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A.J. is feeling the Chill - Junior Hockey News

Published: Monday, 7 Jan 2013
By: Randy Russon

It's his first job as a head coach in the North American Hockey League and he's starting out with a team that is 16 points out of a Central Division playoff spot.
Still, A.J. Degenhardt is excited about his "tryout", as he calls it, as the interim bench boss of the Wisconsin-based Coulee Region Chill.
The 30-year old Degenhardt, a former Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association player with the Wisconsin Badgers, was tapped by primary owner Michelle Bryant last week to take over from the fired John Hamre as the main hockey man of the Chill.
"It's a situation that is an unfortunate way to begin as a head coach in the NAHL," Degenhardt told me in a weekend telephone interview. "Taking over a team 32 games into a season is not an easy thing to do but that's the way the hockey business is sometime and I am up for this challenge."
Without taking a direct shot at Hamre, Degenhardt said he hopes to "bring a positive attitude and some good energy" into the struggling Coulee Region program. "We hope to re-gather the season and see some success. I will try to control what I can on a daily basis and open up the lines of communication between myself, the players and the owner."
Degenhardt, who despite has young age has four previous seasons of head coaching experience -- two in the Tier 3, Minnesota Jr. Hockey League and two more at the midget major level with Team Illinois -- said he hopes to make enough of an impression as interim coach of the Chill to earn the job full-time for the 2013-2014 campaign.
"Like I said, I look at this as a tryout for me," he noted.
Degenhardt said he plans to hire an assistant coach this week and that he will meet with owner Bryant and discuss whether or not to bring in older players to make a run for a playoff spot in the Central Division.
With a record of 1-1 under Degenhardt, Coulee Region is 16 points out of the fourth-and-final playoff spot in the Central Division with 26 games to go in the regular season. The Chill, which had lost five straight games before Hamre was fired, has an overall record of 9-20-5 on the season.
A young team with very few 1992 birth year players, Coulee Region stands to return considerable talent for the 2013-2014 season led by scoring leaders Mac Jansen, Hunter Anderson and Andy Faust, defenceman Sean Lang and goalie Blake Cates. Jansen is a 1993 birth year and Anderson, Faust, Lang and Cates were all born in 1994.
As for Hamre, who had an extensive coaching background at the high school, junior and collegiate level before taking the Coulee Region job prior to the current season, he left the Chill in a reflective and philosophical state, responding to an e-mail interview request in his usual, professional manner.
"First of all, Randy, I thank you for your coverage of the NAHL, its players and our great game. Your coverage is fair, respectful of subjects, and enthusiastic for the game and players. Looking forward to continued contact in our great game.
"I'm humble enough to know and say I'm sure I made my share of mistakes in my years of coaching and as head coach and general manager of the Coulee Region Chill. That's on me. I'm also smart enough to know that hockey is and always will be a game of success or failure. There's no perfect player or perfect coach.  I've been blessed to have been around the game long enough to know and say that hockey is bigger than any one player, coach or organization.

"All this said, I remain confident enough in my coaching skills to know I tried to implement a calibre of hockey coaching and player development to an organization that, in the short time of reflecting as now its former head coach, perhaps wasn't quite ready for, or in the position to, wait and enjoy the fruits of that style and our staff's efforts. This humbly, is my reflected opinion. I'm sorry I won't be a part of time bearing these philosophies out. That said, I wholeheartedly believe I have left the Chill organization in a state far better off, and poised for a much brighter future, than that which I found it in. I'm very proud of this.  

"Coaching is a profession where you balance the present and the future. In the Coulee Region case, my years of hockey experience told me the scale was tipped to the future for the team and organization's sustainable success. If I have failed to realize expectations for the present it was because of a firm belief in a commitment to build a long-term foundation for the organization that hired me. I hope that will be my legacy to the next coaching staff and current ownership group.

