When the Yellowstone Quake take to the ice this weekend, fans won’t be seeing a whole lot of familiar faces in the rink or on the bench.
After a disappointing last few seasons, the Quake went in a different direction with a new coaching staff, vision and a host of new players hoping to take the team to the playoffs.
“They are letting me do my thing here, just basically trying to change the culture,” head coach and GM Chris Blaisuis said. “It starts with changing everything, including the players.”
Blaisuis brings years of experience as coach, recruiting director, general manager, director of hockey operations and scout throughout the United States.
He most recently coached the Indy Jr. Fuel NAPHL 16AA team in Indiana which he ended taking to nationals, and he was convinced to send in his resume by friends and associates of the Quake after the departure of former Yellowstone coach CJ Sweigert.
“John Riley (Quake president) and I had a really good conversation and I kind of laid out my vision,” Blaisuis said. “I said this is what I would do and it if it doesn’t fit, no hard feelings.”
It turned out his vision was exactly what the Quake executives had in mind, and Blaisuis made the long trek to Cody with his wife and two teenage sons.
“First you have to rebuild trust in the community,” Blaisuis said. “It’s coming in and letting the community know that we represent them and we want to represent them well.”
Just two players return from last year’s squad, Casper’s Cole Whitman and Sweden’s Edvin Falkenstrom, a late edition goalie who impressed in his appearances last season.
Those new players have helped with youth camps and done what they can to get involved in other community events, and look to get back involved with youth hockey and the schools.
“Your community wants to identify with your team,” Blaisuis said. “They want to look at our fellows and know the are representing their community the right way.”
And it took a lot just to get those fellows to Cody.
The Quake entered the 2022 draft with just two picks and no first round picks, but after a series of trades ended up with eight overall draft picks, including the first and third overall picks in the draft.
They managed to sign a high percentage of their picks and the majority of their tenders to build a solid squad, and a team of players the new coach is already familiar with.
About 80% of the roster is players he had a connection with before taking the job.
“It’s a different group, it’s a young group, but they aren’t messing around,” Blaisuis said. “They aren’t into anything else but playing hockey.”
Fans can expect an aggressive team that plays downhill with an attacking mindset that is fast, physical and free.
The Quake kick off the season this Friday and Saturday when they host Sheridan at Riley Arena starting at 7:30 p.m. each night.
“We will be very structure-oriented, and I am very discipline-oriented,” Blaisuis said. “We’re going to do things the right way.”