Three of the Estevan Bruins’ standout graduating players have found places to play for next season.
Forward Austin Daae – who led the SJHL in scoring in 2013-14, and was named the league’s player of the year – has committed to play for the Fayetville Fire Antz of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL).
Forward Tanner Froese has committed to the St. Norbert Green Knights in Wisconsin, and goaltender Matt Gibney will play for the Neumann College Knights in Pennsylvania. St. Norbert and Neumann are Division III programs in the NCAA.
Daae noted that part of the reason he opted for Fayetville is that they’re coached by Emery Olauson. Olauson played with Estevan for parts of two seasons in 2001 and 2002, and was an assistant coach with the Flin Flon Bombers for much of last season.
“Having seen me play quite a bit, and knowing what I’m about, with my strengths as a player, he knows what he’s going to get,” said Daae.
The FireAntz are looking for an offensive winger, Daae said, and he expects to receive a lot of ice time. Several other U.S. professional teams and Canadian university squads were also pursuing him.
Daae has also been a regular in the Estevan Motor Speedway's stock car class, and he might be able to continue to race in Fayetville, which is in North Carolina – an auto racing hotbed.
“One of the team’s main sponsors is a dirt track racing team, so they’re pretty excited to hear that I do all the racing stuff,” said Daae. “They’re fine with it. It might be a bonus.”
As for Froese, he said the Green Knights have been watching him all year, and they offered him a spot on the team.
“They said that I’ve been pretty consistent, and they liked that I played with one team for three years,” said Froese. “They said that it showed loyalty.”
He had a couple other offers in Canada and the U.S., but St. Norbert, which has attracted a number of SJHL alumni over the years, was the best fit.
“They have a great track record,” said Froese. “They have won three of the last four Division III titles, so that really caught my eye, and they have a coach who has been there for 20 years. He’s really loyal to his team, and he obviously knows what he’s doing.”
Gibney said he’s thrilled to be going to Neumann – a college that is about 20 minutes outside of Philadelphia, and close to other northeastern U.S. cities.
They’re also a powerhouse program. They won a national championship in 2009, and they have won several conference titles in the past decade.
“They’re always one of the top teams in their league, and the league is said to be one of the top, if not the top, in Division III,” said Gibney.
Gibney had been in contact with Neumann throughout this season, and they were impressed with Gibney’s poise and positional play.
Given Neumann’s track record for success, Gibney said he wouldn’t be surprised if his new team meets Froese and St. Norbert in a national title game at some point during their respective collegiate careers.