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48 in 24 Series: Helena Bighorns

August 18, 2016
The 48 in 24 series will feature an in-depth look into all 48 teams in the NA3HL for the 2016-17 season, with new teams being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 48 in 24 goes in-depth into each NA3HL team and will include interviews with all 48 head coaches in the NA3HL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the 2016-17 season, including taking a look at their potential roster and their strengths as a team for the upcoming season. It will also take a look back on the 2015-16 season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.  Best of all, 48 in 24 will provide the fans of the NA3HL with an inside look at their favorite team and what to expect.
Helena Bighorns
2015-16 Record: 26-21-0, 52 pts. (5th in the Frontier Division)
2015-16 Playoffs: Did not qualify
Head Coach: Bob Richards
2016-17 Division: Frontier
The Helena Bighorns of Helena, Montana joined the NA3HL in the 2014-15 season as part of the merger with the AWHL. The Bighorns are now part of the Frontier Division and finished in the middle of the pack, narrowly missing out on the playoffs for the first time since moving to Tier III. The team hopes to increase their luck this year with new head coach, Bob Richards.
Richards was an assistant coach for the team from 2006-08 and played hockey before then. He played through college and couldn’t get enough of the game so he brought his skills and knowledge back to the junior level. His playing career has built the foundation he teaches from as a coach.
“My previous playing experience has tremendously shaped the way I coach,” Richards said. “I was fortunate to play for very successful coaches from high school, then juniors, and during college. I draw a great deal from each coach, and try to take lessons from those experiences into the framework of how I would like our team to be.”
After a bit of a disappointing last season, Richards is focused on rebuilding a hard-working and like-minded team. 
“The main emphasis for building the team this year is bringing in players who are like minded in their goals for hockey,” Richards said. “[Guys who are] willing to put in the commitment and work necessary to realizing their full potential as players.” 
Richards hopes to take the team to the next level to match that of such a powerhouse division.
“I think as an organization we learned how much tighter the playing field has become,” Richards said. “The level of play has definitely been elevated throughout our division and the league.”
This season also brings an extra level of difficulty for the news as they will be getting used to a new league structure with 48 teams and eight divisions. Most coaches have expressed excitement at the idea of being able to face so many different teams this year, and Richards is no exception.
“I think the new league structure is great,” Richards said. “It brings with it a high standard and a proven model demonstrated by the success of the NAHL. I think it will help establish a brand recognition with players who want a league that conducts its affairs professionally, and with the purpose of developing and advancing its talent.”
The Bighorns saw more success off the ice this summer with their four college commitments. Forward Blake Babineau and Goalie Grant Martens both committed to Becker in the NCAA. Forward Brandon Mills committed to Marian University in the NCAA. Goalie Adam Ranck committed to Kent State in the ACHA.
“We put a lot of emphasis on improving skating ability,” Richards said. “We try to do our best to promote each player in a way that will help them achieve their goal for the next level.”
Richards has a great outlook for the new season and is looking forward to bring his own spin to Helena but knows that their future rests on the shoulder pads of his players. The Bighorns will be looking to add another playoff run to their successful history.
“I’m looking forward to our guys embracing the challenge, Richards said. “As I get to know each player I feel we will have great team camaraderie, and that inner drive to be our best everyday. If we can continue to bring that attitude as the season progress, I think we can have a great season.” 
Next up in the 48 in 24 series: Jersey Shore Wildcats
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