Former Bulls Coaches Take On New Roles

press-releaseAMARILLO, TX — The Amarillo Bulls want to congratulate Dennis Williams on being named the New Head Coach of the Everett Silvertips fo the Western Hockey League. Williams is the most successful coach in Amarillo Hockey History with more wins than any other coach and guided the Bulls to the 2013 Robertson Cup National Championship.

It was also announced that Former Bulls Assistant coach Mike Watt has taken on the role as Head Coach of the Bloomington Thunder of the United States Hockey League. Watt served as an Assistant Coach under Jon Rogger during the 2014-15 season. Watt takes over for Dennis Williams who moves on to Everett.

Below are both press releases on the news:

The Everett Silvertips, five time U.S. Division champions of the Western Hockey League, announced today that Dennis Williams has been named the fifth head coach in franchise history.

Williams will be formally introduced as head coach during a news conference on Monday, May 22 at XFINITY Arena. Details regarding the news conference, which will be open to both the media and public, will be distributed later this week.

“As time moved on, we understood the qualities and a mutual philosophy which make Dennis the most ideal choice to lead the Everett Silvertips as head coach,” said Silvertips general manager Garry Davidson. “We’re excited about his youthful enthusiasm, passion, leadership abilities, and embracing of a modern approach to the game. His experience includes a terrific track record with player development and championship credentials on the ice, and he brings a proactive approach to make a positive impact in the community. It all makes for a very exciting day to welcome him as our new member of the Silvertips family and leader behind the bench.”

Williams has 11 years of head coaching experience across junior and college levels, carrying a lifetime win percentage of .673 over the last seven seasons as head coach with Bloomington of the United States Hockey League and Amarillo of the North American Hockey League. After guiding Bloomington to a 29-24-7 record and fifth place in the Eastern Conference in their expansion season of 2014-15, he led the Thunder in 2015-16 to a 36-18-6 record, an appearance in the Eastern Conference Final, and a victory shy of reaching the league’s Clark Cup Finals.

“First it’s a very exciting time and opportunity for my wife, two girls, and I to make a transition to a coveted opportunity at the major junior level and join such a prestigious organization in the Everett Silvertips,” said Williams. “My thanks go to Mr. Bill Yuill, Garry Davidson, and Zoran Rajcic for having confidence in seeing me guide this program. As we’re very excited to become entrenched in the community, I’m extremely excited to quickly meet our players and work with a tremendous support staff.”

Williams continued, “As a head coach and general manager in the USHL, and working through the college hockey and NAHL ranks, I developed a respect for the core value of work ethic. As a student of the game, it’s my responsibility to value the opinions of our hockey staff and determine the best system that benefits and prepares our players to reach the National Hockey League, and continue to build on a culture of success here. I want to do everything in my power to help us keep building on that. It starts with monitoring teams reaching the Finals, studying their habits, adapting to how the game is played right now, and analyzing what makes those teams ultimately successful. I can’t wait to get started.”

The 37-year old led Amarillo to three consecutive 40-win seasons from 2011-14, amassing a career record of 168-44-2-24 and a points percentage of .756 across four years in the NAHL. He delivered three straight South Division titles, back-to-back and league leading 46-win campaigns, and a Robertson Cup title to Amarillo in 2012-13.

Under Williams, the Bulls shattered a 35-year old record with 99 points in back to back seasons (2011-13) and he was named NAHL Coach of the Year after the Bulls’ league championship. Williams’ teams in Amarillo led the league in goals from 2011-13, and finished second in the NAHL with 207 goals with a +87 goal differential in 2013-14.

During his time in Amarillo and Bloomington, he helped 74 players advance to play in the NCAA ranks, and with the Bulls coached seven division All-Conference selections, two All-NAHL First Team members, and one division All-Rookie honoree.

The native of Stratford, Ontario has served Utica College and University of Alabama-Huntsville as assistant coach and started his head coaching career at the NCAA level with four seasons serving Neumann College and Bowling Green State Univ. The former right winger graduated from Bowling Green with 117 career games, 20 points, and 198 penalty minutes.

Williams will relocate to Snohomish County with his wife, Hollie, and two daughters, Emerson and Elyse.


BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The Bloomington Thunder, a proud member of the United States Hockey League, will have a new head coach and general manager for their fourth season in the USHL, but it will be two familiar faces serving in those positions.


Mike Watt, an assistant coach for the Thunder for the last two seasons, has been appointed the second head coach in team history, and Dan Jewell, a key part of Bloomington’s coaching staff since the team’s inception in 2014, has been named General Manager of Hockey Operations and Associate Coach.


Watt and Jewell will take over for Williams, who was the Head Coach and GM in the Thunder’s first three seasons in the USHL. Williams has been tabbed as the next head coach of the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips, which are also owned by CSH International, the ownership group of the Thunder.


A standout forward at Michigan State University from 1994-97, Watt played three seasons under the highly-esteemed Ron Mason. During his collegiate career with the Spartans, he posted 98 points in 115 games, including 39 points during his sophomore season in 1995-96, which was good for second on the team. That same season Watt shone on the international stage, winning a gold medal while competing for Canada at the World Junior Championship.


