By LOGAN CLOW
The uncertainty of Matt Keillor’s future with the Grande Prairie Junior A Storm has been decided.
Thursday, the organization announced it had signed Keillor to a two-year deal and option as head coach. In addition, the Storm announced Mark Bomersback will be the GM.
In mid-December, Keillor was brought in to replace former head coach and GM Kevin Higo for the remainder of the season with the ‘interim’ tag. Keillor was able to guide the Storm to their first playoff berth since the 2012-2013 season. The team’s playoff hunt was short as they were ousted in the first round against the Whitecourt Wolverines.
Bomersback, a former AJHL MVP, joined the Storm in late December as head scout and associate GM.
“There was definitely some good (coaching) candidates that we could have changed direction (with), but we were committed with where we were at with Mark coming on board with Matt and having the foundation of (assistant coach/business manager) Dennis Rix here already,” said Mel Vollman, a Storm board of directors member, at a Thursday press conference.
When all was said and done and after multiple meetings with Keillor, Vollman said it was evident he was the right guy for the job.
Vollman said Keillor not only guided the Storm to the playoffs, but also did a good job of developing character players and creating a team identity, and as well as working closely and extensively with Bomersback to recruit and identify players.
The reason why the organization opted to have separate individuals as GM and head coach was due to inexperience. While Keillor has an extensive hockey coaching background, he’s never been a head coach and/or GM at the junior A level.
Vollman noted Bomersback, who has never been a junior A GM, has a wealth of contacts at various hockey levels, has played a high level of hockey (including the AJHL), is enthusiastic, and has always had strong relationships with players and their parents.
“The overall thing is that we have a complete plan here to get ourselves in a position of being a team that can compete in this league. We’ve set ourselves some very high goals,” said Vollman.
“We’ve kind of set ourselves a target to be in the three or four position (in the AJHL North standings) at the bare minimum (next season). That means we have to be in the 36 to 40 wins, which is a drastic improvement. A lot of people say ‘well, that’s too big a bite’, but the reality is we believe we can do it with the staff we’ve got and we want to make this team, the Storm, a big success like it was back in 2008-2009.
“Time will tell with where we’re at (as an organization), but we’re 100% behind our choices...”
Despite the AJHL playoffs still ongoing, Vollman noted it was important to finalize the team’s coach and GM ahead of the team’s first Peace Region camp March 31-April 2 at Revolution Place.
Keillor said he was relieved to be awarded the contract. He said he feels both he and Bomersback have already laid a strong foundation for the organization moving forward.
“We would love to bring a championship back to GP within two years,” noted Keillor.
The last time the Storm had an individual GM and individual head coach was with Blaine Bablitz and Matt Hughes in 2013. That only lasted three weeks as Bablitz was eventually let go as GM due to “philosophical differences”. Hughes then assumed both duties for the remainder of the season.
Keillor noted both he and Bomersback have a “good relationship” and are both are on the same page when it comes to the types of players they want.
Before joining the Storm, Bomersback played in the NCAA, ECHL, AHL and in the KHL. He also worked as an Alberta scout with the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers with a large focus on players in the AMBHL, AMMHL and AMHL.
In his four-year AJHL career (with the Bow Valley/Canmore Eagles from 1999-2003), Bomersback registered 141 goals and 253 assists for 394 points, and was also named the league Most Valuable Player in 2002-2003.
“I trust his opinions and himself as a person, and how he can identify the good characteristics and good character in players, so it’s definitely a big part of what we’re doing moving forward, and having him as the general manager, I think is a great fit...,” said Keillor.
“I know he will challenge me on ideas and I know I can challenge him on ideas and that’s really important...”
Bomersback will be in attendance as the team’s Peace Region camp next week.
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