CARROT RIVER — Melfort product Rob Holoien is back behind the bench for the Carrot River Outback Thunder.
He previously served as an assistant coach for the Junior B Prairie Hockey League team in 2016-18. Holoien departed Carrot River for the Junior A Battlefords North Stars. For the past two and half seasons, he served as the team’s assistant coach and helped guide the team to the 2019 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League championship.
“I’m excited to be back with the team and the community,” Holoein said. “I believe in what they are doing out there. I’m just trying to help in any way I can.”
He opted to move back to Melfort earlier this year to be closer to family. Former Outback Thunder goaltender Kolten Holmen remains with the team as an assistant coach.
Holoien, who was announced as the new Outback Thunder head coach on May 14, replaces Luke Folk. Folk and current general manager Brenan Hall took over the Outback Thunder from Holoien and head coach and general manager Trevor Logan partway through the 2018-19 season. Hall said he is excited to have Holoien back with the organization.
“I had the pleasure of meeting Rob back in 2018 and have always enjoyed talking to him and he treated me with the upmost respect in our transition back in 2019,” Hall said. “He possesses an outstanding character and prides himself on professionalism, honesty, integrity, team values, and winning. Rob's experience with the Battlefords has put his coaching ability through the roof to a level we consider elite. I am confident that Rob has what it takes to bring our team to the next level, and it is a very exciting time to be a part of the Thunder.”
Holoein said he enjoyed the people and the players, who he noted worked hard, in his first time around with the Outback Thunder. With the players who plan to return and some new faces, Holoein said he expects “to be in the mix” next season.
In Battlefords, Holoien helped his team succeed, but North Stars head coach and Humboldt product Brayden Klimosko said he was impressed by how much Holoien cares about his players. Klimosko said his former assistant coach “wants them to improve on the ice as well make sure off the ice they are doing well mentally.”
Holoien joined the North Stars partway through December of 2018. The team posted a 35-13-5-5 record that season and hoisted the Canalta Cup in the spring with a 12-2-2 playoff record. In 2019-20, Battlefords led the SJHL with a 45-11-2-0 record. The North Stars were up 3-1 on Nipawin in the first round when COVID-19 halted the SJHL postseason. This winter Battlefords was 0-3-0-0 before the season was paused and eventually cancelled.
“It was really special there,” Holoein said. “We had some great chemistry Brayden and I. I’m just grateful for the opportunity out there.”
An alum of both the Mustangs and Nipawin Hawks, Holoien brings a wealth of junior hockey playing experience to the Outback Thunder. He suited up in the major junior Western Hockey League as well for six teams, including the North Stars, in three Junior A leagues.
“I’m grateful for my path in junior hockey,” Holoein said. “It was not always a storybook … I had some injuries, some battles. I’m just grateful for the journey. I think it helps me now.”
After learning from various coaches during his junior career and working for Klimosko and Logan, Holoein said it is “great to be able to give back by sharing my knowledge and helping [the players] grow into good men and good people first and then good hockey players.”
A former Outback Thunder player, Folk was relieved of his duties earlier this year, the team stated in a May 11 release. The release said the decision was made with heavy hearts as it enjoyed having Folk as part of the organization.
“Folk is an outstanding person who dedicated a lot of time and energy to the team, but the board of directors had come to a difficult decision of going in a different direction. We wish nothing but the best of Luke in his future endeavours,” the release read.
The Outback Thunder went 6-33-1 in the season Folk joined the team as head coach and improved to 16-23-1 the next. The squad started this season 1-5-0 before the campaign was paused and cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.