Hulne: Bachnak provides agitation and leadership for Bruins

Published 11:40 pm Monday, April 27, 2015

Bruins forward Brian Bachnack has provided solid leadership for Austin, while also providing plenty of agitation for the Bruins' opponents this season. Eric Johnson/

Bruins forward Brian Bachnak has provided solid leadership for Austin, while also providing plenty of agitation for the Bruins’ opponents this season. Eric Johnson/

It takes a lot of guts to walk right up to a competitor, get in their face, scream in their face and then stick your tongue out and grin at them.

That’s exactly what Bruins forward Brian Bachnak did Saturday night in Riverside Arena to several Minot players during Austin’s 4-1 win over the Minotauros to tie the NAHL Central Division Finals up at 1-1.

While his actions on the ice, can draw attention, that’s not even the half of it. In between periods of Austin’s games, Bachnak, who is a second-year player from Brownstown, Mich., can be seen yelling out random rants at nobody in particular, giving motivational speeches to his teammates, and even cursing out his hockey stick when he can’t properly get it sawed off before a team meeting.

Austin's Brian Bachnak points to Bruins' goalie Nick Lehr after scoring in the first period against Bismarck in game 5 of the NAHL Central Division finals last season. Herald File Photo

Austin’s Brian Bachnak points to Bruins’ goalie Nick Lehr after scoring in the first period against Bismarck in game 5 of the NAHL Central Division finals last season. Herald File Photo

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Despite the way it may look, Bachnak is not crazy. In fact, he’s a team captain for the Bruins and he is one of the more vocal leaders on the team.

Austin head coach Chris Tok said that Bachnak stood out as a boisterous and energetic guy, but he also had his moments were he confused his coaches and teammates alike.

“A lot of things came out of his mouth that make you shake your head and really think about if he just said that,” Tok said. “He doesn’t care. The first thing that comes to his mind he says it. That’s him.”

But the longer Bachnak stuck around, the more apparent it became that he was mostly focused on winning. That’s why he has no problem getting in an opposing goalie’s face and that’s why he’s always pumped up and yelling. He wants to do whatever it takes to lead the Bruins to a win.

“I just try to get in the other teams’ heads. No one likes anyone pestering their goalie and I just try to do it to get guys motivated,” Bachnak said. “Sometimes it’s a little nerve racking because most of the time the guys are bigger than me. But I try to mess with their minds as much as possible and I try to play hard.”

Players with Bachnak’s attitude often are labeled as instigators or agitators. But Bachnak is a legitimate scoring threat as he has 47 career points in two seasons with the Bruins and he also doesn’t take a lot of cheap shots.

Tok said Bachnak is certainly a unique player as he holds a combination of being a pain to the opponent, while still being a solid hockey player and a leader.

“I don’t think [Steve] Ott wears a [captain] letter on his jersey for St. Louis. A lot of times those guys are fourth line guys just trying to stir it up,” Tok said. “Brian can put pucks in the back of the net and he’s very respected by our guys by just how hard and the way he plays the game. That’s a pretty good combination.”

Of course being a foil has its drawbacks. Bachnak said most fans of opposing teams usually know his name and he has dealt with plenty of heckling this season. He’s expecting to hear more of that when he plays in Minot Friday and Saturday, but he’s hoping he can block it out and focus on winning.

Bachnak’s main motivation is keeping his team in the right frame of mine.

“What really drives me is the reaction I get when I’m the energy guy,” Bachnak said. “I just try to do what’s best for the team, whether that’s me yelling and screaming at the guys between periods or if it’s me going after [the opponent’s] toughest player. If it helps our team, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Tok said there are times when Bachnak pushes the envelope and he has to be told to step back. But Bachnak also has shown his younger teammates that its OK to approach Tok or assistant coach Jamie Huffman with an idea or a suggestion.

“He just wants to win and he just wants to do anything for his brothers to make sure we win,” Tok said of Bachnak. “Sometimes it’s not always the smartest or most intelligent thing that he does, but the reason he’s doing it is for his teammates. You can’t hold it against him.”

Bachnak isn’t sure where is pent up energy would be spent if he didn’t have hockey. He’s just happy the sport is there for him.

“I’m glad that I have hockey to outlet that anger and to be able unleash it,” he said. “It’s nice to have that Friday and Saturday nights and it’s definitely my favorite stress reliever.”

Follow Rocky Hulne on twitter @RockyHulneADH.