By Kevin Scott
GREAT FALLS, Mont., August 20, 2013 — The Great Falls Americans Junior A Hockey team has announced their coaching staff for the upcoming 2013-14 season according to Jeff Heimel, the Head Coach and General Manager.
Heimel (27) returns for his second season as the Americans coach along with his three assistant coaches Blake Page, Dalton Garton and Josh Frider. The Americans finished their 2nd season in the American West Hockey League last year with a 16-30-2. The Americans were voted 2012-13 organization of the year in the AWHL due in part to their dramatic turnaround from the 2011-2012 season where they finished with just 1 win in 48 tries. Before coming to Great Falls, Heimel spent 2 seasons in the Western States Hockey League as a head coach with the Cheyenne Stampede and Phoenix Polar Bears where he compiled a 48-36-6 Record.
“We have in my opinion the best supporting staff in the league. The experience that Blake, Josh and Dalton bring to the table is a huge asset to our program.
Blake Page, who enters his second season with the Americans, grew up in Southern California and he transitioned from roller hockey to ice hockey at age 12. Page played AAA hockey in Colorado and one season each for the Helena Bighorns and the Bay State Breakers of the America West Hockey League and Eastern Junior Hockey League
Blake had the opportunity to play at the collegiate level for the Air Force Academy while also serving his country. He helped lead the Falcons to three AHA conference championships and defeated multiple top 20 schools including Yale, Michigan and Denver.
Page now works at Malmstrom Air Force Base and served last season as a volunteer assistant with the Americans. The former Americans player now looks to be more involved in a full-time role and will also serve as the Director of Recruiting.
“This is my first full season (coaching) with the Americans,” said Page. ”I am excited to put forth the energy that I have from the past 15 years (of playing) and help out the younger generation.”
When asked what he expected from this year’s Americans team this year, he stated that he was “looking for a big time turnaround and we have some young guys that are returning with another year under their belt. They will be more experienced and I think we will improve in the league this year.”
Dalton Garton begins his second season on the coaching staff for the junior hockey team and grew up playing hockey in Great Falls including playing throughout his high school career with the Americans U-18 team. He led the team to three national tournament appearances during that time.
Garton played with two AWHL teams including the Bozeman Ice Dogs and the Great Falls Americans. Dalton has been a leader on and off the ice and he won the 2012 AWHL Community Service Award and looks to begin a coaching career and give back to his hometown community.
In addition to coaching the team, the Great Falls native will be the Director of Player Personnel.
“I am looking forward to building momentum off of last year’s season and just getting our players to improve so that we can get them moved onto the next level, said second year coach Garton. “I think we should have big expectations from the returners and they should know what to expect this year.”
Josh Frider returns for his second season as an assistant coach with the Great Falls Junior A team. The Minnesota native led his high school team in scoring during his senior season and played two years of junior hockey in the North American Hockey League (NAHL).
Frider was then recruited to play hockey at the Air Force Academy where he helped guide the Falcons to one regular season championship and three conference tournament titles. He set the record for most games played at the school.
Since arriving in Great Falls in 2010, Josh has helped with the youth hockey program including the “Learn to Skate” program as well as the Squirts and the high school team before joining the Americans last season as a volunteer coach.
“I think just improving on last year as I felt like we had a strong showing at the end of the year and I am looking forward to building on that,” said Frider. “I think we have a solid group of guys coming back that know the system better and we are bringing in more talent as well. I think winning is the next step for us after getting a taste of it last year.”