by John Peterson
The Austin Bruins are ready to usher in a new era and finalized its coaching staff Monday for the 2015-16 season.
Kyle Grabowski was named the second Head Coach in franchise history Friday, and will be joined by Keenan Kelly and Brad Clayton on the Bruins bench.
“As a staff we’re really excited,” said Grabowski. “There is such a good following for the team in Austin. The community shows so much support and obviously [the Bruins have] had a lot of success.”
Grabowki grew up in Oakdale, MN where he played goalie for Tartan High School, before manning the crease at Marion University from 2003-07. His coaching career began in 2010 as an assistant for the Idaho Junior Steelheads of the Western States Hockey League (WSHL).
After spending three years as an assistant, Grabowski was named Head Coach and General Manager of the Steelheads in 2013-14, where he led Idaho to a 39-5-2 record and a runner-up finish for the Tier III National Championship.
Grabowski made the jump to the NAHL last year where he was the assistant coach of the Brookings Blizzard, working alongside Head Coach Dan Daikawa.
“I learned the league last year working with [Daikawa] in Brookings, like working through trades and tenders. He was a great resource and I thank him a lot for what he’s done.”
Kelly will be the Bruins’ new assistant coach and he and Grabowski have worked together before. When Grabowski started with Idaho in 2010-11, Kelly was in his second year on staff. The Boise, ID native went to Northern Michigan University the following year where he has been a student assistant the past four seasons.
“Keenan and I have known each other a long time and I’m excited to coach with him again,” said Grabowski. “It’s good to work with people you trust.”
Monday the Bruins announced that Brad Clayton will be the third member of the Austin coaching staff, joining the team as an assistant coach and Director of Player Personnel. Clayton spent the past four seasons as head scout for the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints, and the past three as the Director of Scouting for the Janesville Jets. He also scouted for the Silver Cup winning Granite City Lumberjacks of the NA3HL the last three years.
Now the work begins, as June figures to be a pivotal month for recruiting.
“The biggest challenge is preparing for the draft and recruiting this summer,” said Grabowski. “June will be a crazy month and we have a lot of work to do.”
The new bench boss has already reached out to players from the 2014-15 Bruins team that still have junior hockey eligibility and has contacted all ten of Austin’s tenders, who he believes can contribute next year and says are excited to come to Austin.
Austin’s new coaching staff will step into an organization that has been among the NAHL’s elite the past three years, and Grabowski excited for the opportunity to build on that success.
“[Tok] and [Huffman] did a fantastic job here, but I expect us to have success and we will have to put our own stamp on things. I want our team to play hard, physical hockey and be the hardest team to play against.”