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Vichorek Moves Players To Next Level

With training camp on the doorstep it’s easy to overlook some of the successes of the 2012-2013 season. New Bozeman Head Coach Mark Vichorek isn’t taking the achievements of two of his players for granted at all this summer. Two former Central Wisconsin Saints that played for Vichorek the past two seasons, Mike Tiberi Jr. and Kevin McMorrow, have committed to playing Division III College Hockey for Becker College in Massachusetts.

The two players were winners of the MNJHL’s award for top defenseman. Tiberi was the Saints leading point getter for all skaters with 50 points in 44 games. Tiberi leaves junior hockey holding nearly every Saints record for defensemen.  Tiberi was also named the team captain last season. “Coach [Vichorek] named me team captain and that really meant a lot to me.  That he trusted that I could lead 24 other guys and help us come together and win was huge for my confidence.”

Tiberi and his defense partner, McMorrow, played huge minutes for the Saints last season. Often they would log between 30-40 minutes per night! McMorrow was named an assistant captain in 2012-2013 and is behind only Tiberi in the Saints record books. “As veterans on my teams they were very good leaders and showed the younger players what it takes to make it to the next level. Having experienced vets like that is so big for any level hockey team.” Said Vichorek.

Tiberi, or Tibs, as he was known to his teammates was a workhorse on and off the ice. He was always striving to improve. He has an excellent sense of offense as a former forward. He knows how to get the puck to the net and has a laser beam shot. His defensive play has improved in past years and he can now be counted on in any situation defensively.

Tiberi attributes much of his success to his coach. “It was a dream to play more hockey after juniors and now I have a chance to do it and I owe a lot of that to Coach Vichorek.” Said the former Saint. “He taught me a lot about playing. He also taught me about being a person and being a leader on and off the ice. I have had a lot of coaches good and bad, but I have to say that I have had none that worked harder and cared about his players more than Coach Vichorek.”

McMorrow, or Mac, might have been the smoothest skater in all of tier III junior hockey last season. He had the ability to dominate a game and his ability to possess the puck and make calm, reasoned decisions was unparalleled. McMorrow saw time in the NAHL early in his career, but saw a chance to advance with Coach Vichorek.

"Having a chance to play college hockey at any level is a great opportunity. I am not sure I would or could have gotten this opportunity without Coach Vichorek.” McMorrow Explained. “He called me several times to come and play for him and I am so glad I did. He gave me the opportunity to showcase my skills and work with some other good players to further my career. If I haven't come to play for Coach I really don't think I would be playing at Becker College. There are coaches that say they care and there are coaches that truly care and Coach Vichorek is one that truly cares about his players.”

Vichorek couldn’t be happier for his two stars. “I think it is great that Tibs and Mac got the rewards they worked so hard to achieve. They worked very hard on and off the ice to prepare for this opportunity. For them to have a chance to play at a very good Division III program like Becker College is awesome. These are two very talented players that applied themselves and listened and learned all that I could teach them along with other coaches along the way. When Coach Steve Hoar of Becker called me and asked if I had any players that could play for him and at that level, these two and a few other certainly came to mind. For every coach it makes you proud to have a hand in the success of your players. It will be fun to watch and see how these guys develop more over the next four years and continue to succeed. ”

He added that Tiberi and McMorrow made smart decisions in their careers by choosing Tier III hockey. “When players come to play for me I will do everything in my power to get them opportunities like Mike and Kevin worked for. They earned this chance and should be very proud of themselves. A player can make it from whatever level they play. They made their way from the Tier III level and will be playing with a lot of guys that played in the USHL or the NAHL. Too many players feel playing Tier III is a death sentence for their careers and these two plays have shown that is not true. They never gave up on their dream and it paid off.”

Vichorek will bring that level of commitment and success to Bozeman this year and he is looking for his next success stories right now.

Forward Erickson Chooses Icedogs

The Bozeman Icedogs are happy to announce that forward Ryan Erickson will be joining the team for the 2013-2014 season. Erickson, a 6’1”, 190 winger spent last season with the Central Wisconsin Saints and won the MNJHL Player Development Award. Erickson joins Austin Nottke as the second former Saint to join former Saints Head Coach Mark Vichorek in Bozeman.

After a successful season in Stevens Point, WI that saw Erickson record 10 goals and 21 points while playing third line minutes, Ryan has had a very busy summer going to NAHL camps and showcases across the country.  Ryan, after one year of junior hockey and a good high school career at Bemidji High School in Minnesota is what is known as a bubble player.  He is very close to making it in the USHL or NAHL but just hasn't got that chance yet.

Ryan is motivated by the feedback he has gotten, saying, “What I'd like to accomplish this season is to get my skill set high enough to get moved on to the next level of hockey.” Vichorek, who has kept tabs on Erickson this off-season had this to say: “This will be a big year for Ryan to make the move onward and upward.  He is so close to making that next step, we just need to work on a couple little things to get him there.”

