Quick. What are the top three questions Kenai River Brown Bears coach Geoff Beauparlant is asked by colleges considering his players?
Strength? Nope. Speed? Not so much. Skating ability? That doesn’t make the list either.
“The top three questions that I’m asked as a coach at our level, whether it be by a Division I or III program, are work ethic, character and leadership,” the coach said.
And that’s why Beauparlant is betting that 19-year-old forward Jack Gessert will not be back with the Bears in his final year of junior eligibility next season.
“He has the whole package,” the coach said. “He has the academics piece, the size Division I teams look for, he skates well even on the big rink and he’s an extremely intelligent hockey player.
After serving as a captain in his final year at the Midget level, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound forward was drafted by Kenai River and played in 58 games as a rookie in the 2013-14 season, notching 13 goals and 18 assists.
After almost making the United States Hockey League, which is a step up from the North American Hockey League, Gessert returned to the Bears six games into this season.
In the 13 games since, he has 13 goals and three assists to lead the team in goals and points.
“He’s just kept his game simple,” Beauparlant said. “He’s willing to go in the tougher areas and he’s been a consistent worker.
“The big thing I’ve been trying to get across to all the guys is success comes with hard work and attention to detail, and those are things that Jack does extremely well.”
Gessert said he is more physically prepared for the junior season, during which a player can only hope to maintain strength and speed. The time for getting stronger and faster is in the offseason.
“I went into summer training knowing what I had to get better at,” said Gessert, the son of John and Susan Gessert of Novi, Michigan. “I worked hard on getting stronger and faster, and I was on the ice a lot more than in past summers.”
Beauparlant said it is impossible to fully prepare the body for going up a level in hockey, whether that be to juniors or college.
“That second year at the junior level or college level is a really big year,” the coach said. “You go into the offseason knowing what to expect as a player.”
While just missing out on the USHL can be tough for some players, Gessert embraced the challenge of coming back to the Peninsula.
And he lucked out when his billet family from last season, Chris and Melissa Kline of Soldotna, had an opening to welcome him back into the home.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Gessert said. “How many people can say they’ve lived in Alaska?
“I’ve been fortunate enough to live here two years now, and I’m really blessed to live with such a great family.”
Beauparlant said Gessert has bought in on the ice as well.
“He believes in Kenai River,” the coach said. “He believes the program can get him where he wants to go.”
About three weeks ago, Beauparlant named Gessert an assistant captain.
“It surprised me a little bit, but I appreciated coach Beauparlant and (assistant coach Rory) Dynan honoring me with the assistant captainship,” Gessert said. “I’m trying to work hard leading the team and acting as a role model to some of the younger players.”
Gessert, a left wing, also has quickly developed a nice relationship on the ice with Maurin Bouvet, a center.
“Our styles complement each other,” Gessert said. “We’re having a lot of success playing with each other.”
While Gessert said his start has drawn the interest of a few schools, he is more concerned with leading the team at this point.
The Bears have been inconsistent this year, but Gessert said that will change.
“I want to see us come together even more,” he said. “Once we come together and start playing as a team, we’re really going to excel and start rising through the standings pretty quickly.”