47 in 24 series: Billings Bulls
August 16, 2017
The 47 in 24 series will feature an in-depth look into all 47 teams in the NA3HL for the 2017-18 season, with new teams being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 47 in 24 goes in-depth into each NA3HL team and will include interviews with all 47 head coaches in the NA3HL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the 2017-18 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 2016-17 season and how each team fared and what they accomplished. Best of all, 47 in 24 will provide the fans of the NA3HL with an inside look at their favorite team and what to expect.
2016-17 Record: 5-41-1, 11 pts. (7th in the Frontier Division)
2017 Playoffs: Did not qualify
Head Coach: Cory Thorson
2017-18 Division: Frontier
The Billings Bulls have a long history with the city, playing in various leagues all the way back to 1993, where they started in the America Frontier Hockey League, which became the America West Hockey League in 1998. When the AWHL merged with the NAHL in 2003, the Bulls played in the NAHL for three years, when the Bozeman Ice Dogs and Helena Bighorns left to join the Northern Pacific Hockey League in 2006. In March 2014, the new AWHL (formed of regional teams in Montana and Wyoming) joined the NA3HL as the Frontier Division.
With only 5 wins in the 2016-17 season, the Billings Bulls are coming back with an agenda for speed, energy, and excitement for the upcoming year. As the second oldest team in the NA3HL, the Bulls are excited to bring exciting and quality hockey back to the city of Billings.
This is Head Coach Cory Thorson’s first season with the Bulls, but he’s no stranger to being involved with quality hockey programs. Thorson played high school hockey in Minnesota, followed by two years with the Owatonna Express in the NAHL, and then four years at St. Cloud State. Since graduating, Thorson has spent two years coaching at St John’s University in the NCAA, and is heading up the Billings Bulls this year with big plans to “turn things around.”
In addition to a new head coach, the Bulls will also continue this season with a committed ownership group. Thorson says the group “wants to continue to provide good hockey to the community,” and has already seen the improvements that have occurred with having a local presence.
Coach Thorson hopes to “hold people accountable” this season, and mold his young, energetic team into Silver Cup material. As a team that frequently sells out their 500-seat arena, the Bulls are looking to give fans something to cheer for and really get the community involved this season. This includes finding homes for players and getting involved in elementary schools.
Additionally, Thorson wants his team to get involved with community service projects – like Habitat for Humanity – to connect the players and make them a part of the city and culture in Montana. As for on ice improvement, Thorson understands that “hockey is a game of speed,” and plans to hold each player accountable for his actions, both on and off the ice.
As a former college coach, Thorson has actually attended both the Top Prospects Tournament and the NA3HL Showcase, but in different shoes. He’s excited to attend as an NA3HL coach, and “do what coaches do” to get his players seen by as many prospective coaches as possible. From a player perspective, the events allow players to envision themselves playing at the highest level as possible, and to put in perspective the goal they are setting out to achieve.
The Billings Bulls had one college commitment this year – Kenny Miller committed to Bryn Athyn College, where he plays NCAA Division III. They open their season on the road against the Yellowstone Quake on September 16.
Next up in the 47 in 24 series: Binghamton Junior Senators