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MISSOULA -- The Missoula Area Youth Hockey Association board of directors has approved a new junior hockey team, the Missoula Bruins, to operate in the North American 3 Hockey League out of Glacier Ice Rink starting this fall.

The Bruins will compete in the Frontier Division of the NA3HL against teams located in Montana and Wyoming. The Bruins replace the vacancy created at Glacier Ice Rink when the Missoula Maulers announced their dormancy on May 12.

The Maulers most recently played in the more far-flung Western States Hockey League. The NA3HL features nearby teams like the Great Falls Americans, Helena Bighorns and Bozeman Ice Dogs.

“Missoula is a great hockey community and we are excited for the opportunity to be involved in MAYHA’s programs,” Bruins owners Jason and Liz DiMatteo said in a press release from Glacier Ice Rink. “We look forward to building a strong partnership with youth hockey and creating support for the new Missoula Bruins."

Jason DiMatteo brings a solid hockey background to his new role, having coached teams and managed ice rinks throughout the state. The Bruins -- not to be confused with the high-school-aged team in Missoula that shares the same name -- will retain the Maulers' Marcus Baxter as head coach and general manager. Joren Johnson will continue as assistant coach.

“When lease negotiations between the Maulers and MAYHA stalled, we received multiple offers from individuals in both the Western States Hockey League and the NA3HL to replace the team,” said Thorin Geist, MAYHA board vice president. “After careful consideration, the board decided that the NA3HL, and specifically the collaborative approach of Jason and Liz, will be the best fit for our tight-knit hockey family.”

“We are confident that the Bruins will become a source of pride for the thousands of hockey fans who call Glacier Ice Rink home and an inspiration for the hundreds of youth players in our programs.”

Geist added that the MAYHA appreciates the past contributions made by Michael Burks, former owner of the Maulers, to Glacier Ice Rink and Missoula hockey.

The Missoula Bruins will begin play in late September and will announce their schedule once it is completed.

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