After much speculation about their financial situation, the Des Moines Buccaneers are back for their 24th USHL season. Back in May, the bank started foreclosure proceedings against Greater Des Moines Ice Sports Association (G.D.M.I.S.A.), the former parent company of the Buccaneers, as they had default on about $3.58 million in loans. But on August 11th, everything was back on track, and the Buccaneers were able to compete in the 25th USHL Anniversary season. Brian Schoenborn along with two local Des Moines businessmen, Shawn Edwards and Nick Cecere will own the Buccaneers. This is the first time since mid-1980’s that the Buccaneers are NOT a not-for-profit organization.
The Buccaneers return seven players from the 2002-2003 squad who went 27-27-6 for 60 points. One big change from last season, will be the Bucs will play in the Western Division. The Bucs will face River City, Lincoln and Tri-City eight times this season and Sioux City and Sioux Falls six times. They will face the East Division foes four times this season for a total of 60 games.
In net the Bucs return Armada, MI native Brian Papcun, possibly the best returning goaltender in the USHL.
Returning on the blueline will be Travis Anderson and Joe Piskula. Anderson joined the Buccaneers in a preseason trade last year with the River City Lancers and Piskula joined the squad in a mid-November last season from the Chicago Steel.
Offensively the Bucs return a strong core of forwards from last year. The star of that group is Eden Prairie, MN native and Minnesota Wild draft pick Mike Erickson. Erickson finished sixth on the team last year in scoring despite only playing in 28 games. Mike Neilon is the leading returning scorer from last season. Marty Mjelleli and Pat Borgestad came via mid-season trade with the Tri-City Storm and both look to pick up where they left off last season. The duo lit up the scoreboard near the end of the season to help the Bucs in their late season push for the play-offs.
The Bucs will bring in 16 new faces to the organization. Four of the 16 were playing Junior ‘A’ hockey last season. Headlining the list is former River City Lancers net-minder Dan Tormey, defenseman Rory Farrell from the Cleveland Barons of the NAHL, former Topeka Scarecrows forward J.P. Platisha and Ryan Raven from the Bozeman Icedogs of the AWHL. Farrell is a solid young blueliner who should do well this season. Platisha had a strong preseason and appears ready to make an immediate offensive impact. Last season he was tenth in scoring for the Scarecrows with 12 goals and 14 assists. Tormey saw a few games last season for the Lancers before injuring his shoulder.
Other new faces include on defense: Brian Boulay (Merrimack College), Davis Drewiske (Hudson High School), Chris Kane (Mount St. Charles) and Alan Dorich (Chicago Young Americans). New forwards include: Tom May (Eagan High School), Jason Weigel (Culver Academy), Adam Miller (Detroit Little Caesars), Ryan Ward (Detroit Little Caesars), Phil Fox (Stillwater High School), Samir Saliji (HKM Nitra), David Watters (Eden Prairie High School) and Des Moines area native Chad Costello (Team Illinois AAA).
Saliji has already shown his offensive talent in the pre-season. He is a threat to score when he touches the puck. For the first time in five years, come September 27th when the Bucs face the Lancers in the season opener, the Buccaneer roster will have a Des Moines native on there, Chad Costello from Johnston, IA. Costello played in the Select 17 in July for the Central team notching 3 goals and 3 assists in 6 games played. Costello is the smallest member of the Buccaneers, standing 5’7″ and 155 lbs. All but four members of the Buccaneers are at least 6’0″ or taller. Costello, Fox (5’11”), Platisha (5’11”) and Papcun (5’11”) come in under the six foot mark.
Look for the Bucs to come out strong and bang the competition around to try and wear them down in this 60 game season in their quest for the Tier 1 Championship, the Clark Cup
Starting his 17th season, Coach Bob Ferguson is 15 regular season wins away from his 500th Junior ‘A’ regular season win. He currently has a 485-275-33 record over his 16 year career in the USHL.
The Buccaneers franchise enters the 2003-2004 season with a 620-486-47 record, second only to the Storm/Vulcan franchise with a 635-519-58 record. The Storm/Vulcan franchise has been around for one year longer then the Buccaneers.
The Buccaneers have played 1,167 regular season games, going 630-486-51 with 23 bonus points, good for a total of 1,334 points for a 57.2%.