COACHING STAFF

JAY WITTA

OWNER / GM / HEAD COACH / USA Hockey Level 4 Certified Coaching Certification

Coach Witta is in his 9th year of Junior A’ hockey and 7th year with the Blue Ox. Jay’s career junior A’ coaching record is 302-114-14 and he has helped guide the Blue Ox to three National Tournament appearances in the first six years. Witta has also helped promote over 20 players to the TIER 2 LEVEL as well as 40+ players onto NCAA/ACHA college hockey.

Prior to purchasing the Blue Ox, Witta had been the head coach of the NA3HL’s Junior A’ hockey team the New Ulm Steel. Witta completed a 67-33-10 two year record with a National Tourney semifinal appearance 2015/16 and a Western Division playoff final loss to the eventual National Champion, Granite City 2016/17.  Jay worked daily with the Steel ownership in all aspects of the business – budgets, league communications, recruiting, trades, facilities, core value accountability, parent communication and player advancement.

Jay is a Minnetonka, Minnesota native, played three years for the Minnetonka Skippers from 1985-87 where he was named captain his Senior season and helped guide the Skippers to their first ever Lake Conference Championship and was honored with an All-Conference Team selection. Witta was recruited by Herb Brooks at St. Cloud State University in 1987 to play on the inaugural SCSU Division 1 squad. After entertaining offers from various Division 1 & 3 programs across the country, Witta chose to stay close to home and attend St. Cloud State University as a walk on defenseman.

Witta also played Junior A’ hockey in Humboldt, Saask. for the Broncos (SJHL) before an undetected heart issue caused him to retire and return back to Minnesota. Witta has been coaching youth for the past 25 seasons and served on the Minnetonka Youth Hockey Board for 2 years. Witta resides in Minnetonka with his wife Sara and their four boys. Bennett, Brody, Brooks and Griffin.

RUSS BARONE

ASSISTANT COACH/SKILLS COACH

Russ has lived the Junior Hockey Path. From the NA3HL, NAHL to NCAA D3 College Hockey.  Russ began playing organized hockey at the age of 5. From that point on he played for a number of youth organizations including the Romeoville Huskies (CSDHL AA), Orland Park Vikings, Chicago Fury (Tier 1 elite league AAA), and the Chicago Hawks (CSDHL AA). After youth hockey, he continued on to play three years of junior hockey in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

After his last year of junior hockey, he committed to play NCAA Hockey for the Gustavus Adolphus Golden Gusties in St. Peter, Minnesota. Outside of his playing career, he is a proud graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College with a Bachelors in Exercise Physiology. From 2020 – 2021 he worked at Gilmour Academy as the Lancers U16/Prep assistant coach/skills coach/strength coach.

During the 2021 season he worked for the Odessa Jackalopes of the NAHL as an assistant coach/skills coach/and strength coach. Russell also helpes coach Breck High School Junior Varsity/Varsity Programs and owns Dynamic Hockey Development, LLC. (www.dynamichockeyllc.com)

We are excited to have Russ starting year two on the Blue Ox train!

MARK SCHIFFMAN

ASSISTANT COACH/GOALIE COACH – USA Hockey Level 4 Certified Coaching Certification

Mark and Coach Witta have been friends in business for over 20+ years.  He joined the Blue Ox a week after the Blue Ox organization was launched in 2017, as a goalie coach – and the rest is history!  Mark is a lifelong rink rat who grew up playing goaltender in the Bloomington Jefferson youth program. He is USA Hockey Level 4 certified and has more than 25 years experience coaching youth and high school goaltenders. Schiffman has three sons and resides in Waconia with his wife Kelly.

By day, Schiffman is executive director of a non-profit association focused with more than 30 years of public affairs and government relations experience. He’s a University of Minnesota-Duluth graduate and earned an MA from Hamline University.

Thank you for all you do Schifty, you help us operate with class and character – which is reflective in our Players and Organizations Core Values!  

TRAINING STAFF

DR. KEVIN WILLIS, PhD

MINDSET TRAINING COACH

Dr. Kevin Willis is a sport psychologist and one of North America’s rising mental coaches in hockey.

His work in enhancing performance and team building has helped hockey players, coaches, and parents find success while handling the pressure and stress that comes with playing elite hockey.

Author of Hockey Grit, Grind, and Mind, Dr Willis is the founder of TheCompletePlayer.com, 30DaysMentalToughness.com, ZenHockey.com, GritGrindandMind.net, and conducts team coaching, group coaching, and private 1:1 coaching across North America.

The Minnesota Blue Ox is proud to have Kevin on our staff, as a mindset training coach for our players!

KATIE McDONOUGH

POWER SKATING INSTRUCTOR

Katie was skating as soon as she was walking and some might argue that she skates better than she walks! Skating is in her blood. Katie comes from a very big hockey family but chose toe picks and tu-tus over hockey equipment and a stick. It’s a good thing she did it ensured that everyone knew just how important skating was and learned the right way to skate.