Erickson is excited to get to work with Vichorek for a second season. “I chose Bozeman because I wanted to have the opportunity to play for Coach Vichorek again. He's an outstanding coach and really helped develop my skill set last season.” Adding, “I'm extremely excited for this upcoming season. I've been chomping at the bit to lace the skates back up so the season can't come soon enough for me!”

Erickson is a player that can fill multiple roles for Vichorek’s Icedogs. Besides putting up points last season, Erickson brought a lot to the team that wasn’t easily measured. Erickson was the team’s top penalty killing forward and also led the team in penalty minutes with a whopping 162. He added 142 hits and 17 blocks while quietly serving as a leader in his rookie season. While not fleet of foot, Erickson uses his body well along the wall and in front of the net. His defensive positioning is impeccable and his heart and effort are never in question.

Say Erickson, “I'd consider myself a grinder, not the flashiest of players, but I'll go into all the tough areas and answer the bell when it's needed.” He certainly did that last season, dropping the mitts whenever he was called on. His coach agrees with that assessment, stating, “We are very fortunate to get Ryan to play for the Icedogs after receiving several offers from other teams in other leagues.  Ryan will be one of the toughest players in the league for sure as well as being very good at killing penalties and getting his nose dirty.  Ryan goes to the net very well and is very good in his own end. He will be a main player throughout the year and also brings very good leadership.”

Erickson will join the Icedogs this season and hopes to build on what was an excellent debut in Central Wisconsin. He also rejoins his former “Red” Linemate Austin Nottke, although the third member of the trio has re-signed in Wisconsin. The Icedogs are very excited for what Erickson will bring to the ice this season.

Icedogs Tab Center Nottke

The Bozeman Icedogs have received a commitment from center Austin Nottke to play for the club during the 2013-2014 season. Nottke is entering his final year of eligibility and is excited to play with the Icedogs. “I am very excited to be playing my final year of eligibility with this organization I'm looking forward to an amazing final year.” Said Nottke.

Nottke is looking to get back on track after a difficult year with the Central Wisconsin Saints in 2012-2013. He began the season as the top-line center, but in the season’s first showcase he injured his groin. Nottke also developed a hernia during the season and his injuries slowed his play and offensive abilities considerably.

Mark Vichorek coached, who worked with Nottke last season had this to say: “Austin played for me last year in Wisconsin and had a tough year.  I knew he was a good player, especially having a 4 point weekend in our first series.  Austin Struggled a bit the rest of the year as we found out he had a hernia that was obviously hampering his play. What it showed me was his "guts" literally, and his toughness to play 5 more months with that serious medical problem. “

Nottke chose Bozeman, in part, because of the way he was coached last season. “Playing under Coach Mark, I know what to expect and I can easily say we will be consistently working hard to strive to become successful. That is the reason I chose Bozeman and I wouldn't change it for the world.” He added, “My main goal to accomplish this season is to stay consistent with my play and become the leader I need to be to help my team in all aspects.”

Nottke still managed to amass 10 goals and 20 points in 47 games while playing mostly third line minutes. Nottke is a player that can play anywhere in the lineup. He has good speed and acceleration and he sees the ice well. He can muscle his way to the front of the net and put the puck away. He is also a dogged defender most of the time.

Nottke’s real value comes from the way he plays away from the puck. Nottke led all Saints skaters last year with 204 hits. He also led the team in faceoff percentage by a hefty margin. “I am the type of player that will hustle, hit and grind to do whatever it takes to put that puck in the net, or allow a teammate of mine to do so.” Nottke said of his own play.

His coach was similarly complimentary, saying, “Austin is a very tough customer on the ice and loves to throw his body around and bang into people.  He has better than average hands and can make plays.  He is also a veteran that will bring very important leadership to the Icedogs this year.”

Coach Vichorek also believes that Nottke’s career will not end in Bozeman. “I think Austin has the ability to play some college hockey in the next few years.  He works extremely hard and never quits and I know a lot of college coaches looking for that type of player.”

Nottke’s mind is on the present however, saying, “This game’s not easy and nothing is given freely.  You have to go out there and take it. I plan on doing just that.”

Icedogs' July Update

It has been a busy summer for the Bozeman Icedogs preparing for the upcoming 2013-14 season.  New Head Hockey Coach Mark Vichorek has been extremely busy recruiting players from across the country this summer.  "It has been a pretty good couple of months on the recruiting path this summer.  Going to North American Hockey League camps and other College and Junior showcases to find players has been very rewarding.

Some players attend so many camps to get exposure and hopefully catch on that I get a chance to see them skate several times over the course of the summer. Chase Engdahl, a defenseman from Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Austin Nottke, a forward from Surprise, Arizona will be two of my leaders this upcoming season. These two played for me in the past and are tested veterans in junior hockey and two very tough players that work hard and understand that the team always comes first.  

