The ‘17 in 17’ series features an in-depth look into all 17 NA3HL teams, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season on Saturday, September 8th. ‘17 in 17’ will go in-depth into each 3HL team and will include interview with all 17 3HL head coaches as they prognosticate and break down their outlook for the upcoming season.
St. Louis Jr. Blues
Head Coach: J.P. Beilsten
Assistant Coaches: Ken Daleo, Mark Staub, Mike Hazelton, Greg Anderson
2011-12 Record: 31-12-5, 67 pts. – 1st in Central Division
Playoffs: Lost in the NA3HL Silver Cup Championship game to Granite City, 2-1
2012-13 Division: Central (2011-12 Central)
Opening Night: Saturday, September 8th vs. Peoria – 7:00 pm at Afton Ice Rink
Losing by just a goal to the Granite City Lumberjacks for the 2011-12 NA3HL Silver Cup Championship title, the St. Louis Jr. Blues posted one of the best seasons in the league last year, being crowned the Central Division Regular Season Champions, Central Division Playoff Champions and winning every game in the NA3HL Silver Cup Championship round-robin tournament, other than the Championship game.
Head coach J.P. Beilsten and his assistant coaches look to make it a repeat again this year, but with the hardware instead. “Our main goal is to make it all the way to the end and win, but to get there we have to set small goals along the way. After the regular season, we will set the goal of winning playoffs and ultimately we would like to compete for the league championship and then nationals,” he said.
To make it to the end, Beilsten is trusting his veteran players and newly appointed captain to get the team there. “We are going to have a big learning curve with so many players coming over from midget hockey to juniors. We want to get over that learning curve as quick as possible and move on to our next goal of winning the Central Division,” Beilsten said.
Returning from last years team will be forwards Trace Jablin, Sam Turner and Kerry McGlynn. Jablin, scored the lone goal in the NA3HL Silver Cup Championship game, putting the team one goal away from winning it all. He was also awarded the 2011-12 Academic Achievement award for the league and will be a great influence on the team again this year. Tyler Opilka will be the only returning defensemen, and Clint Steinmeyer will be the only veteran goaltender. Steinmeyer, one of the youngest goalies in the league last year, will split his time with rookie goaltender, Mikael Broliden, joining the Jr. Blues from Sweden.
One of the biggest changes to the roster will be that of the 2011-12 Chicago Hitmen Captain, forward Jeremy Edwards. Edwards was the Hitmen’s leading scorer last season and was presented the Community Service award at least years NA3HL banquet. Beilsten saw him as a natural leader, and knew that he would be the perfect fit for this year’s young roster. “Edwards was the Captain of Chicago last year, and we brought him as Captain to our team this year. We played Chicago a lot last year and his leadership stood out to us, so we wanted to keep him in the same role. Last year, Chicago had young team similar to ours this year. Edward led the team without a flaw, and he’s great with the younger players. Being a previous captain in our league, he knows how to communicate with the officials well, lead on the ice and we believe he his role as Captain will be a key in our teams success this year,” Belisten said.
In addition to Edwards, the Jr. Blues will also be acquiring veteran forward Mike Lozano from the Chicago Hitmen and Swedish forward Victor Görtz. The coaching staff believes that these three new additions will guide the younger players into the junior hockey style of play.
With high hopes for all the new and veteran players, the organization prides themselves on the focus of moving players forward. Last year, the St. Louis Jr. Blues helped eight players move on this year to NAHL and USHL junior hockey programs. This season, they will be working on making more relationships with other teams to continue to create a path for players after the NA3HL.