Katie had an exciting competitive figure skating career starting at 3 years old that spanned over 15 years and has been a power skating coach for close to 20 years. Diane Ness (Pro Edge Power Skating Founder) was Katie’s first figure skating coach before she made the switch to hockey full time and Katie worked under Diane Ness as an instructor for 15 years. She learned from the best in the business! Katie has extensive skating experience teaching a strong, balanced, and focused power skating session. Improvement is the overall goal, she helps gain this by introducing, developing, and refining players skating. Katie brings clear understanding of skaters edges and control of their bodies in the game. Her goal is to provide the proper techniques and skills to provide skaters the necessary tools to become powerful, fluid skaters/players. Katie works with teams individually, associations, and offers private lessons.

Katie is married to her husband Nick and their two children. When Katie isn’t on the ice she’s usually still at the rink taking in a game. When she can pull herself away from the rink you’ll find her at the cabin, taking in anything outdoors, her nose in a book or enjoying anything that involves her family and friends!

Contact Katie (612)242-8091 or [email protected]

ALLYSON OBERNOLTE, LAT, ATC

ALLINA HEALTH ORTHOPEDICS / ATHLETIC TRAINER

Allyson graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2015 with a Bachelor’s of Applied Science in Athletic Training and a minor in Public Health Education and Promotion. She has experience working with youth, high school, adult amateur, and NCAA division I, II, and III athletic events. The sports that she has worked with include hockey, basketball, wrestling, gymnastics, lacrosse, baseball, softball, track and field, football, soccer volleyball, cross country, and mountain bike racing.

Allyson has been with Allina since April 2021. She had been working for Blue Line Medical Services, LLC for a little over two years. She works at youth, high school, and adult amateur athletic events all over the Twin Cities metro area.

Allyson is from and currently resides in Saint Paul. When she is not working she enjoys long walks with her dog, Miley, plays tennis, goes to concerts, and likes to check out local breweries.

MARKETING & GAMEDAY SUPPORT STAFF

MELISSA MEDINA

BILLET & ACTIVITIES COORDINATOR

The Medina family decided to give the billet program a try and are now entering their fifth season as a host family. Their son played Coon Rapids Youth Hockey all the way through Bantams, and they just weren’t ready to let hockey go. This is Melissa’s first season as coordinator.

Melissa and her husband Todd reside in Coon Rapids. Their daughter, Natalie, is a freshman at UW-Madison, majoring in Biochemistry. Their son, Charlie, is a senior at Coon Rapids High School, on the wrestling team, and a frequent Game Day Helper.

In real life, Melissa works in Sales, representing some of your favorite food Brands to your local supermarkets, including Cub, Lund’s, and our sponsor Kowalski’s. Her spare time would be spent on hockey all year if possible, but involves reading, puzzles, and board games when hockey is not in season.

Look for Melissa lurking near the merch table during games, or following around Babe the Blue Ox, handing out stickers to our youngest fans.

CARTER MASLOSKI

HEAD OF GAME DAY OPERATIONS

“Mazz” is going on his 3rd year with the Minnesota Blue Ox and the title of Head of Game Day Operations.  Carter, Fred and Travis lead the charge and energy for our Game Day Ops and put a lot of time and thought into entertaining our awesome family friendly crowds!  Carter is an avid sports fan who has always loved to watch the game of hockey, his younger brother Hayden is one of the Blue Ox all time leading scoring leaders as well. 

Carter just graduated college with his Associate Arts Degree in Business and will pursue an emphasis in Sports Management. His goal is to someday make a career in professional sports marketing.  Be sure to reach out and say hi to Carter during a game, he loves meeting our Blue Ox faithful. 

FRED CRIMMINS

GAME DAY MILITARY VETERAN

Fred played hockey as a youth and was a Goalie. He was a practice goalie for Massasoit Community College in Brockton, Massachusetts. After not getting anywhere with hockey, Fred enlisted in the Air Force where he became a helicopter mechanic and was selected to be a Flight Engineer. Fred retired from the Air Force in 1996 after 21 years. After which he immediately got back into hockey and the rest is history.

  • Hockey Coach, 1996 – 2010 North Metro Youth Hockey Association, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota
  • Head Coach, Boy’s Junior Varsity Ice Hockey 2007-2010
  • North Metro Stars High School Co-op Team
  • Head Coach, Boy’s Junior Gold Ice Hockey 2007-2011
  • Totino Grace High School
  • Certified USA Hockey Coaching Level 4
  • Bachelor’s Degree, Occupational Education, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois, 1982
  • Graduate, West Bridgewater High School, West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, 1973

Be sure to stop Freddie at a game (if you can) and say hello!  He loves meeting all of our awesome Blue Ox fans!

AUSTIN COOPER

GAME DAY MR. MICROPHONE

My name is Austin Cooper and I’m 19 years old. Growing up I played a little bit of everything; Hockey, Football, Baseball, and Basketball, I enjoyed playing Baseball and watching Hockey.

As I got older I started getting into bowling and golf. Lastly I make sure that whatever I’m going to commit to, I do it with 110%.

I love helping those in need, getting others involved and most importantly giving someone another reason to see tomorrow.

I’m excited to join the blue ox not only to be on the game day crew but to get to know everyone inside and around the blue ox community.

