Spirited Kruk takes over BU hockey program

Spirited Kruk takes over BU hockey program


Spirited Kruk takes over BU hockey program


Senior captain Rick Gibbs is a “quiet” leader who figures to be one of Birmingham’s leading scorers this season.

Senior captain Rick Gibbs is a “quiet” leader who figures to be one of Birmingham’s leading scorers this season.

There may be a new hockey coach standing behind the Birmingham Unified bench, but it’s a familiar face.

Steve Kruk takes over the BU Kings program this season, following in the skate blades of John Chateau, who was there for three years, and John Weidenbach, who preceded Chateau. Kruk was a member of the BU staff under both former head coaches, first as a junior varsity assistant and then as the JV head coach.

Kings fans can be assured their new coach has a keen grasp of the program. There’s no need for getting-acquainted meetings. Kruk has a working knowledge of the players and vice versa.

As a result, Kruk has been able to dive head first into the season and that is beneficial for everyone involved.

“It’s a 100-percent advantage and the benefit for me is that we actually have several juniors on the team who I coached last year on the JV,” Kruk said. “There are several players in the program who I’ve had the opportunity to coach for four years and there are several players who played on varsity last year, but played for me on the JV and now we are reunited.

“So numerous players in this program I have coached in some capacity and that’s a huge advantage. They know my expectations, they’re pretty familiar with the system and the way I do things. And, again, there is a mutual respect for each other.

“I really feel like they would go through a wall for me and I’d do the same for them,” he added. “So from a coaching perspective, I’d say it’s a huge advantage for me coming in to coach this team.”

Puck-possession style

Kruk, whose playing background includes four years of junior hockey as a defenseman, where he once served as a captain of the Leamington Flyers, prefers to play an aggressive, puck-possession type of game.

“For me personally, I like to balance the X’s and O’s of the game with the motivational aspect of coaching and the bench management,” he said. “We’re going to be a puck-possession team, to be sure, and be aggressive.

“I think the dump-and-chase is probably a little bit of an older school mentality, because the game is filled with so many skilled players, even at the high school level,” he added. “You have to have the puck on your stick to win games.”

Kruk makes his varsity coaching debut with a senior-laden team. Although only five of those seniors are returning skaters, Kruk believes this class has the passion, desire and the system understanding to lead the Kings to a big season.

BU was 10-14-1 overall and 4-5-1 in the OAA White Division last year. However, Kruk is confident this year’s squad of 22 players can improve on those numbers.

“One of the biggest things is our overall team leadership,” Kruk said. “We have guys who truly want to be here and, being that we are senior-heavy this year, I think the guys realize, that for a lot of them, it very well may be their last year of competitive hockey and I think they want to go out with a bang. I think we definitely have good team speed and depth.”

Led by captain Gibbs

The Kings will be led by senior captain Ricky Gibbs and senior assistant captains Spencer Calkins, Devin Hamilton and Daniel Rebock. Kruk has coached each of them for at least two years at different levels of the Birmingham Unified hockey program.

Gibbs had 36 points (seven goals, 29 assists) to tie classmate Ian Shefferly for the team scoring lead last year. Gibbs is expected to play on the team’s top line this winter with junior center Rory White and junior winger Justin Rebock.

“Ricky’s a first-line player and we fully expect him to be a productive player for us this year,” Kruk said. “He’s a person who will lead by example. Probably the biggest reason we put the ‘C’ on his jersey this year is because he’s a workhorse.

“He just goes. He’s a person who will go through a wall for a coach and his players. He just never stops playing,” he added. “It doesn’t matter if we’re up 10-1 or down 10-1. He’s going to play the exact same way every time. And we want some of our younger players to be able to mold themselves in that manner.”

Shefferly (18 goals, 18 assists) figures to play on the second line with returning seniors Nick Hulscher and Colin Wienert (16 goals, four assists). Sophomores Jack Muir and David Breaugh have made the varsity squad and will add depth to a strong crew of skaters.

The defense will be anchored by Calkins, Hamilton and Daniel Rebock. Returning senior goalies Christian Graham (10-4 record) and Carl Banerian (9-9) will vie for playing time.

“Spencer is more of a vocal leader who is positionally sound and will join the rush when needed,” Kruk said. “Devin plays and practices with a lot of passion. Daniel should be one of our leading defenseman as far as points and production.”

A minimum 16 wins

Kruk was scheduled to make his varsity coaching debut Saturday night in a non-conference match up against St. Clair Shores Unified. The league season begins at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 27 against rival Bloomfield Hills at the Birmingham Ice Arena.

The goal this year, according to Kruk, is to win a minimum of 16 games.

“I think we are going to be a team that will turn a lot of heads and surprise teams,” Kruk said. “It’s our intensity. It’s our passion. It’s our will to want to perform every time we step out on the ice, whether it’s a game or practice.

“Playing time this year will not just be handed out. It’s got to be earned. We’ll be relentless. We’ll just keep going. We may be down 6-1, but we won’t stop playing.

“I don’t think we’ll ever be a team filled with egos,” he added. “I don’t think we’ll be a team that ever shuts down or quits on each other. And I think that’s ultimately going to give us results.”

OAA boys hockey alignments

The Oakland Activities Association has two division for boys hockey. Following are the alignments for the 2015-16 season:

RED: Berkley Unified; Clarkston; Farmington; Farmington-Harrison Unified; Lake Orion; Rochester Hills Stoney Creek; Rochester United.

WHITE: Avondale/Oxford; Birmingham Unified; Bloomfield Hills Unified; Royal Oak; Troy; West Bloomfield.


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