• September 18, 2019

NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE: Jackalopes forging new pipeline for players - Odessa American: Sports

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NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE: Jackalopes forging new pipeline for players

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Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2019 7:19 pm

The situation surrounding the Odessa Jackalopes during the past season was tenuous at best.

So, changes were made in the coaching staff, office staff and ownership group.

Now, with the dawn of the 2019-20 North American Hockey League season less than a week away, one of those changes already is paying dividends for the Jackalopes.

Don Stone, former owner of the Topeka Roadrunners, became part of the ownership group here in the Permian Basin.

He also owns a pair of teams in the NA3HL — the Atlanta Capitals and the newly-renamed Texas Roadrunners, based in College Station.

This offseason, with Stone in the fold, the Roadrunners became the official affiliate of the Jackalopes, an arrangement that will allow new head coach Todd Watson to send some players down and have the Roadrunners’ coaching staff of Michael Beavis and Ryan Scheide continue their development as they try to make their way back to the Ector County Coliseum.

It’s a win-win situation for both organizations.

“This will give us a chance to keep an eye on players,” Watson said. “When we have a 3-in-3 weekend, maybe we bring someone up to see how they do, because those Sunday games can be tough on everyone.

“I met Mike and Ryan at our main camp in Chicago in July and I think this is going to be a good thing for both clubs because they’ll get a few players from us and those players are going to get ice time and keep developing and hopefully make their way back up here.”

 To that end, Beavis, who recently sold his NA3HL franchise in Oswego, N.Y., and wasn’t planning on coaching again until contacted by Stone, came to Odessa for the first week of the  Jackalopes’ training camp that ended last week.

He brought two of the players from his team, Matthew McBride and Myles Westbrook, to give them a taste of what exactly is needed to make the jump to the NAHL, the United States Hockey League and, ultimately, earn a chance to play collegiately.

Beavis was also at the camp to continue building the relationship with Watson.

“Todd and I are really working well together,” said Beavis. “This relationship was originally built through ownership, but Todd and I are forming a really good friendship, as well.

“Our job is going to be taking the players that they send us and talking to Todd and (assistant coach) Adam (Phillips) and developing them the way they need to so the players can come back up here to help Odessa. The goal is to get them playing at the next level, be it the NAHL, the USHL or college.”

The development of those players is going to have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the Roadrunners’ roster.

Scheide, who started with the Junior Jackalopes program before going to New York to play three seasons for Beavis and then moving on to Weber State University, already has seen changes since McBride, Westbrook and a third player, Tadeas Vicha of Opava, Czech Republic, were added to the Roadrunners’ roster after their time at the Jackalopes’ camp.

“They definitely work harder after spending time at Jacks camp,” Scheide said. “That’s going to force the guys on the second, third and fourth lines to work harder, too, which is a big adjustment for some of the guys that were here last year when the team struggled.

“They are down here to train with us and get better and to help us win games. Todd has already said that when we feel a guy is ready that they’ll get him up there to give them a shot; that’s why we have 10 off weekends built into our schedule, so we can get guys those opportunities at the next level.”

>> Follow Lee Scheide on Twitter at @OALeeScheide

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