"I do and did all I did out of reverence to the game of hockey, a game I truly love and respect, and to the development of the young men on the team. Hockey has afforded a lot of us involved a lot of great joy. I'm thankful for the efforts of the players and grateful for the opportunity to be involved in my time in the Onalaska/La Crosse hockey community."


posted Jan. 7th, 2013 - 8:19am
Tony Prito says:
Hamre is a proven Coach from NCAA-D1 and Moe's asst with the Warriors and I am sure he will get another chance to coach in the NA although probably not back with the Warriors as asst as Moe has Carlile and Jepson is well spoken of.
AJ Degenhard has a good name from Team Illinois and from Northern Lights in the Minnesota League. Coulee region needs to look outside minnesota for players just take a look at their roster almost all kids from Minnesota. Not a knock on the Minny kids as there is a lot of talent up there but the Chill should be looking to Michigan and all of the Detroit area kids and with the eexpanded Import rule why not go to Canada in pariculer North Ontario.

posted Jan. 7th, 2013 - 4:00pm
Texas Tornado says:
Brandon Hawkins makes D1 commitment

Texas Tornado, proud members of the 24-team North American Hockey League (NAHL), are pleased to announced that forward Brandon Hawkins has made a commitment to play NCAA Division-I hockey at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Bowling Green has told Hawkins, who is a 1994 birth year, that they aren’t yet sure when they want him on the squad. Being just 18 years old, Hawkins still has two years of junior hockey eligibility following the 2012-13 season.

“I liked the idea of Bowling Green more than I did a lot of other schools,” Hawkins said. “It’s a small-town school and I’m really comfortable with that type of feel.”

Hawkins joins CJ Reuschlein, who will play his college hockey at Army, as the two Tornado players who have made NCAA Division-I commitments this season. Forward Brett Heikkila committed to Northern Michigan University before ever playing a game in a Tornado uniform.

“There were dozens of schools who expressed interest in Brandon,” Tornado head coach and general manager Tony Curtale said. “But in the end, he felt the most comfortable at Bowling Green and we couldn’t be happier for him.”

Hawkins has taken the North American Hockey League by storm in his rookie season in 2012-2013. He is currently the league’s leading goal-scorer, with 29 goals on the season, and is tied for third in the league with 43 points.

“He’s one of the purest goal-scorers I’ve ever coached,” Curtale said. “He’s done everything we’ve asked of him, including working on his conditioning, since he signed a tender with us last year.”

Hawkins came to the Tornado from the storied Little Caesar’s youth hockey program in Michigan. He’d played both forward and defense in Midgets, but has flourished on the wing in his first season with Texas.

“With Tony, I’ve gotten into much better shape than I’ve ever been in,” Hawkins said. He’s gotten on me about that and it’s really helped me.”

“We really play that nitty-gritty hockey, where you go into a corner and come out with the puck,” he added. “We want people to think twice about getting into battles with us. That’s the great thing about the hockey we play here, you’re creating that sense of urgency while also trying to put the puck in the net.”

Hawkins has done plenty of the latter, including a stretch at the beginning of the season where he scored 13 goals in eight consecutive games, lighting the lamp at least once in every contest. He’s had three hat tricks this season, including a four-goal performance against Odessa on November 13th. Through it all, though, Hawkins still sees the big picture.

“Bowling Green told me I could come in and play as a freshman,” Hawkins said. “If that happens, it would be amazing. If it doesn’t work out that way, I’ll play the next year. But it’s all about getting the education. It’s been my dream to get a free education; it’s a real burden off my mom and dad’s back.”

posted Jan. 8th, 2013 - 2:29pm
Coulee Region Chill says:
Chill out on Saturday before the Packers game!

The Green Bay Packers National Football League playoff game starts at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday so dress in your green & gold Packer gear for the Coulee Region Chill game which starts at 4:30 p.m. to get in for half price!

Just $5.00 for adults & $3.00 for students!

Chill before the Packer game at the Onalaska Omni Center with the Coulee Region Chill.

GAME TIME 4:30 p.m. as opposed to the originally scheduled 7:00 p.m.

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* Article disclaimer: This site may contain advice, opinions and statements from various authors and information providers. Views expressed in this article reflect the personal opinion of the author, Randy Russon, and not necessarily the views of JuniorHockey.com. JuniorHockey.com does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement or other info provided in the article, or from any other member of this site.

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