Over the last three seasons in the MJHL, Waywayseecappo Wolverines forward Jake Bestul has seen it all. The 20-year-old from Hibbing, Minnesota came up from the United States looking to fulfill a dream of playing Junior Hockey.
“I first heard about the MJHL after my cousin played for Steinbach,” Bestul explained. “In my senior year of high school, I talked to the Pistons so I went to training camp there. I ended up getting released right before the regular season and got picked up by Waywayseecappo.”
Although Bestul got his wish of playing junior hockey, it wouldn’t come easy as the fun-loving kid from Minnesota would arrive in Waywayseecappo during a trying time for the organization. In Bestul’s first two seasons in a Wolverines uniform, the club finished in dead last with no sniff at the playoffs. Those two years weren’t only hard on the fans and organization, but just as tough on the players.
“I had phone calls with my dad where I was at a point where I wasn’t happy with what was going on and wanted out. Now looking back, I’m really happy I chose to stay. It’s actually pretty crazy the changes I’ve seen over three seasons. When I started we had a whole different staff, things weren’t going in the greatest direction. Last year when Taylor (Harnett) came in and took over, things started to change a bit. Coming into this season, it felt like a whole different organization with the staff, renovations, and players that were added.”
Coming into the 2018-19 regular season, there was a different vibe surrounding the organization. For the first time in a long time, positive change could be felt as soon as you walk into the Waywayseecappo Arena Complex.
“We had a great camp and we had a great start to the season. It’s been all positive, I couldn’t be happier,” Bestul said with a smile. “I consider Waywayseecappo one of the top organizations in the league now. We get treated so well and even the fan support has been better, it’s been awesome.”
After coming out of the gate 5-0-0 and being ranked 3rd in the CJHL Top-20 Rankings, expectations went through the roof. And after going through some ups and downs, the Wolverines currently sit in 4th place with an 11-8-1-2 record. Reaching the playoffs remains a daily goal of the organization and as a veteran of 131 regular season MJHL games with no playoff experience, getting to the post-season is something Bestul thinks about constantly.
“I haven’t made it to the playoffs yet so that’s a huge goal for me personally as well as team-wise. From what I’ve been told it’s a whole other animal once you make the playoffs, it doesn’t matter if you’re the first seed or the last. That’s our goal as a team, to get to the playoffs and take it from there.”
Not only would making the playoffs be a tremendous boost for Bestul and the Wolverines, it would also give Wolverines fans a chance to do something they haven’t had the opportunity to do for in a long time…Cheer on their team in the playoffs.
“I can’t even imagine. I’ve heard a few stories from the past of what it’s been like and it gets me excited. Getting a couple home games I would guess it would be really loud with a pretty crazy atmosphere.”
Hockey aside, Bestul has made the most of his time in Waywayseecappo, bonding with his teammates and getting to know the people in the community.
“It’s obviously a small town feel, but you feel right at home. People are talking to you and asking you questions and rooting for you. All the billets in the area are great people and are extremely supportive. It’s great to have and we’re very fortunate to have it this way.”
“You’re extremely close with the guys. You don’t have a big city to go out to do whatever. You’re always with your teammates and it’s a really big brotherhood. It’s probably my favorite part, it’s crazy how close of friends you become with the guys.”
As the regular season nears the half-way mark, Bestul is certainly soaking up his time as a Wolverine. It’s something that comes and goes in the blink of an eye, and something Bestul says he’ll miss dearly.
“I’m already looking at school next year and it makes me miss the guys and the junior life. If you get the opportunity to come to Waywayseecappo, it’s a great chance and a great fit,” Bestul concluded.