New Western Michigan coach looks for leaders to build program

Western Michigan’s Jeff Blashill is one of three new head coaches in the CCHA, but he’s familiar to everyone in the league. He may have spent the last two seasons coaching the USHL’s Indiana Ice — where he won the Clark Cup as a rookie head coach in 2009 — but he was an assistant at Miami for six seasons and a goaltender for Bob Daniels at Ferris State (1994-98).

He knows the league, he spent years honing his craft alongside Enrico Blasi in Oxford and he’s a proven winner. He also was an assistant under Daniels when the Bulldogs won the 2002-03 regular-season CCHA title.

That he sounds like he knows what it takes to rebuild in Kalamazoo comes as no surprise.

“Our success is going to depend on the culture that we’re able to create,” Blashill said. “Most of that’s off the ice. We’re going to need to create a culture that guys want to choose greatness on a daily basis, that they understand it’s a daily choice that we’re going to make, and that it takes great work and great sacrifice to achieve that.”

Blashill sounded like he channeled Blasi when he talked about “having a group of guys who are going to commit to each other, to a Bronco hockey family, guys that are selfless, care about their teammates’ success equal to their own.”

After all, it seems to be working in Oxford.

The way to do this, said Blashill, “starts with our captains.” Ian Slater is the captain, with seniors Max Campbell and Ryan Watson as alternates.

“The leadership, I think, is the No. 1 component for us to start to build our success and start to make progress creeping up in the CCHA standings,” Blashill said.

“There are other good players on our team. There’s talent in place here, but I think those are the guys who are going to be real critical as we do begin.”

The other good players include forwards Greg Squires, J.J. Crew and Jared Katz, none of whom netted 10 goals last season. In fact, no one on the Broncos squad reached the 10-goal plateau in 2009-10.

“We did not score very many goals last season,” Blashill said. “The point we’re trying to get across to our guys … is that a lot of time goal scoring doesn’t happen on your first effort and it’s going to take a second, and a third, and fourth — learn to be relentless.

“If we do that, our goal scoring will increase because we do have skill in place here. I think we’re going to score by committee.”

The Broncos do return two recognizably good defensemen in Mike Levendusky and Tyler Ludwig. Jerry Kuhn is one of three returning goaltenders, but the only one to have seen time in net last season; he played seven games.

“The standards will be set high,” Blashill said. “Whether we reach them or not in our first year has yet to be seen.

“We want to create a culture — and I think we have this here — where guys love being Broncos.”