47 in 24 series: Missoula Junior Bruins
August 27, 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.
Missoula Junior Bruins
2016-17 Record: 27-16-4, 58 pts. (4th in the Frontier Division)
2017 Playoffs: Lost in the Frontier Division quarterfinals to the Bozeman Icedogs, 2 games to 0
Head Coach: Marcus Baxter
2017-18 Division: Frontier
The Missoula Junior Bruins were newcomers to the Frontier Division a season ago, making a successful NA3HL debut in 2016-17.
The NA3HL’s most western franchise made the playoffs in their first season but unfortunately were swept in the first round. Despite this, Head Coach Marcus Baxter was excited about the season.
“We were pleased that as a first year program we had the opportunity to compete in the playoffs and even though we were disappointed we didn't advance past the first round, we were happy with the development of our group,” said Baxter.
The Junior Bruins saw a good amount of advancement during their first season under the North American Hockey League umbrella. Defenseman Wyatt Matthews averaged a point per game with Missoula, scoring seven times and contributing 25 assists in 32 contests. His superb play earned him a call up to Wichita Falls Wildcats of the NAHL.
“We do our best to develop our players during their time with our program and are always excited for the individuals who earn their way to the next level,” said Baxter. “Wyatt started the season with us and made the most of his call up and ended up finishing the season in the NAHL.”
The Junior Bruins also advanced Colby Birch (Utah), Austin Azzinnaro (Adrian), Joey Porco and Tanner Loucks (Eastern Washington) on to the college level.
Although its only been one season, Baxter is a big fan of the NA3HL exposure events and the opportunities they provide players.
“Having the opportunity to compete in the showcase for the first time last season was a great experience. The energy in the building and the amount of scouts and fans in attendance is certainly something that the players look forward to,” added Baxter.
Now that Missoula is through their rookie season in the NA3HL, its time to start contending for a division title.
“Our expectation this year is to build off of last year and hopefully climb in the standings,” Baxter explained.
They will have their best offensive weapon from a year ago returning in Misha Akatnov. The NA3HL top prospect scored 40 times for Junior Bruins last season, good for eighth overall in the league. Akatnov finished 20th overall in the league with 73 points and he finished an astounding plus-50.
In their second season, the Junior Bruins will be looking to make a even bigger impact in the Missoula community.
The team will be very involved with the youth hockey program, they will spend time at the community schools and will also be volunteer at the Montana food bank. Their teddy bear toss game also provides presents for the Watson’s Children shelter, Opportunity Resource and the local YMCA.
"We want to continue with our involvement with Missoula’s youth hockey program and continue to be visible in the community as much as possible,” Baxter explained.
Missoula will hit the ice on September 15th as they will take on the Great Falls Americans in their home opener.
Next up in the 47 in 24 series: Nashville Jr. Predators