Ice Jacks get “new” head coach with the younger Johanson taking over
The Division II NAU Ice Jacks began planning for a winning season after this past season ended when they were eliminated from the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s (ACHA) National Playoff tournament. General Manager AJ Fairchild had already brought many promising recruits to tour Flagstaff and see NAU’s campus. Two weeks ago, the Ice Jacks made a major change to their team for next season.
Head coach Keith Johanson will be stepping aside from his coaching duties after four seasons and handing the reigns over to his son, Travis Johanson. Keith Johanson will remain on the coaching staff as an assistant coach, but feels he is doing the right thing for the team.
“Oh, I’m just not 100 percent sure I will be able to make everything next season,” Keith Johanson said. “I don’t want to do that to the guys. They need someone who can be there all the time.”
A big smile came to Keith Johanson’s face when he added, “Besides, my wife is about ready to kill me. She wants me to be home a little bit more.”
Travis Johanson was born and raised in Flagstaff. As a child he began skating at Jay Lively Ice Arena and continued his hockey career through his life. His career came to an end after he played junior hockey in Canada. He began his coaching career five years ago when he coached the Flagstaff Avalanche high school team. In his second season as head coach, he led the team to the state championship in which they were defeated . After that title run, Travis became an assistant coach to his father for NAU’s Division II team.
The Ice Jacks will more than likely play the same systems in both the offensive and defensive zones, because the Johansons have very similar coaching styles. After the team failed to adapt to a 1-3-1 system the coaches tried to use this past season, fans can expect the coaching staff to have the players back in the old box-plus-one system.
For the most part, the players are not letting the change affect their offseason plans and should be ready to go for next season.
“I don’t think it will make much of a difference,” junior forward Adam Surber said. “Keith will still be around, but Travis will be making more decisions. I won’t let whoever is coaching affect my game.”
Fairchild is also confident that the coaching staff change will not rattle his team.
“Travis is a younger guy who relates well to a college player,” Fairchild said. “As a younger coach he will keep our players moving out on the ice at practices.”
With the Ice Jacks getting their coaching staff solidified this early in the offseason, they can now turn their attention to setting a competitive roster for next season. The NAU coaching staff will want to bring a fair number of recruits to NAU for tryouts next season.