48 in 24 Series: Willmar WarHawks
September 1, 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.
Willmar WarHawks (*as Minnesota Flying Aces)
2015-16 Record: 11-34-2, 24 pts. (5th in West Division)
2016 Playoffs: Did not qualify
Head Coach: Chris Blaisuis
2016-17 Division: West
The Minnesota Flying Aces spent nine seasons of existence, the last five being in the NA3HL, and now they move on to Willmar, Minnesota becoming the Willmar WarHawks. Last season wasn’t ideal for the last season ever for a team, but the WarHawks are ready to start fresh and hopefully redeem themselves this coming season.
Back on May 24th, the Willmar WarHawks entered into existence as Chris and Mitri Canavati, who also own the Brookings Blizzard in the NAHL, as well as, the NA3HL’s Alexandria Blizzard, purchased the Minnesota Flying Aces membership and moved the team to Willmar. In 2016-17, the team will continue to compete in the NA3HL’s West Division and will be based out of Willmar Civic Center Arena.
New head coach Chris Blaisuis, who was with the NAHL’s Fairbanks Ice Dogs as a scout last season, said the main points of emphasis for building a team for this year is all about hard work. “The main points of emphasis are making sure the kids that are playing in Willmar are hard working, strong character kids that will represent the organization and community with class and dignity.”
Blaisuis is no stranger to success. Coming from scouting for Fairbanks last season, he left on a high note. With them having plenty of success over the years, especially winning the Robertson Cup last season, Blaisuis should have no problem preparing these Willmar players for the next level.
Assistant Coach, Dan Sova, just recently retired from playing professional hockey in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL), for the Pensacola Ice Flyers. Sova spent his college career at Michigan Tech from 2010-14 before heading to the SPHL. Coach Blaisuis said, “Dan’s primary responsibilities will be working with the Defense. He will be very instrumental in the development of all of our players, but primarily our defenseman. His experience and playing the position at the pro and NCAA D-I levels will be a great asset to not only the players, but the WarHawks organization as a whole."
When asking Coach Blaisuis some of the things he is going to work on to advance his players to the next level, he said, “I think to help prepare players to play at the next level, you need to structure your program in a similar fashion so, when players get the opportunity, at that level they are prepared for, awaits them. I have structured a lot of what we are doing in Willmar from my experiences in Fairbanks. The amount of success that I was associated with in Fairbanks, I feel the players can benefit from the knowledge and experience I bring by exposing them to what is done at the level with the premiere organization in the NAHL.”
As far as expectations for the season, Coach Blaisuis said, “We expect on ice success and strive to advance players to the next level. The expectations of the organization are that this group of young men will work hard and dedicate themselves to improve not only as hockey players, but grow as young men as well. We feel as an organization that we provide all the necessary resources for kids to excel and develop in Willmar.”
Someone of the things the Willmar WarHawks are doing around the community to gain some support are getting involved in the local youth hockey association, helping with coaches and clinics, and getting involved with a local food bank, helping them load and unload supplies for the food banks in the area.
Next up in the 48 in 24 series: Wisconsin Whalers