AUSTIN, MN – The Bruins announced on Thursday that head coach and general manager Kyle Grabowski has agreed to a three-year contract extension, through the 2018-19 season. Assistant coach Keenan Kelly will also be returning for the 2016-17 season.
“Kyle has done a great job with building a team on short notice,” said Bruins owner Mike Cooper. “He’s proven that he can win at this level. That he can beat really good teams at this level.”
In his first year at the helm, Grabowski has led the Bruins to a 26-22-4 record through 52 games, good for third place in the Central Division. The Bruins have spent a large part of the season in first place. Grabowski also served as an assistant on the Central Division Team at the Top Prospects Tournament in Plymouth, MI in February.
“For me where I’m at in my coaching career, this is a good stop – a good place for me,” Grabowski said. “The setup is great; the staff is great. We’re able to recruit good players here. Our ownership gives us the tools we need so I think we can make it something special here going forward.”
The biggest challenge for Grabowski this year has been the large turnover of personnel. Fourteen of the 24 players on the roster never played at the NAHL level prior to this season, leaving Grabowski and assistant coaches Keenan Kelly and Brad Clayton with a tall task for building an immediate winner.
“With such a young team we’ve had a lot of ups and downs. We were in first place there for a long time and we went through tough stretch and that’s to be expected with having probably the youngest team in the whole league,” Cooper added. “But we’ve been able to bounce back.”
Through it all, the Bruins are a comfortable nine points up on a playoff spot with eight games remaining in the regular season, just having swept a weekend home series with first place Bismarck.
For Kyle, a native of Oakdale, MN, he’s coaching near his family for what he says is the first time in his eight-year coaching career. “I’m close to home – where I grew up. I get to be around my family. That’s an important thing to me. It’s been really rewarding to have my family around.”
Cooper mentioned his satisfaction with the culture that Kyle and Keenan have created on and off the ice and the success in perspective to the high expectations of Bruins’ seasons past and a very competitive North American Hockey League.
“Obviously it’s always tough to come in and fill the shoes of finishing 2nd in the country,” Cooper said. “But you look around the league and we’re really happy with how we’re doing.”
The Bruins play host to Grabowski’s former employer, the Brookings Blizzard in their only game this weekend on Friday night at 7:05 at Riverside Arena in Austin. They can clinch a playoff spot as early as next Thursday.