Loading Scoreboard...

Bowler Anchors St. Louis Blueline

Joe Bowler had always wanted to play for the St. Louis Jr. Blues and it just so happened
that his rookie season culminated in a magical run to the Tier III Junior A national
championship.

This season, while the Jr. Blues moved on many of their talent from last year, Bowler is
one of a handful of players that returned to the team, now under the direction of new head
coach J.P. Beilsten, himself a former Jr. Blues’ skater back in the day.

Over the past few years, St. Louis has seemingly owned the Central States Hockey
League, but if that’s to happen this year, improvement must take shape in St. Louis.

“Last Sunday was a wake-up call losing to Chicago,” said Bowler. “I think we have a lot
of room to improve, but we’ve made great strides and the morale in the room is the same
as it was last year. We have already looked past last year and realize that this year is a
new year.”

And with Beilsten, who was an assistant coach last year under Jack Behan, a few things
have changed from a coaching standpoint, but several others are status quo.

“One thing J.P. harps on is that we will never get outworked,” said Bowler. “He uses
similar systems that Jack used and keeps everything very organized. He also likes to mess
with different kids in different ways to get them going. He has really dedicated all his
time to this team and helping all the kids out. Last weekend after we lost to Chicago, he
pulled all the vets aside and basically told us how badly we played. He said he was going
to stay up for a little bit looking at film, but he was really up until 4:00 in the morning
breaking down each shift and what we did wrong and how we can fix it. That’s how
dedicated he is to this team.”

This week has seen some changes in practice that the Jr. Blues hope amount to two wins
this upcoming weekend against Pittsburgh.

“Chicago is still fresh in our minds and we are still watching film on that,” said
Bowler. “We’ve changed some of our practice methods as J.P. didn’t think what we were
doing was working. Pittsburgh is a top team and it should be a real test. Chicago just
proved you can’t look past any team. They outworked us and beat us to every loose puck.
That’s just how it goes. We need to keep working hard and get back to what we know of
we are going to lose a lot more games. We need to make things happen.”

Coming into this season as the defending league and national champions, pressure is a
daily reminder of that. Bowler said he doesn’t see St. Louis as a top team in the league
just yet, but wants to earn that moniker as the season wears on.

“We definitely have a target on our chest,” said Bowler. “Our power play is a lot different
and when you lose guys like (Chris) Hutton and (Ryan) Trenz, it hurts. Those guys

must have scored about half of our power-play goals last season. We only have seven
defensemen and I think maybe we could use one more to get some healthy competition
here. If guys know they have a job, maybe they don’t work as hard, but if they know that
they’re fighting to play on Saturday, maybe they’ll really go out in practices and work
even harder.”

Being a local player (Granite City, Ill.), Bowler said he always wanted to play for the
Jr. Blues and growing up with the Affton youth program gave him an inside look at the
CSHL and what it could offer him down the road.

“Jack recruits kids when they’re in Pee Wee,” laughed Bowler. “I knew about the rich
tradition here and going into the rink and seeing the four banners was really an incentive
to play here. Now with five banners up there, it just really makes you realize what kind of
an organization we have here.”

Putting up just 11 points a year ago, Bowler wants to increase those totals this season and
hopes that by being the power play quarterback, the points will start to pile up. He also
has other goals he’d like to take care of this year.

“I’d like to be in the top five defensemen scoring for the league,” admitted Bowler, who
currently has just one assist in four games. “The points haven’t been there yet, but I hope
that by running the power play that I’ll start racking up the points. I also want to improve
on my patience with the puck and my overall confidence. Last year, I watched Trenz go
from a forward to a defenseman and he really had a lot of confidence with the puck. I
think if I learn to look for a better play, maybe the power play will start to open up.”

Bowler also said that he has aspirations to move up the hockey ladder and an ideal place
would be across town with the North American Hockey League’s St. Louis Bandits. That
being said, he doesn’t want to limit himself to his potential opportunities.

“I’m finishing up some school stuff this year, but I definitely want to move on next
season,” said Bowler. “It wouldn’t be a bad situation if I got tendered by an NAHL team,
but then that kind of locks you down into that team and there are no guarantees you’ll
even play for that team. I’d like to go to a few tryouts next summer and hopefully, with
the Bandits, but it would be an honor to play for any NAHL team.

“I think we can get to nationals, but right now, there is no panic. We’re still just trying to
figure everything out. We should have it together by the showcase in a few weeks. I’m
not worried.”