AUSTIN, Minn. — The Austin Bruins and Rochester Grizzlies have opened up opportunities for hundreds of junior hockey players over the past decade.

Starting this fall they'll open up opportunities for more high school-aged players.

Mike Cooper and Craig Patrick, owners of the North American Hockey League's Bruins and the North American 3 Hockey League's Grizzlies, announced today the formation of the Southern Minnesota Bears U16 and U18 teams.

The Bears will practice and play in the fall, from August through October, and offer more ice time in a competitive environment for young players prior to the high school season.

The teams will be coached by Austin native Mike Notermann.

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Bruins coaches Steve Howard, Kenny Orlando and Keegan Asmundson, and Grizzlies coaches Chris Ratzloff and Mike Aikens will also be involved.

“I’m very excited to join the staff and give the kids in the area a chance to perform against very strong talent,” Notermann said in a press announcement. “I’ll really push them to compete every shift and to teach them that hard work is a talent. This is what I know separates the best players from the field.”

Notermann played two seasons for the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL, from 1985-87, then played four seasons at St. Cloud State University. His son, Luke, is a former Austin Bruin and played for the University of Minnesota.

The program will feature 20 hours of instruction, on Monday and Wednesday nights, as well as video sessions and scrimmages for players to showcase their talents in a game-like setting.

“Our staff is really excited to work with some of the top high school players in southern Minnesota”, Howard, the Bruins head coach, said. “We feel it’s important to provide on-ice training and exposure for future advancement. This is a great way for us to identify the best players in Southern Minnesota and nearby areas and give them some extra competition and instruction.”

The Bears will also play in three tournaments in Minnesota: The Wilderness Labor Day Tournament, the NAHL Showcase and the NAPHL Showcase.

The program will fill a void left by the Southern Minnesota Elite program, which no longer operates.

“The Southern Minnesota Bears U16 and U18 program give our local players a chance to fill some voids with additional instruction and competitive opportunities through the NAPHL showcases,” said Ratzloff, the Grizzlies head coach.

Players have the option of signing up for the full instruction, including playing in tournaments, or they can opt out of tournament participation.

For more information, email Ratzloff at chris@rochestergrizz.com or visit www.austinbruins.com/u16u18.