With the Kenai River Brown Bears hosting Main Camp this week in Blaine, Minnesota, from Tuesday to Sunday, head coach Josh Petrich has a lot of tough decisions to make as he cuts the number of players from around 125 to about 30.
One decision Petrich has already made is who will be his assistant coach next season.
The team announced Monday that Dan Bogdan will be taking over for Nick Sova as the team’s assistant.
The opening was created when Sova took the head coaching job with Iowa Wild 18U AAA.
Petrich comes from the Wild program himself. The team contacted Petrich asking if Sova would be interested in the head coaching job, and Petrich immediately let Sova know so Sova could decide for himself.
“He decided he wanted to explore head coaching, and I fully support that,” Petrich said.
Petrich is just starting his second season with the Bears, and Sova is the second assistant to move on to another opportunity. Jed McGlasson left to be an assistant at Division III Saint Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota, in November 2017.
“We’re in the development business,” Petrich said. “This is not a business where people stay in one place for five or six years.”
The next assistant coach to be developed is Dan Bogdan, who as an assistant helped lead Northfield Mount Hermon Prep School in Massachusetts to a 24-6-3 record last season.
“We’re excited Dan is coming in,” Petrich said. “He’s very energetic and well-spoken and he will do a great job with all facets of the organization.”
Petrich said Bogdan showed his dedication by volunteering to be the on-ice strength and conditioning coach for the University of Connecticut.
One area Bogdan is very excited about, according to Petrich, is working with the youth programs on the Kenai Peninsula.
“He’s gung-ho,” Petrich said. “He wants to get involved with the community.”
Both Sova and Bogdan will be at main camp this week. After that, Sova will stay on with the Brown Bears as a scout.
Petrich has expanded main camp this year in order to get a better look at the players. Last year’s camp was four days, while this year’s will be six days.
“Because of where we are located, we don’t get to spend as much time with these players as the teams in the Lower 48,” Petrich said. “We’ll use the extra time to get to know the kids on the bubble a lot better.”
Petrich said the extra time also benefits the players, because of the investment it takes to get to the Kenai Peninsula for training camp.
“We’ll get to know the kids better before we ask them to make a big investment,” he said.
There are nine returners in Main Camp this week. The Bears had 20 players eligible to return.
As previously announced, Carter Wade and Luke Posner have been traded and Ross Hanson will go to college. The Bears also recently lost Tyler Miknich to career-ending hip surgery. Miknich also will attend college.
The other seven eligible to return are not in camp for various reasons, such as exploring other options. The most notable is Eagle River’s Cam McDonald, who has a great shot at sticking with the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League, the top junior league in the country.
“They’re all excited and they can’t wait to get back to Kenai,” Petrich said of the returners. “That’s something I don’t think the program has had in the past.
“We have guys that could play elsewhere, but they’re excited to come back.”
Those that make the cut will report to training camp on the Kenai Peninsula starting Aug. 21.