MASON CITY, Iowa – Jon Skarlis is from Iowa, but finished his junior career on the east coast and spent the last three seasons in Minnesota as a forward at Bethel University. With the end of his college career upon him, this turned out to be the right time to return home.
Skarlis is headed back to the Hawkeye State, joining the North Iowa Bulls as the team’s new assistant coach. He replaces Kevin Murdock, who spent three years in Mason City, most recently as the team’s associate head coach under Todd Sanden. Murdock was hired in April as the new head coach of the North American Hockey League’s Kenai River Brown Bears.
“Jon comes to the North Iowa Bulls with a good playing experience at Bethel, as a four-year college player,” said Sanden. “He also has a background in junior hockey, and his training experience at MAP Hockey North will benefit our players at the skill development level.”
Skarlis’s junior hockey background is one that includes experience in the NA3HL, starting the 2013-14 season with the Alexandria Blizzard before playing most of the year with the Wisconsin Whalers. He also spent time in the former Minnesota Junior Hockey League with the Steele County Blades, and finished in the Eastern Hockey League. His first season out of junior hockey was spent at Worcester State University before transferring back to Bethel for his final three years.
“My linemate in high school played there, and he told their coach about me, and the opportunity came (to return to the Midwest),” said Skarlis. “I wanted my parents to see me play more of my college career, because it was hard for them to get out (to Worcester).”
The former Royal doesn’t just have ties to the state – he has direct ties to the area. Skarlis’s family maintains a residence in Clear Lake, and he played a number of games in the “Barn” as a member of the Waterloo Warriors high school club. The Mohawks at that time were coached by fellow North Iowa assistant Mark Hicks.
“We even played a couple of youth tournaments in Mason City,” said Skarlis. “We played in Mason City a handful of times those three years.”
As a Warrior, Skarlis played in 78 games and scored 68 points at the varsity level. He was a two-time Midwest High School Hockey League all-star, and closed his high school career with a league title in 2012 while attending Cedar Falls High School. As a college player, he totaled just seven points in 49 games, but earned high marks in the locker room from the Royals’ coaching staff.
“We are very excited for Jon to get an opportunity in coaching,” said Bethel head coach Chris McKelvie. “Jon is passionate about the game and was focused on becoming his best every day. ”
He comes into a North Iowa program with the bar set high – the Bulls have qualified for the NA3HL’s Fraser Cup championship tournament in six of their eight years on the ice and have won three national championships. He says he knows he’ll have to continue to give of himself for the Bulls to maintain that standard, and he’s ready for the road ahead.
“I really want to engage with the community,” said Skarlis. “I know that the Mason City area really supports the Bulls, and I think that’s what made it the most attractive place to come and coach. I want to add to that culture, and I believe in the system that they have down there.”
(Photo credit: Bethel University athletics)
THE SKARLIS SUMMARY
High School: Cedar Falls (Iowa)
College: Bethel (Minn.)
2009-12: Waterloo Warriors (MHSHL)
2012-13: Steele County Blades (MnJHL)
2013-14: Wisconsin Whalers (NA3HL), Alexandria Blizzard (NA3HL)
2014-15: Valley Jr. Warriors (EHL)
2015-16: Worcester State Univ. (NCAA D-III)
2016-19: Bethel Univ. (NCAA D-III)