Last season the West Bend Bombers of the Great Lakes Hockey League won their fourth consecutive regular season title, cruising to a stellar 22-4 record. In the past four seasons, West Bend has an astounding record of 82-15-1. West Bend has scored 646 goals in the past four seasons and only allowed 330 (+316 goal differential, 6.59 GPG, 3.37 GAPG). Despite the Bombers success over the past four seasons, they have been unable to bring home the tournament championship trophy. West Bend fell just short in the postseason dropping the championship game to the Mosinee Papermakers by the score of 1-0.
West Bend saw the continued success of their top line throughout the regular season. Russell Johnson, Shay Klitzke, and Tanner Tryggestad combined for 63 goals and 154 total points one season ago. In the three seasons they have been together, they have been the top scoring trio in the league.
Captain Scott Holtz had quite the season himself. He played in all 26 games scoring 17 goals and racking up 30 assists. Holtz played in his 200th regular season GLHL game early on last season, the most of any Bomber by far (next closest Paul Morris with 132). Scott is eight goals away from 200 regular season goals. Again, the all-time leader in that category by a longshot (R.J. Rick in second with 83).
Dan Shilts continues to be an extremely consistent scoring threat on the West Bend second line. Shilts scores at a 2.07 point per game pace. His linemates are no slouches either as he is joined by Dusty Jonasson and Scott Holtz. Jonasson has been one of the best playmakers in the league over the course of his five year tenure, posting 121 assists in 114 games.
A huge part of the Bombers’ success was their goaltending. Billy Sias has been the best goaltender in the league for the past three seasons. He has a 28-3 record and has a ridiculous .945% save percentage. He also has four shutouts in a league that has a surplus of scoring. (Fun fact about Billy: he got to dress as an emergency callup for the Texas stars of the AHL after one of their goaltenders went down with an injury. Texas only brought two goalies on their road trip, so they called CUW where he was playing at the time and asked him to dress.) Pete Wisnieff was also excellent for West Bend going 7-2 with a .867% save percentage. Unfortunately Wisnieff will not be returning for the 2017/2018 season. He finishes his Bomber career with 41 games played, a 31-7 record, a 3.95 goals against average, a .899% save percentage, and 2 shutouts. Eric Everson will be replacing Wisnieff this season after playing four games with the club last year. He went 3-1 with a .911% save percentage. Bomber goaltending combined for a .911% save percentage and a 3.12 goals against average.
West Bend had some surprising breakout players last year including some first year skaters. Tom Lindgren was an anchor on the Bomber blueline after coming over from the North Iowa Bulls of the NA3HL, a Junior A program. Marshall Klitzke was his partner on most nights and had a fantastic season. The season prior (2015/2016) Marshall struggled in his 13 games only getting two points and racking up 30 PIM’s. He followed that season up with 22 games played, 7 goals, and 10 assists. He showed much more discipline also, only taking 2 penalties all year. Lindgren and Klitzke ate up a lot of tough minutes on the back end.
West Bend has a few new faces on the squad this season, including West Bends’ own Erik Haver. Haver spent his last four seasons playing for the Germantown Ice Bears where he was a top pairing defenseman. Haver is an excellent skater and is not afraid to throw his body around. He also possesses a very sneaky offensive style of play. He is not afraid to skate the puck up ice when he has the opportunity to make a play. West Bend also brought in Bram Erickson, a forward from Liberty University. Erickson played 128 games for Liberty posting 33 goals and 33 assists.
All in all, I believe West Bend is just as strong if not stronger than they were last year. The majority of their key pieces are returning and the team added decent players to replace the skaters who left. The Bombers combination of great offense, defense, and goaltending makes them one of the best teams in the league. I don’t think anyone should be surprised to see West Bend compete for their fifth consecutive regular season title.