2015-16 Record: 10-36-1, 21 pts. (4th in the Central Division)
The Rochester Ice Hawks, of Rochester, Minnesota, have been in the junior hockey game for over two decades. The team has a long history of wins, even though last season wasn’t their best. They to the last few seasons they were able to represent themselves in the final tournament for nine straight years.
Head coach, Nick Fatis, has been with the team from the very beginning. He has been coaching with the team for 20 years, the last 16 of which have been as the head coach. Prior to coaching the team, Fatis was actually a player on the very first Ice Hawks roster. This history with the organization has helped him create a powerful relationship with the team but he points his success as a coach toward having such a strong program.
“This program has done the right things from the beginning,” Fatis said. “It’s not just me guiding the program, it’s the program guiding us. We’ve been blessed to have so many good runs in the final tournament.”
Fatis detailed the teams difficulties last year on and off the ice. Joining the league late and having a complete over haul on their stadium forced the team in to a shaky start to the season in a tough division. Their roster was also the youngest the organization had seen in 21 years, so Fatis is focused on growing these players this season.
“Our focus will be on discipline and discipline with the work ethic,” Fatis said. “We want to give a good value to our fans. We want the city of Rochester to be proud of us. We were a young team and we need to mature.”
The Ice Hawks saw a few players advance to the college level this summer. Forward, Ben Koester committed to the University of Arkansas, a D1 team in the Western Collegiate Hockey League. Defenseman, Trey McMillen committed to Becker, a D3 school in the ECAC Northeast. Goalie, Sam Nelson committed to Concordia College, a D3 school in the MIAC. Fatis said the program is very focused on advancing their players up to play college hockey so they can gain experience along with an education.
“Our focus in on college development,” Fatis said. “Our focus is on personality and our focus is on education. At the end of the day, it’s what every player should strive for – to get an education.”
Being in the state of hockey for so long, they’ve crafted quite the relationship with their community. Fatis tries to help the program do whatever they can to keep growing that support and positive relationship.
“When you play in Rochester everyone knows who you are,” Fatis said. “We are the largest drawing sport in the area. We give back a lot. We do a lot with Habitat for Humanity and local organizations. We do a lot with our local historical society… It’s the sacrifice that our players make and that’s why we have the support we do. It’s a phenomenal community to be a part of. It’s what allows us to be a non-profit organization.
Next in the 24 in 24 series: Skylands Kings