Chase played for me in Stevens Point, Wisconsin for the Central Wisconsin Saints of the MNJHL his first year out of high school and the Queen City Steam of the NA3HL this past season. Chase loves to bang people around on the boards, block shots and mix it up when the time calls for it. He will be one of the toughest players in the league this season.  

Austin also played for me in Wisconsin for the Saints. He too is a very tough player that likes to throw his body around and mix it up as well. A tenacious forechecker with great strength along the boards, Nottke moves the puck well both defensively and on the attack.

A new face coming to the Icedogs who just recently signed a contract is Kegan Couture. I recruited Kegan pretty aggressively this summer after seeing him play in the Brookings Blizzard of the NAHL, Pre-draft camp. Kegan is another tough kid that moves the puck very well up ice and to his team mates. Kegan was drafted in the NA3HL draft but opted to come to Bozeman and be an Icedog.  Kegan is a forward and should be one of the leading scorers this season . He comes to us from Pequot Lakes Minnesota and just finished high school and will be in his first junior hockey season." 

Vichorek is still on the hunt like any good lead dog would be for more top notch players. "A lot of the Tier 1 and Tier 2 final camps are upon us in late July and early August and a great opportunity to bring in some more players that may be on the bubble to move up a level and may just need a good year of coaching and learning to make that step next year."  It is imperative that I bring in good players and quality people to ensure a very good season this year. This may seem like a bold statement, but I will stand by it. I believe we will be the team to beat this season in the AWHL and the recruiting process as long and as hectic it can be at times, will help make that possible. Putting a good product on the ice and good, well meaning young men in the community is essential to bring this franchise back to the prominent level it once was. I believe I have a very good start in doing that with kids from all over the country.

I also believe that some of the players from last year will be integral parts of the team this season. Steven Nisbet, who was third on the team last season in scoring has ambitions of playing college hockey in the future. He is one of the returning players that has his best hockey ahead of him yet in his career. He has been working out very hard this summer as well as attending several camps to get his name out there for the future. 

Other local players looking to make an impact on the team and for themselves are John Benevides of Houston, Texas. John is a big forward that can use his body to screen goalies ad score some goals this season. Tyler Ellson of Warroad, Minnesota and Trent Carter of North Carolina will be looked upon to help make and keep the Icedogs successful.  

One player that intrigues me a bit that is returning is Tristen Franzen.  He has the right attitude and seems pretty feisty and unafraid for a smaller player and you have to like that in any player.  Johan Franzen is the big winger for the Detroit Red Wings is known as the mule, so we will have to call Tristen the little Mule."

The start of the 2013-14 season is only a month away and we are preparing for a good final camp to trim our roster to 25 or 26 players for the opening day roster. The Icedogs will be in Helena for the final camp on the 23rd, 24th, and 25th of August. The 23rd will be registration and the 'Dogs will be on the ice two times on Saturday and Sunday. Players will be selected after the final skate on Sunday to return for the official start of the season on September 2nd.

This is going to be an exciting time for Bozeman and the Icedogs in the next couple of months leading up to the start of the season. We will be out in the community at our sponsors places of business to sign autographs. The team members will also be volunteering and helping out quite often this year. We will also be in schools and at the rink helping the teams of BAHA. And  we'll also be having some family nights during select games this season. 

If you are a business out there that would like to participate as a sponsor in our programs and on the dasher boards in the arena please feel free to get a hold of us and we can help make that happen.

We are also looking for those families that would like to house a player for the season we would love to have you step up as well. Billets get a chance to have a player become part of their family, and that family becomes a closer part of the team. 

We are not far away to the start of the season and we want to have a packed house from day one! We are moving in the right direction. Come and see the Icedogs for the first time and if you are a hockey veteran we will see you at the rink.

Camp Dates Announced

The Bozeman Icedogs are pleased to announce their tryout camp dates for the 2013-2014 season. Registration will be held on Friday, August 23rd, while on-ice sessions will take place Saturday, August 24th and Sunday, August 25th. Players can register online by following this link.

The Icedogs are excited to get underway for this year's camp with new ownership, management and leadership. With the new personel comes a new attitude and direction. Owner Alec Nisbet and Head Coach Mark Vichorek are excited to begin the season and get on the ice with the newest members of the Icedogs family.

Check back soon for more details on the camp times and for information regarding the newly released regular season schedule.

An Interview With Head Coach Mark Vichorek

This summer the Bozeman Icedogs hired Mark Vichorek to take over head coaching duties with the team. He recently sat down with Kyle Sample of the Bozeman Chronicle to answer a few questions. Sample’s article can be found on the Bozeman Daily Chronicle webage here.

KS: How did the Icedogs get in touch with you?

