October 17, 2021 marks the day that the Dakota College at Bottineau Lumberjacks earned their 700th win in program history.
Head Coach Travis Rybchinski said being a part of this milestone was really special for not only the team but for the college.
“We’ve had so many people wear the Lumberjack jersey before us and past coaches, administrators and faculty and staff and just for our town, in general, the small college that we keep on doing well,” Rybchinski said. “We’re very proud of the fact that we’ve been around for 46 plus years and with 700 wins it’s quite a remarkable feat for little Bottineau.”
In the 2020 season, the team finished with a record of 17-13 coming up one game short of the final four. This season they are using that as motivation with 19 returners.
“I think we just know what it takes a little bit more. We know the feeling of losing and we don’t want to repeat that,” Right Wing Chayse Haberman said.
“That sucked losing that last game. I know that we got a lot of returning guys and we all felt the same way after we lost and it really sucked so I think it’s a huge motivator for us we all want to get back there,” Forward Ryan Patterson said.
The team has many big guys out on the ice but Rybchinski said this year they are going to use something else besides just being physical.
“We try to utilize our speed more, we have some big guys and a few of them can move quick a few not so quick,” Rybchinski said. “The biggest thing with those big guys is positional play and not to get caught out of position. We try to utilize our speed as most we can and make sure that we’re having good puck possession.”
With having so many veterans, they said all of the experience will help mold the younger players to seasons to come.
“I know we’ve got a lot of guys that have played hockey before this and played junior hockey so we definitely have a lot of guys with a lot of experience so it’s good for this team we have a lot of good leaders,” Patterson said.
“It starts with our leaders Blake Carpenter and Ryan Patterson, they stay up front for us and provide good locker room leadership,” Rybchinski said. “And then our goaltending we have a trio with Matt, Jordan, and Sergei and they are all going to push each other for time.”
Rybchinski said having so many talented players is a blessing and a curse for a coach with so many choices come game time.
“It’s very nice to have a lot of options, the bad part is there is usually someone good that’s not playing so that sucks as a coach to tell a person they’re not playing but it goes with the territory and the guys know it’s college hockey and the best guys play,” Rybchinski said.
The last time Bottineau celebrated a National Championship was the 2016-17 season when they were still in the NJCAA conference. They are now in the ACHA conference since the 2017-18 season, players and coaches said they see tougher competition but think they can still bring another championship back to Bottineau.
“Very excited. I think we have a pretty good chance this year we have a very good group of guys and a really good team. I think we all have high expectations for this year,” Patterson said.
“It’s a lot more difficult and for us to just reach that final four is going to be a big moment for our school,” Rybchinski said. “So we just have to keep getting stronger, keep getting faster, and make sure that we’re taking care of business on and off the ice.”