SRJC’s Top 10 statistics of the 2015-16 season: No. 2 — First-year Head Coach Blake Johnson and Assistant Coach Nick Harris
We cried for days last season when Blake Johnson decided to hang up his skates and retire from the American Collegiate Hockey Association. After five years together we got used to seeing him in the No. 7 jersey, and calling him up when we needed something handled. Safe to say we were a mess over our favorite Polar Bear leaving. But General Manager Tom Billeter put a smile back on our face when he named Johnson head coach in July 2015.
With a special skill set and a unrivaled devotion to the SRJC Hockey club, inserting Johnson as some type of coach immediately after his last playing season was a no brainer. With former head coach Mike Kovanis' departure, Johnson's appointment to head coach just seemed like the right fit to management.
And they made the perfect choice.
In his rookie coaching year, Johnson lead the Polar Bears to a respectable 16-8-1 record. That’s good for fourth on SRJC’s all-time coaching list for wins; and it's two more victories than his predecessor won in his first year. We aren't sure how Johnson's coaching numbers stack up to the great Tom Billeter's first year stats, but we got a feeling Johnson's are pretty up there.
Johnson now owns five different Top 10 spots on SRJC's all-time stats lists.
"I had really high expectations for myself, and for the team," Johnson said. "While one could consider this season a success, we didn't reach all of our goals. We hope to have a good offseason, and we will come into next season looking to take a step forward as a team and club."
Going from player to coach is not a simple transition for anyone, but Johnson commanded his new team with ease. It probably helped that Blake Johnson is one of the most respected players to ever put on the SRJC jersey, and not to mention suit up at Snoopy's Home ice. It also helped that he picked a perfect No . 2 in Nick Harris.
Despite only spending half a season with the club the year prior, Harris' commanding presence was a excellent complement to Johnson's. He guided a young defensive core that grew into its own as the season progressed, and renewed SRJC's sense of professionalism and sportsmanship.
Johnson and Harris were a near-perfect balance, both on and off the ice.The two had a little fun this year outside of coaching. From pie-eating bets to three-piece suit competitions, Johnson and Harris knew how to keep things loose when they needed to be. But they are two of the most focused and driven coaches we've seen in our tenure.
This season would be nothing without these guys. We know we would have lost our cool several more times if it weren't for them. We can't wait to see what they bring next year.
Oh, and p.s. Blake Johnson wants everyone to know that he's 3-0 in SRJC- Ice Raiders games....
Tune in Monday, March 28 to see what No. 1 is on SRJC’s Top 10 Statistics of the 2015-16 season.