MV: I had heard that the Icedogs were under possible new ownership and I tried hard to get a hold of Jason Martel, the former owner to inquire about a possible new coach after last season. Steve Harrison, the former coach and I played together professionally and spoke a few times during last season about players and how each of us was doing. I actually got Alec's number from Steve and called him about potentially coaching the Icedogs. Alec asked me to send him my information and resume. A week or two after he received my information he asked if I could come out for an interview.

KS: What was the interview process like, what vision did you sell ownership on?

MV: I thought the interviewing process was very well set up. The group doing the interviews was very well selected and had very good questions covering everything that was involved in what it is going to take to make the Icedogs a winner. My vision for the team is hard work and passion for playing and and the want for the players to move on to the next level. This is about teaching and coaching players on the ice and helping mentor them as young men and being professionals away from the rink. We want to create a family atmosphere for the team and the community to adopt these players as their own and want them to succeed.

KS: How much did you know about the Bozeman hockey program before interviewing?

MV: I was familiar with the Icedogs when they were in the North American Hockey League. My son was signed by the Icedogs in 2006 to play for them before they were sold. My son Taylor was so excited about coming to Bozeman to play because of the team and how beautiful it is out here. That year they were setting records for wins and point totals. This franchise was very successful under John Lafontaine. My goal is to bring this organization back to national prominence.

KS: Considering the Icedogs' recent past, what about the position attracted you?

MV: The challenge to getting back to winning ways was a major attraction for this position. I also said in my interview that it is “Bozeman, Montana”. That in itself is worth coaching here. The ownership was also a major element to come here and coach. As it says on our website: New ownership, a new coach and a new attitude. The past is the past and we need to move forward. Our plan is to get this team back into the community and become household names again. This is a great hockey community and we should be one of if not the game in town for people to come and watch.

KS: How do you go about fixing a team that has seriously struggled to compete and how do you sell players on coming to a team that doesn't really have a winning tradition?

MV: Recruiting is the key to successful teams and bringing in players that want to compete and win. I have recruited and coached for several teams and it all amounts to belief and accountability on and off the ice. I want players that want to get better and move on. The best thing for this program believe it or not, is turnover every year. If I am moving players onward and upward to higher levels then we are successful. My job is to do that very thing. It is all about the players and what we can do for them, but to get there they have to work their butts off and come to compete every single day. I am honest with players and their parents and what it is we want to accomplish, for them and the team. It is important to let them know they will be taken care of when they have worked hard to improve. Those are key selling points to bring in quality players and people.

KS: From your knowledge of the program, what are the biggest setbacks contributing to the Icedogs' struggles?

MV: I think a lack of commitment to the kids and not having them become a part of a community is a major setback to any program. We intend to do both here in the future. It is my job to make these players better on the ice and feel they are part of things in Bozeman happening around them. [New Owner] Alec Nesbit and I are committed to doing both of these things to help make this program successful. It is the present and the future we want to look to and create our own winning traditions.

KS: How does your previous coaching experience lend itself to the challenges ahead?\\

MV: I have been around this game a long time and have had several great coaches throughout my career as a player and a coach. I have coached at the High School, Junior, College and Professional levels. My coaching philosophy and positive teaching experiences have served me very well over the years and have allowed me to be able to adapt to the different styles of players. I also relate very well with this age group of players. I also have a Psychology degree and that also comes in very handy at times. When I played at all of these levels I had to work 100 percent of the time to be successful and that is something all players can do, and we will be a very hard working team.

KS: Your daughter's name is Montana, what is your connection to the State.

MV: I named my daughter Montana only because we loved the name. I was a huge Joe Montana fan but it has no relationship to her name. An interesting tidbit about my daughter after her 4 year college hockey career at Bemidji State University in the WCHA and Team USA she is now in Missoula attending Pharmacy school. Other than having the same name as the state there is no other connection.

KS: Just for biographical purposes, you played extensively in the NHL, what can you tell me about your professional career?

MV: I played 562 professional games in my career. I only played a few games in the NHL and was so close to having a long career but didn't quite fulfill that dream after being drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1982. I was drafted out of juniors when I played in the USHL for the Sioux City Musketeers. After my 4 years at Lake Superior State University in the CCHA, I signed for 2 years with the Hartford Whalers, which are now the Carolina Hurricanes.

I played for 12 teams in my career and loved almost every bit of it. I had to retire due to a bad back and it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I think that is why I am so passionate about letting these players know how short a career can be and to make the most of their opportunities regardless of what level they are playing.

I played with and against some great players and one of my favorite players of all time was Ron Francis when we were in Hartford. He worked very hard and was a class guy all the time and always a professional. Those are all attributes I want to instill in all the players that play for me. After I realized I could no longer play at such a high level I turned to coaching to give back to the game that was so great to me. It also keeps that competitive edge and adrenaline rush to coach and be successful.