Under the Hood: Edson Aeros
From now until the season starts, we will be taking a quick look under the hood of each team. From players leaving, to new signings, we will preview each team based on what coaches and players have to say.
2018-2019 Finish: Thorne Cup Semi-Finals
Thorne Cup Record: 2W-2L
(Photo by Tim Broussard, Ogden Mustangs Photographer)
In their first season of play in the WSHL, there was no frame of reference for the Edson Aeros as far as what to expect. After the initial weeks of play it became apparent that they were the top team in the Provincial Division. Even then, the scope wasn’t so clear as questions began to surround their success in that they haven’t sized up against the U.S. based teams.
“I think we proved that we weren’t trash,” Head Coach Bernie Lynch said on the subject of criticism. “Our goal was to show everybody that just because we’re a new division and new team doesn’t mean we couldn’t play hockey. We used that as motivation to have a great [Thorne Cup] tournament.”
The first tilt versus a U.S. based team was jaw dropping when they put six past the Seattle Totems in a 6-1 win on Nov. 10, and then going 5-1 versus the Northwest Division. They also jumped out with 4 goals on the El Paso Rhinos at Showcase. Despite ultimately losing all three games in Vegas, we saw glimpses of how lethal they could still be against top teams.
“Did we have a great tournament in Las Vegas? No,” Coach Lynch said. “It was our first time. We weren’t a great team at that time and we improved after Christmas. Everybody here took it as a learning lesson.”
The Edson Aeros continued to trek forward and showed, multiple times, that they can skate with the league’s best. They unanimously took the regular season division title, division finals title and made it to the Thorne Cup Semi-Final Round despite being dubbed the weaker team at the tourney.
“We didn’t play great in the [semi-final] game against Ogden we understand that,” Coach Lynch said. “Ogden was a very good team they deserved to win and deserved to go to the final, but we just didn’t have a good game against them and that was too bad.”
Part of what made the Aeros so potent was the pace behind their play. It was highlighted by the coast-to-coast display of speed from Sebastian Heden and the elusiveness of Emil Johansson. Both players ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in Goals and Points in the entire WSHL. Johannson will not return after signing a pro contract in Sweden with Örnsköldsvik HF.
But Coach Lynch takes exception to the notion of being called a one-line team asserting that the Aeros actually had depth in the lineup.
“Maybe we didn’t have scoring to our lineup but we had depth,” Coach Lynch said. “There was a lot of teams and leagues that scouted us and thought we were one of the best Junior-A teams around in Western Canada.”
When the Aeros beat the Long Beach Bombers and Bellingham Blazers at Thorne Cup, it was also an attempt to answer all the lingering questions.
The Aeros are not done answering and expect the same tenacity from a side that will most likely be captained by Brian Bailer.
“We had our first ice session this morning and we are better now than we were at this point last year,” Coach Lynch said.
In particular, he alluded to how they are looking better down the middle of the ice and on defense.
(Photo of Bailer by Kathlyn Redlick; Edson Aeros Photographer)
Coach Lynch stated that Bailer will likely be captain this year for the Aeros, per this morning’s ice session. He was a reliable and sizable defender for the team who had multiple showings as to why he deserves the promotion from assistant captain. He was also at the brink of making the 2019 All-Thorne Cup team having multiple nominations in the ballot.
Former Captain Kevin Lundin is expected to return, and as the Aero’s third leading scorer, will also receive a promotion as far as team responsibility. Lundin reached the 100-point mark making him the third player to reach 100—trailing Heden and Johannson.
Quentin Stempfel was a strong secondary scorer for the Aeros. With 12 multi-point outings, his influence on games was never really overshadowed. Stempfel ended the season with 18G-21A-39Pts.
“Quentin was a third or second line guy for us. We’re looking for him to hopefully step it up and score some more goals this year."
Elias Rongione started the season by scoring the first goal in Edson Aeros history. He was the ultimate machine often times clocking in major ice time. He finished the season tied with Stempfel with 39-points scoring nine goals and 30-assists.
Coach Lynch highlighted the fact that Rongione played almost 40-minutes a game at the Showcase. He played more minutes than anybody else versus strong teams.
(Photo of Rongione by Mark Mauno; WSHL Photographer)
“He [Rongione] is a steady, stay-at-home, puck-moving defenseman,” Coach Lynch said. “But for all of our returners we are looking for an increase in team leadership.”
“Johannson and Sebe played a part,” Coach Lynch said. “But there was a lot of people that contributed to our success.”
A couple of new players to note for the Edson Aeros are Felix Stephen and Maverick Baxstrom. Both have represented the CPJHL at the Western States Shootout and were also teammates in 2017-2018 with the Smith Falls Settlers. Stephen had an impressive 16G-15A-41Pts. in 26 games. Likewise, Baxstrom scored 22G-23A-45Pts in 43 games played. Not only are the Aeros getting top-tier scorers but they are also adding players that have experience against top WSHL teams.
"Maverick is a good, solid, two-way centerman," Coach Lynch said.
(Photo of Stephen by Mark Mauno; WSHL Photographer)
The versatility of Tyler Villeneuve from the CCHL could be relied upon by the Aeros. "He plays right or left wing. He's a solid, hard-nosed guy who is a good skater and playmaker."
Villeneuve is also a CPJHL veteran, playing for the O-Town Rebels in 2016-2017. He had 30-points in 27 games before going to the CCHL and eventually gaining his wings with the Aeros.
The short-stinted Southern Oregon Spartan, Vojtěch Svoboda, will make the move to the Aeros after registering 3G-9A-12Pts. in 11 games for the Spartans. It is worth noting that Svoboda was impressed by the success of the Aeros and reached out to be a part of the team. The Aeros will be gaining a highly motivated forward in Svoboda who showed to be natural fit in the league after coming from the GMHL mid-season.
The Aeros will more than likely embody a modern style of play, similar to last season. With the addition of a couple PIM-heavy players, it is possible to see a somewhat grittier team. However, Coach Lynch is inclined to say that his preferred style is one that embraces the wide-open, high-tempo style of play.
Although the team hasn't made any official announcements about Sebastian Heden, his return is more probable than not.
On the topic of having an extra team in the division...
"It's really good for our league," Coach Lynch said. "The more teams we get into this division, the better. We are really excited about that."
More news and details to be released by teams as the 2019-2020 season approaches. Stay up to date with the latest and complete Edson Aeros news by going to AerosHockey.ca.