“I’d like to thank Mr. Yuill and CSH International for the opportunity,” Watt said. “Having that continuity within CSH International and our organization is huge for the players and their families and their advisors. They know that we’ve had a relationship and we’ve developed those relationships. We’ve worked on and off the ice and in the community. They know the expectations and they know the culture that we’ve set here.”


Watt also brings 10 years of professional playing experience to his position with the Thunder. The Seaforth, Ontario, native was drafted in the second round of the 1994 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers with the 32nd overall pick. He played five seasons in the NHL, totaling 41 career points in 157 games played. Watt also played professionally in the KHL and SHL, the highest level of hockey in Russia and Sweden, respectively.


Upon the conclusion of his playing career, Watt transitioned into coaching, spending four seasons coaching high school hockey in Wisconsin before making the jump to junior hockey. Like Williams, Watt began his coaching career at the junior hockey level with the Amarillo Bulls of the North American Hockey League (NAHL). After just one season with the Bulls, Watt was promoted to his position as an assistant coach with the Thunder.


While with Bloomington, Watt has overseen the team’s defenseman and has helped develop several notable rear guards. In the 2015-16 season, Watt mentored one of the best defensive corps in the USHL, which included New Jersey Devils draft pick Jeremy Davies and Brogan Rafferty. Davies more than doubled his career-high and led USHL defenseman with his 49 points during the regular season on the way to being named All-USHL First Team. In his first and only season in the USHL in 2015-16, Rafferty finished with 28 points. He then posted nine points in 10 playoff games to lead all Thunder defensemen. During the 2016-17 season, Davies and Rafferty both registered more than 20 points in their freshman campaigns at Northeastern University and Quinnipiac University, respectively.


This past season, Watt played a key role in Wyatt Kalynuk’s breakout campaign. Kalynuk finished seventh among league defenseman with a career-high 31 points on six goals and 25 assists. He became one of the most dynamic two-way defenseman in the league and led USHL blue liners with his 159 shots on goal, more than double his previous career high.


Watt currently resides in Bloomington with his wife, Niki, and two children, Liam (13) and Avery (9).


“We’ve invested in the community,” Watt added. “We’ve bought a house. We love the Bloomington-Normal area and being back in the Midwest. To have this opportunity and know that the Bloomington Thunder are moving forward long-term is very exciting for myself and my family.”


Moving into his fourth season with the Thunder, Jewell will now direct all the Thunder’s personnel efforts as the General Manager as well as continuing to help mold the future stars of Division I college hockey and the NHL as Associate Coach. He will oversee all aspects of drafting future players, including scouting, recruiting, and managing the Thunder’s USHL Draft each May.


“I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity.” Jewell said. “It’s been quite a progression for me coming into this league and working for a premier organization in the USHL.


“To see my role gradually grow over the three years of the program has been amazing,” he continued. “I was fortunate enough to work for and with Dennis Williams for the past three years. Now to take over as General Manager and Associate Coach is an opportunity that’s very exciting and thrilling and challenging and everything I could’ve asked for coming out to Bloomington.”


A native of Medford, New York, Jewell has been on the fast track to success in his coaching career. After one season as an assistant coach at SUNY-Plattsburgh and two seasons at Hamilton College, Jewell joined the Thunder for their inaugural season in 2014-15 as an assistant coach and Director of Scouting. He served in that role for two seasons before being promoted to Assistant GM and Director of Scouting prior to the 2016-17 season.


In only three seasons with the Thunder, Jewell has helped orchestrate a development effort that has already seen 25 players from the team’s first two seasons go on to play college hockey at the Division I level. This past season, Bloomington had 21 players on its final roster committed to play at the Division I level.


Outside of developing college-ready players, Jewell has also helped the Thunder draft potential NHL prospects. This past season alone, three players on the Thunder’s affiliate list were ranked on NHL Central Scouting’s Final Rankings: Nicky Leivermann, Bram Scheerer, and Skyler Brind’Amour. Former Thunder defenseman Ben Mirageas was also on NHL CSS’s Final Rankings, another player that Jewell helped bring to Bloomington.


Jewell has also been key in drafting other rising stars. This past summer, the Thunder had three players compete at the U17 Five Nations Tournament, which included Bloomington native Brady Smith, Calen Kiefiuk and Jeremy Davidson. The Thunder had more representatives at the U17 Five Nations tournament than any other USHL team.


In his time at Hamilton College, Jewell had several notable accomplishments in helping to build that program, as well. He was responsible for recruiting goaltender Evan Buitenhuis, who won the Division III National Player of the Year award this past season. This past season also saw Hamilton make its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance, with Jewell’s two seasons of recruiting playing a role in helping the Continentals make history.


Both Watt and Jewell will start their new positions with the Thunder effective immediately.


The Thunder will hold a news conference to formally introduce both Watt and Jewell. Details about the date and location of the news conference will be released later this week.