With 16 new players on the 25-man roster, the 2013-14 edition of the Brown Bears is not long on experience.
But the Bears are long on experienced defensemen.
Vince Stefan and Jake Davidson return for their third year with the club, while Jake Bushey and Judd Loewenstein are back for a second year.
“Our D corps looks real solid and real deep, and defense wins championships,” said returning forward and Kenai Central product Zack Zulkanycz.
Stefan is nearly recovered from a broken ankle sustained in the playoffs last season. He played in a Friday scrimmage, but coach Geoff Beauparlant said he did not want to tip his hand as to when Stefan will take the ice for real. Stefan had 26 points last year, while Davidson had 27, Bushey had 17 and Loewenstein had five.
With top scorers Matt Seidel and Alex Jackstadt gone, the defensemen will be called upon for some offense.
“I think the D is getting a lot better at getting the puck and making offensive plays,” said returning forward Alec Butcher. “It won’t be all on the forwards. There will be more balanced scoring.”
Wasilla’s Chancie Hanson, Anchorage’s Tyler Andrews and Anchorage’s Christian Luiten also join the back line, along with Sweden’s Gustav Berglund and California’s Austin Chavez.
Beauparlant said Hanson and Andrews bring size and strength. He said Berglund is one of the hardest workers on the ice, while Luiten also brings size and Chavez is a young player learning quickly.
The top returning scorer is Butcher, who is from Anchorage. He had 10 goals and 20 assists in 41 games. Albin Karlsson, the team’s lone Division I recruit thus far, also returns with his 11 goals and 18 assists.
“We’re not just looking for Albin and Alec to be the offensive mainstays,” Beauparlant said. “We’re looking for depth and balance across the lineup.”
The coach said returners Conor Deal, of Anchorage, and Zulkanycz are standing out and showing they can be more than checking players. Deal had 18 points last season, while Zulkanycz had 19.
Beauparlant also thinks the other returning forward, Brad LeLievre, will be ready to carry more of the offensive load. LeLievre had 19 points last season.
The coach said Frankie Spellman, recently released from the United States Hockey League, will add a physical presence at forward, along with Jack Gessert.
“We’re pretty solid up front with the addition of Spellman,” Beauparlant said. “He really added depth.”
Brody Decker and Sebastian Fuchs provide craftiness with the puck, while Tommy Dierl brings high-end speed.
Rounding out the forwards, the coach said Nathan Colwell had high-end ability but is still learning what it takes, while Matt Rubin is a hard-working, two-way center and Anchorage’s Steven Butts is the ultimate team player.
At goalie will be Zach Quinn and Anchorage’s Kris Oldham. Oldham is just 16 and is one of the top goalies in the country at his age group. He recently led Team USA to victory in the Under-17 Five Nations Tournament in Slovakia. Beauparlant said Quinn made the team by standing out at main camp.
“We’re really happy with our goaltending,” Beauparlant said. “Both have game-breaking ability and can steal a game, but they’re both technically sound so they don’t have to make spectacular saves. They make a lot of saves look easier than they are.”