AUSTIN, MN – The Austin Bruins announced on Monday that forward Jan Stefka has committed to NCAA Division I American International College, members of the Atlantic Hockey Conference. Stefka becomes the second Bruin to commit to a DI school (Jake Kucharski – Providence) this season.
Stefka, a ’97 from Krelov-Bruchotin, Czech Republic, is in his second season with the Bruins after spending four seasons in the HC Olomouc program in his native country. Although Springfield, Massachusetts is still far from home, American International’s history of bringing in foreign-born players was a major selling point for Jan.
“My favorite thing [about A.I.C.] is that they have a lot of European players,” said Stefka. “I think that the hockey style might suit me little better because North American hockey is different from European hockey. I’m just really excited to go there and meet all the kids from all over the world.”
The Yellow Jackets currently have two players from the Czech Republic on their roster, including former Bismarck Bobcats defenseman Patrik Demel. They also roster players from Sweden and Latvia. According to Bruins head coach/general manager Kyle Grabowski, A.I.C. coaches Eric Lang and Mike Towns see Stefka as a player who can fill a specific role on their team.
“I think there’s something to be said in the recruiting process for how bad they want you,” said Grabowski. “They’ve done their homework on him and they know the player they’re getting, and they have a need for a player like that. I think there’s a lot to be said about being able to go where you’re needed.”
Stefka’s point production has nearly doubled already, in six fewer games played this season than all of 2015-16. He finished last season with 17 points in 43 regular season games and three points in four postseason contests. His 30 points in 37 games in 2016-17 ranks third on the team, behind Justin Misiak and Travis Kothenbeutel.
“Since he showed up two training camps ago, he’s a completely different player,” said Grabowski. “He’s matured a lot and his game’s matured in the past season and a half.”
The sharpest learning curve for Stefka was the transition from European style hockey to a North American brand, and according to him, it comes down to one simple concept – working hard.
“When I came here I wasn’t much of a physical player and you need to be tough to play in this league,” said Stefka. “If you don’t work hard, things just aren’t going to come your way. You’ve got to work harder than the guy next to you.”
Grabowski is confident that with a continued strong work-ethic, Stefka can make a name for himself in the NCAA ranks.
“He’s going to be a really good college hockey player,” he said. “Eventually he’s going to be a 6’3, 220-pound man that has a good skill set, a good brain, skates well and shoots the puck like a pro.”