At least two boys hockey programs will have new head coaches for the 2014-15 season.
Steve Moe will take over the boys hockey team at Coon Rapids, replacing Brandon Mileski after four seasons.
The other change comes at Blaine where Dave Aus stepped down after 14 seasons to take over the Brainerd program. Aus replaced Steve Larson in Blaine after the team won the 2000 state championship.
Moe returns home
Moe grew up skating on the rinks in Coon Rapids, playing for his father, also named Steve Moe, throughout the Coon Rapids Youth Hockey Association levels and wore the Cardinals sweater before graduating in 1999.
The younger Moe moved to play junior hockey in Montana for the Great Falls Americans before a four-year collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls where he was captain as a senior.
He began coaching a JV team in River Falls and did a little youth coaching as a volunteer before serving as the JV coach at Simley over the last six seasons while working for Allina Health.
Moe officially accepted the position three weeks ago and is just now working to fill in the gaps in the coaching staff and summer program.
It’s no secret that the Coon Rapids’ varsity program has struggled to find wins with just six Northwest Suburban Conference wins during Mileski’s tenure and an overall record of 20-79-5.
“I see the situation in Coon Rapids as a challenge,” Moe said. “It’s a matter of getting confidence up from the youth level and getting these kids to know they are good enough to skate with the Blaines and Anokas. I know we have to put a stamp on how we play but I know in a town of 60,000 people, it’s very possible to catch (the area’s best programs).”
He has one niece and two nephews currently involved in Coon Rapids hockey, so he returns twith at least a little bit of knowledge about the current state of the program.
While he has only been on the job a brief time, Moe feels fortunate in the way Mileski left the program, despite the lopsided varsity record.
“I haven’t talked with Brandon but I’ve talked with his (staff),” Moe said. “They know the kids and have a good idea of who the kids are, so I’m fortunate in not having to change a whole lot.”
This is Moe’s first varsity head coach opportunity and he’s pulled something from his own playing experience to help mold his coaching style.
“I take some good and bad from every coach,” he said, most notably from his coach at Great Falls Rikard Gronborg. Gronborg was an assistant coach most recently during Team Sweden’s bronze medal-winning IIHF World Championships that concluded May 25 in Belarus.
“The one thing I got from him was how much we all respected and feared him because he would stand up and do anything for me so I didn’t want to disappoint him,” Moe said, as Gronborg was suspended for the bronze medal game after an altercation with a Russian coach during the semifinals. “I’m a calm person and I’m not going to try to be anybody I’m not. I’m not going to yell at somebody because that’s not who I am.”
Moe planned an introductory meeting with players and parents earlier this week as the only contact he can have with the team right now, before starting the summer program in June.
Aus moves on
After thinking about moving on from the Blaine program for the last two years, Aus decided now was a good time to move into a new program in Brainerd.
“A year ago I had a chance and could’ve left but it wasn’t really anything different from what I was doing … but when this opportunity (Brainerd) opened up, I don’t know how many chances I will have to move into a situation like this one,” Aus said.
He took over the Bengals program after its lone state championship as a top assistant that helped build the Bethel University program.
“I was 30-31 (years-old) when I was hired and thinking, ‘This is going to be great. Year after year successes and I realize now why not every program has success. You have to have a little bit of luck, hard work and have the right people, kids and coaches, in the right places but as important as anything is the guys coaching with me, they were really good.”
Reflecting on his tenure with Blaine, he feels good about the position he’s leaving the program in.
“It’s been good,” Aus said. “Much better now than when I took over where the bantams were in the bottom third of the district, no weight room or summer program and I know the job gets a lot easier for the person coming in now. This is a top-five job and when it opens you’re going to get people to apply and I’m really proud of that.”
Aus felt a shift in the program during the 2004-05 season to help propel the team to six straight state tournament appearances from 2006 to 2011. “We knew a turnaround was coming and so we did some leadership training, strength training and that was one of the best team’s I’ve coached. They didn’t get to state but really catapulted us to the last nine years,” he said.
Aus meet with the returning group for the 2014-15 season before school May 16 before driving to Brainerd for a welcome meeting that evening.
The Warriors are the dominant program in the area winning six consecutive Central Lakes Conference titles with the likes of Alexandria, St. Cloud Apollo and Sauk Rapids-Rice.
As for the next person behind the bench for the Bengals?
Activities Director Shannon Gerrety said the position is certainly high-profile but will follow the same process as any other vacancy.
“We want the best candidates to teach kids and develop lifelong memories,” he said.
Gerrety thanked Aus for his time and how he’s handled the situation. “We’ve been honest and open in the process and anytime you have a long-time coach established in the community to the level the Aus’ are, it creates extra attention in the program but Dave’s left our program in a good position.
“When he came in looked like the program could go nowhere but down after the state title but he brought more to the program to keep it at a high level and we’re thankful and proud of what he’s accomplished.”
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