Hockey Operations

Coaches

Steve Howard – President of Hockey Operations/Head Coach

steve@austinbruins.com

Steve Howard is entering his sixth season at the helm of the Bruins in 2022-23. He became the third head coach in Bruins history on May 1st, 2017 after spending the previous three seasons as an assistant coach for the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL.

In the five seasons behind the bench in Austin, Howard led the Bruins to a 146-106-14-20 record, and to back-to-back playoff berths in 2018 & 2019. In 2019-20, the Bruins were poised to make their third straight playoff run under Howard but the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but returned to the Playoffs in the 2021-22 Season. In 2017-18, Howard was named the Central Division Coach of the Year by the NAHL, becoming the first head coach in Bruins history to achieve the honor.

Howard was recognized as the NA3HL Coach of the Year after leading the Flint Junior Generals to the circuit’s Eastern Division championship and USA Hockey’s Tier III National Junior Tournament in 2014.  Over two seasons with the Junior Generals, Howard owned a regular-season record of 69-21-4.

Howard played professionally in the ECHL, SPHL, other domestic circuits, as well as in Europe and Asia from 2001 through 2008.  His first experience came as a player/assistant with the SPHL’s Columbus (GA) Cottonmouths in 2006/07.  After retirement as a player, his career in coaching and skill development including work with the Minnesota Advancement Program and Michigan’s STRIDA Hockey.

Justin Fisher – Assistant Coach

justin@austinbruins.com

Justin Fisher begins his third season as an Assistant Coach with the Austin Bruins in 2022-23. Fisher came to the Bruins after serving as an assistant coach for the Adrian Bulldogs club hockey team in 2019-20. The native of Flushing, MI, was also a five-year player for the Bulldogs as a player, serving as Assistant Captain in 2017-18 and Captain in 2018-19.

Prior to playing in college, Fisher competed in the NA3HL with the Flint Jr. Generals and was coached by Steve Howard. Under Howard’s leadership, Fisher logged 54 total points in 48 games with the Jr. Generals.

A native of Michigan, Fisher now resides in Austin.

Hampus Sjödahl – Assistant Coach

hampus@austinbruins.com

Hampus Sjödahl is entering his second season as an Assistant Coach with the Austin Bruins in 2022-2023. Sjödahl joins the Bruins after spending the past year working
in skill and player development in and around the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota area.

Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Sjödahl moved to the United States in 2014 to play junior
hockey for the Odessa Jackalopes of the North American Hockey League. He spent
two seasons in Odessa, totaling 103 points in 115 games, holding the franchise
record for all-time goals scored. He finished his junior career as a part of the All-NAHL Team, South Division All-Star Team, South Division MVP, South Division
Forward of the Year, and by attending the Dallas Stars Development Camp in the
summer of 2016.

Sjödahl continued his playing career at Bemidji State University, where he played
four years of collegiate hockey while pursuing a degree. In his senior season, he
was an Alternate Captain for the Beavers and graduated in the spring of 2020 with
a degree in Business Administration.

Nick Lehr – Goaltending Coach

Nick Lehr returns for his second stint as Goaltending Coach after previously serving in the role for the 2018-19 season. Lehr also served as the Goalie Director with the Beijing Junior Kings in Beijing, China, as part of the Los Angeles Kings Goalie Development Program from 2019 to 2021. Lehr has previously worked with Minnesota Advancement Program (MAP) and MEGA Goaltending. Lehr has been associated with the Blaine-based goaltending program since the beginning of his playing career and has been coaching on and off since high school.

Prior to joining the Bruins in a coaching capacity, Lehr played four seasons at the University of Minnesota where he graduated in 2018 with a degree in Business and Marketing Education. The Roseville, MN, native is the most decorated goaltender in Austin Bruins history having played three years in a Bruins uniform between 2011 and 2014. He currently holds team records as a Goalie in appearances, minutes, fewest goals allowed, and wins in a season. He was also named to the NAHL All-Central team for his efforts during the 2013-14 campaign.

 

Scouting Department

Aaron Venasky – Director of Player Personnel/Assistant Coach

aaron@austinbruins.com

Aaron Venasky begins his sixth season with the Bruins in 2022-23 after three successful seasons in which he helped Austin make the NAHL Central Division playoffs. Before coming to Austin, Venasky coached at Lakeville South High School where the Cougars were Section 1AA Champions and State Semi-Finalists in 2016 as well as Section Finalists in 2017. Venasky also served as Head Scout/Midwest Regional Scout with the Bismarck Bobcats for six seasons prior to coaching at Lakeville South.

Venasky is a native of Edmonton, Alberta, and grew up playing in Apple Valley, Minnesota. He competed for three seasons in the junior ranks for the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL and the Billings Bulls of the former AWHL. After juniors, Venasky took his career to the collegiate level where he helped the University of Wisconsin- River Falls Falcons win three WIAC Championships. Venasky graduated from the University of Wisconsin- River Falls with a B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis on Finance.

August Aiken – Scout

Jon Jepson – Scout

Tyler Veen – Scout

Gene Zyla – Scout