Santa Rosa, California (June 10, 2017): The Santa Rosa Junior College Ice Hockey team is pleased to announce today the hiring of Nate Panek as head coach for the 2017-18 season. Panek takes over for Blake Johnson, making him the Polar Bears’ fourth head coach since rebranding in 2010.
Panek’s appointment comes at a crucial time in SRJC’s re-development as an American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II team. The organization is confident that Panek is just the right person to lead the team during a new season full of exciting and challenging opportunities.
“Nate's leadership and coaching experience will be a great benefit to our program,” said SRJC Hockey General Manager Tom Billeter. “…but what excites me the most about him filling the head coaching role is his level of discipline. I'm sure that Nate can relate to the players we have and instill respect from the entire team from day one."
Panek brings to SRJC Hockey a remarkable resume as both a player and coach. He grew up playing hockey in the Belmont, California area, where he was a member of four NorCal championship teams and two State championship teams. Panek played three years of New England Prep Hockey and one year of Juniors hockey in Washington. He followed that up with three seasons at San Jose State University, and participated in the team’s ACHA National Tournament bid. In 2005, Panek also spent time playing for the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League.
After his professional playing career, Panek moved to Colorado where he spent several years coaching different levels of local hockey.
The combination of his experience on and off the ice will be a huge asset to the Polar Bears as the team focuses on not only continuing its reputation as one of California’s elite collegiate teams, but also as a top academic destination for players of all skill levels.
Panek believes that SRJC Hockey can quickly become a great feeder program into top four-year universities— which SRJC believes begins by developing excellent players on and off the ice. He wishes to focus on individual player development, supporting each Polar Bear player in accomplishing their overall goals of being a part of the SRJC Hockey team. Part of his coaching philosophy includes players holding each other accountable and wanting each other to succeed.
"By supporting one another and hopefully coming together as a team— as well as pushing ourselves to improve daily— I want to get SRJC into the regional tournament, and eventually, to Nationals,” said Panek, about his goals as head coach. “Seeing the level of play of our student athletes, I do not believe these goals are, by any means, out of reach."
Nate Panek and the SRJC Hockey team will begin its official season in late September 2017.