The Bismarck Bobcats team that won the Central Division title and skated to the semifinals of the Robertson Cup tournament was an experienced, veteran-laden club.
Which means the team that takes the ice tonight at the VFW Sports Center will look a lot different.
The Bobcats will open the season with 19 new faces on the 25-man roster when they square off with the Aberdeen Wings at 7:15 p.m.
“At our level, you have to rebuild a hockey team almost every year,” said Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie. “It’s one of the challenges, but it’s also one of the fun parts.
“Systems are always a big part of it, there’s so much information thrown at them at once. We need to make sure the guys are prepared. It’s going to be a work in progress, a little bit of a feeling-out process.”
While new players abound, there are some solid veterans returning in Tobias Fladeby, Jared Resseguie, Nick Alexander, Jordan Fralich, Pieter von Steinbergs and Parker Mismash.
Fladeby is the top scorer returning for the Bobcats, having posted 27 points last season on 12 goals and 15 assists. He had one goal and five assists during the postseason.
Alexander finished with 19 points (11 goals, 8 assists) while Resseguie had two goals and 13 assists.
Von Steinbergs (2-11 – 13), Mismash (2-8 – 10) and Fralich (1-8 – 9) also return.
Knowing the team would be loaded with newcomers, the Bobcats were active in the trade market in the offseason, bringing in five players with NAHL experience in Zach Kennedy, coming over from Central Division rival Austin, Will Ulrich and Nick McKeeby (Minnesota Magicians), Austin Junger (Faribanks/Kenai River) and Joey Sardina (Kenai River).
“We tried to address the need by bringing in some guys that had played in the league,” Sedevie said.
Ullrich, who had 18 wins, a 2.91 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage last season for the Magicians, will start as the No. 1 goaltender for the Bobcats. Williston native Camden Haugenoe is also in the mix.
“Camden is going to push him,” Sedevie said. “I think we have a good tandem.”
The Bobcats looked to get more size into the blueline corps in the offseason.
“We’re a little bit bigger on the back end,” Sedevie said. “We’ve been smaller the last few seasons and we wanted a few bigger guys there to protect the net.”
The Wings will have a new look for the opener as well. Former Bobcats assistant coach Scott Langer takes the rains in Aberdeen after a successful run in Topeka, including an NAHL coach of the year award in 2011 and GM of the year award in 2010.