history this season. The Bruins won 10 of their first 13 games and they stand in first place in the NAHL Central Division.

The Bruins (10-2-1 overall) knew Josh Bretner, a defenseman from North Potomac, Maryland would be a factor for their team at the beginning of the season, and then they beefed up their defense even more when they traded for Cody Dixon of the Springfield Blues a few games into the season.

Dixon, who is from Hales Corner, Wis., has delivered immediately as he has posted six goals and three assists in eight games and Bretner has three goals and five assists in 11 games.

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“They each have offensive play-making abilities to get the puck in our forward’s hands and get the puck going the other way,” Bruins head coach Chris Tok said. “That allows us to play less time on the defensive zone and gets us moving up ice.”

Dixon, who didn’t start playing hockey until he was nine years old, played for Team Wisconsin for his last three years of high school. He’s found the Bruins to be a welcoming team and he likes the work ethic the squad has shown so far.

“It was easy to walk into Austin,” Dixon said. “They have everything organized and it’s a good group of guys. It’s easy to play with good players.”

Bretner started playing hockey at the age of two and he played for team Maryland before playing for the New Mexico Mustangs, who folded after last season. He’s already starting to appreciate playing in front of Bruins’ goalies Nicholas Lehr (7-2-1 overall, 90.8 save percentage) and Jason Pawloski (3-0 overall, 88.8 save percentage).

“It’s great playing in front of them,” Bretner said. “I feel we have the best goalies in the league and if something does happen, you know you have Lehr or Pawloski behind you to back you up.”

Dixon has also been impressed by his new teammates in the net.

“Lehr has amazed me with some of the saves he’s been pulling out and Pawloski is gonna be a superstar someday for how young he is and how good he is. It’s a real eye opener,” Dixon said.

While the Bruins are rattling off wins, the team still has some things to work on. Austin, which has won three straight, trailed in the second period of its last two games but it was able to come back and win.

“We just have to work on starting better,” Bretner said. “I feel like since tryouts we’ve been adding better and better guys and I think we have the fastest team in the league. I don’t want to be cocky, but I think these games can start to be blowouts if we come out fast.”

Tok said he’d like to see his team improve on its communication and he’s also like to see the squad click for a full 60 minutes instead of having to come back late in the game.

“We’ve got to play some consistent hockey,” Tok said. “We feel if we play our hockey we’re as good as anybody in our division, but we haven’t been able to put that together for sixty minutes. We’re resting on a group of four or five guys to get the offense going, but we’ve got to play as a group.”

Austin, which leads Brookings by one point in the Central Division, will play at Coulee Region (2-8-3 overall) this Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.