Grip It and Rip It

Know Your Bobcat – Nate Repensky

Throughout the months of August and September, BismarckBobcats.com will be taking a one-by-one look at the players on the Bobcats’ Training Camp Roster. Today’s installment covers second-year defenseman Nate Repensky.

Name: Nate Repensky

Position: Defenseman

Hometown: Duluth, MN

2012-13 Team: Bismarck Bobcats

2012-13 Stats: 37 GP, 6 G, 21 A, 27 PTS, +11, 50 PIM

2012-13 Awards: First-Team NAHL All-Rookie Defenseman; NAHL Defenseman of the Month, March 2013

Favorite Movie: Good Will Hunting

Favorite NHL Player: Torrey Krug, Boston Bruins

Highlight of 2012-13: “After we won the Central Division title at home, celebrating with my teammates and the fans who came onto the ice to be a part of it with us.”

The Way Back

The story of the half of the 2012-13 season for Bismarck Bobcats defenseman Nate Repensky doesn’t take very long to recap: he took one shot in the first period of a 3-1 win over the Jamestown Ironmen on September 12 before missing the next 10 games to a sports hernia. He played all four games of a west coast road trip to Fresno and Wenatchee, registering his first point in a 2-1 OT loss against the Wild, and was then shut down for another 11 games.

“Injuries that had been nagging me through not only high school but also bantams were really holding me back early in the season,” assessed Repensky, who came to the Cats as a tender signee following his senior year at Duluth (Minn.) East High School. “A big part of my rookie season—and even now, during this offseason—was learning how to take care of my body on and off the ice.”

His late-2012 physical therapy and conditioning paid off, as the rookie blueliner took part in 31 of the remaining 33 games while racking up 26 points on 6 goals and 20 assists: more points than any other Bobcat defender, despite the injury shortened season.

“Nate knew that his durability was a question that scouts had about him coming out of Duluth East, but he never hid from it,” explained Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie. “What he did instead was work hard and show everybody that he could not only come back and stay in the lineup, but play better than ever once he was back.”

In his own estimation, Repensky isn’t all the way back to where he believes he can be. To that end, he has focused his offseason training on improving his long-term physical soundness.

“Since we got back from [the Robertson Cup in] Frisco, I’ve been dedicating myself to improving my durability,” the former Greyhound outlined. “I’ve talked to doctors and nutritionists and conditioning coaches who work with NHL players to put together the right diet and training regimen for my body over the course of a 60-game schedule.

“My thought is that doing all the little things in the offseason to prepare myself physically and mentally will allow me to work on more nuts-and-bolts parts of my game like my skating this season and be the big contributor that the coaches want to see.”

Getting Defensive

During the 2010-11 and 2011-12 campaigns, the Bobcats’ defense went through something of an identity crisis: allowing 2.69 and 2.67 goals per game, respectively, after being a top-three defensive team in both 2008-09 (2.09 GPG) and the Robertson Cup year of 2009-10 (2.24 GPG). The 2012-13 season, however, would be a return to form for the black and gold as the back end finished second league-wide defensively, having allowed just 2.33 goals per game.

According to Repensky, the shift back to a more defensive identity had much to do with the squad’s leadership.

“You start with Aaron Nelson in net, and he was incredible from the second he stepped back on the ice for us,” credited Repensky. “Then you look at our veterans: Dan Kovar, Jeremy O’Keefe and Rory Vesel; these guys took the back end as seriously as you can imagine. In practice, they’d celebrate with each other over blocked shots and successful penalty kills.

“That kind of attitude became infectious pretty quickly with rookies like me, Levi Blom and Chris Diver.”

But with the role for Repensky—who ranked fourth among all NAHL defenders with 0.73 PPG last season—shifting away from being a rookie and into being a leader for the Bobcats, will the defensive priorities shift back toward the offensive end of the rink in 2013-14?

Not on his watch.

“Last year I think a lot of people saw me as a power play guy, and that’s okay, but that’s not what I want to limit my identity to this season,” explained the 19-year-old defender. “I want to be a solid, all-around defenseman who can add offense if needed, and not the other way around.

“I’m excited to get back and work with some of the new, younger guys who are coming on to get our defense right back to where we finished last year—and hopefully even better.”

Boomtown

Repensky saved his best for last in 2012-13, averaging a point-per-game over the last 23 games of the regular season with five goals and 18 assists before contributing nine assists in 10 postseason games.

This late-season burst netted him a pair of league accolades: Defenseman of the Month for March 2013 and First-Team All-Rookie Defenseman. Repensky, however, is quick to spread the credit around.

“If you look at the points I got in March, a lot of them came from the power play,” noted Repensky, who picked up 13 of the 16 points he totaled in season’s final month on the man advantage, “so I wouldn’t have been where I was without guys like Filip Starzynski, Matt Anders, Seth Blair and Evan Giesler getting in there and greasy goals. Not even to mention that Matt Pohlkamp gave me the easiest job in the world on the ‘PP’: I just had to put the puck into space for him and he’d fire in a one-timer.”

Another way of looking at it, though, was that Repensky’s steady improvement helped lift a power play unit that languished around 12% all season explode to a 29.3% efficiency in March.

“Our power play made huge improvements once Nate was helping to run it,” Sedevie told BismarckBobcats.com at the end of the regular season. “Our power play [in March] has been up around 30%, which a lot of the credit goes to Nate for that. He is very skilled and solid at both ends of the rink.”

To that end, the second-year blueliner goes back to his base goal: durability.

“The biggest thing for me was being in the lineup and improving my chemistry with my teammates and my consistency on the ice,” offered Repensky. “Once I got to a good place there, things started really clicking.

“Now I’m excited to take the things I’ve learned since last spring and put them into being a consistent, productive part of what is shaping up to be a really strong team coming back.”

Stay tuned to BismarckBobcats.com over the next month-plus as we take you in-depth with every player on the Training Camp Roster in preparation for the 2013-14 season. This week, we will also feature Dan Kovar, Filip Starzynski, Seth Blair, Ryan Callahan and Stanislav Dzakhov.