Been There, Dun That

Know Your Bobcat – Tyler Dunagan

Throughout the months of August and September, will be taking a one-by-one look at the players on the Bobcats’ Training Camp Roster. Today’s installment features third-year NAHL veteran and Bobcat newcomer Tyler Dunagan.

Name: Tyler Dunagan

Position: Forward

Hometown: Maple Grove, MN

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 178 lbs.

2012-13 Team: Jamestown Ironmen

2012-13 Stats: 60 GP, 22 G, 15 A, 37 PTS, +12, 14 PIM, 2 PPG, 5 GWG

Favorite Hobby: Any Water Sports

Favorite Meal: Steak and cheesy potatoes

Highlight of 2012-13: “Making it to the Robertson Cup Tournament with my teammates, stepping onto the ice at Dr. Pepper Arena as one team, one family.”

A New Old Face

When the Bismarck Bobcats hit the ice for the 2013-14 season, there will be plenty of new faces for fans to get to know, though one they may recognize is that of forward Tyler Dunagan—though they’re more used to seeing him in black and red, as Dunagan spent his first two seasons in the NAHL with the Aberdeen Wings and Jamestown Ironmen.

Not too long after the 2013 Robertson Cup Tournament came to a close, it came to light that the Ironmen would go dark as a franchise, all of their eligible returners became NAHL free agents, who could not be drafted, but instead try out for whichever team in the league they chose.

For Dunagan, the thought of joining forces with his former Central Division foe in North Dakota’s capital city had a strong allure.

“You think about Bobcat Hockey, you think about five straight Central Division titles,” stressed Dunagan, who blew up in his sophomore campaign: scoring 22 goals with 15 assists after totaling just 12 points as a rookie, “you think about a franchise that has moved over 200 players to the NCAA.

“But one thing that stood out more than anything is that whenever I played against the Bobcats in Aberdeen or Jamestown, just the desire that the players on both years’ teams had to do what it took to win every single game, every single night. That’s the way I approach every game.”

Likewise, being able to bring in the experience of a playoff-tested warrior was a big draw for the Cats when it came to the third-year veteran.

“Tyler has been to the playoffs in both of his years in the league, and last year he was on a Robertson Cup Tournament team in Jamestown,” elaborated Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie. “And having that kind of experience is something you can’t teach.”

It’s a years-old Bobcat recruiting practice that even pre-dates Sedevie’s time as an assistant coach with the Cats.

“One of the biggest trades the team ever made was bringing in John Wickman before the 2008-09 season,” offered Sedevie, “because he was coming off a national championship season with St. Louis and helped instill that kind of championship mentality. He was the guy who could tell everybody what it took.

“It’s the same idea with Tyler: he gets it; he knows what it takes to get there.”

A Plan Comes Together

In his first two seasons in the NAHL, Tyler Dunagan has played with supremely talented players: suiting up alongside scoring machines Cory Ward and Steve Obarzanek in Aberdeen before joining forces with the likes of Luc Gerdes and Ryan Doucet with Jamestown.

Both the 2011-12 Wings and 2012-13 Ironmen were talented playoff teams, so what gave the latter the push to break through to the Robertson Cup Tournament as a division champion?

“The biggest difference I noticed between the two teams was simply that there were more veteran players in Jamestown last year,” assessed Dunagan. “It may sound kind of simple but when you’re with a group of guys who have been through the grinder before, it gives you a better idea of the best way to use the talent your team has.”

As a veteran himself, the Maple Grove, Minn., native became a point-per-game playoff producer: contributing two goals and seven assists in nine games to go with a +6 rating in the 2013 postseason.

According to Dunagan, Jamestown’s biggest boost came when the team started combining their impressive talent with a blue-collar mentality.

“By the end of the season, everyone was buying in,” recalled the third-year forward. “Skill guys like Luc are going hard in corners and everyone is getting to the tough areas—it was a testament to the teamwork and work ethic of the guys on that team.”

That attitude is something Dunagan expects to see this upcoming season with the Bobcats.

“I’m excited, because in talking with the coaches after Main Camp and playing with some of the returners there, I know I’m going to be skating with some really hard-working guys,” noted Dunagan. “It’s a championship mentality right from the get-go.”

Work for It

Another aspect of Bobcat Hockey that helped bring Tyler Dunagan to the capital city is that of familiarity.

“During my year with the Wings, [Bobcats assistant] Coach [Garrett] Roth was my assistant coach,” relayed Dunagan, “and we had a great relationship in Aberdeen. Being able to work with a coach I trust was a big factor in my decision in where to play this year.”

One thing that will be a bit less familiar to the forward will be the off-ice training regimen that he’ll go through as a Bobcat, starting Sunday when training camp opens with “Hell Week.”

“In my first two years, the off-ice training and work outs were more of an individual thing; you went at your own pace got out of it what you put into it,” explained Dunagan. “With the Bobcats the expectation that I’ve been given is that workouts are more of a team thing, with everyone going through the same program. Even though there’s a reputation there for it being difficult, it’s also exciting from a team-building standpoint in terms of bonding.”

The challenge of “Hell Week” and the team’s workout program with fitness director Mike Salwei at Healthways Gym may be daunting, but Dunagan sees the long view of the Cats’ conditioning system.

“The goal for every guy in the NAHL is to get a college scholarship,” the former Ironman stated, “and the Bobcats’ program gets you into the routine of working out like a Division I athlete. It sets everyone up to succeed from a conditioning standpoint and prepares you well to make that step to the next level.”

Stay tuned to 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 Kenny Curtis and Tony German.