TANNER SMITS

COLLEGE GAME DAY INTERN

Tanner wasn’t a hockey player growing up but found a love for the sport through countless hours of pond hockey seshs alongside his brother.

Pond Hockey blossomed his interests into a number of different sports. He credits hockey as a big contributor to his passion in sports and ultimately his desire to work in them.

Currently he’s a student at the University of Minnesota, majoring in Sport Management looking to find his place in the sport industry.

He looks forward to joining the amazing people and culture of Blue Ox this upcoming season.

BENTLEY SATHRE

HIGH SCHOOL GAME DAY INTERN

I fell In love with the game of hockey ever since I was little and started playing hockey when I was 6. Throughout the years of playing hockey I’ve always tried to get as close as I can to the sport that I love.

That means helping out at the rink, playing pond hockey with my friends, or getting better at hockey, things like that.

I do Anoka high school online and train during the day at TPH, and I also play for the Anoka High School hockey team. I’m looking forward to playing juniors and potentially getting a college offer, I would study to be an engineer and engineer hockey helmets.

I look forward to engaging Blue Ox Fans at home games and look forward to working with this great Junior Hockey Organization!

TED MILLER

PUBLIC ADDRESS ANNOUNCER | USPHL LEAGUE STATS

With almost no public address experience, Ted Miller fell into the position as the Voice of the Blue Ox after filling in a for few games 2 seasons ago. With a raspy, bellowing voice and quick-witted quips, Ted provides a unique facet to the Blue Ox game day experience.

Ted and his wife Jane have billeted various Blue Ox players over the past 5 years as well. Ted is currently a bank investigator and a retired FBI agent.

Be sure to stop Ted at a game (if you can) and say hello!  He loves meeting all of our awesome Blue Ox fans!

JON HEATH

SOUND AND SCOREBOARD

Jon grew up in the Denver area, and attended Iowa State University on a baseball scholarship. He graduated with a Finance degree and has spent the last 30 plus years building a successful career in Sales & Account Management. He also has spent the last 20 plus years coaching both youth football and baseball, and is currently the varsity pitching coach for Andover High School since 2018.

Jon is married to his beautiful wife and strong supporter Deanna. Between them they have 6 children, one of whom is a Blue Ox Alumni – Hayden Masloski, and another is also very involved in the Blue Ox family – Carter Masloski. It is through these two young men that Jon has developed a love of hockey and the Blue Ox.

Jon is entering his first full year with the Blue Ox running the sound and scoreboard, after stepping in midway through the 2021-2022 season, and is looking forward to another great season ahead!

JOHN SUMNER

TEAM PHOTOGRAPHER

John has been a photography enthusiast since he was young. After a short time as a professional photographer, it is now one of his hobbies he is deeply passionate about and active in pursuing. John’s photography consists mostly of his children playing sports, but loves taking pictures of waterfalls, landscapes, cityscapes, night shots and underwater wildlife when he has the opportunity.

He has been attending the John Beargrease Race intermittently since the 1990’s. John loves watching the athleticism of the sled teams and capturing their power and grace. Being a part of this event has been deeply rewarding.

John currently resides in the Twin Cities, MN. Most of his free time is spent with his wife, two children and three dogs. He enjoys travelling and documenting his experience with his camera.

Contact:
[email protected]

TIM BROWN

GAME DAY HELPER

‘Browner”, Tim never played hockey growing up, but picked it up in his adult years as the game always intrigued him. The position he choose is intriguing as well.  Goalie.  He started coaching 4 years ago for the Coon Rapids Youth Hockey Association to share his passion for the game. He joined the Blue Ox year one to help with our game day festivities. He loves the high energy at the Blue Ox games and how involved the team is in the community.  Getting to know the players on a personal level is pretty cool as well, especially the players from Europe!

In his real life, Tim has worked at Federal in Anoka for 1o+ years and enjoys spending time camping with his wife Michelle in their new RV during the Summers and Fall.

Stop and say hello to Tim at the next Blue Ox game, he enjoys getting to know all our the wonderful Blue Ox fans and their families. 

JOE RUHLAND

HOCKEY TV PLAY BY PLAY

Joe Ruhland an experienced Momentum Strategist and play-by-play announcer, brings a contagious energy and excitement to each game he calls. He has an extensive radio and tv portfolio that started as a student at St. Cloud State University. The youngest of ten, in a family that grew-up in southwest Minnesota, when Joe was not playing sports, he spent much of his calling games to himself in the living-room, when his older siblings were not watching American Bandstand.

Following college Joe spent his next five years working in Colorado as a Play-by-Play announcer/PR & Media Relations Director with the New York Rangers organization and a consultant with Team USA Hockey in Colorado Springs.

While with the Rangers during his three-year stint, he was key resource in the start-up of their IHL top-development team in Denver, which also included hosting a hockey talk show on KBYG-AM, a 50,000 watt sports network. Phil Esposito was the GM of the New Yorks Rangers during this time and led the league with 48 recall and reassignments throughout the 1988-89 season. Marcel Dionne, Ron Duguay, Mike Richter, Tony Granato, Peter Laviolette were a few of the players that circulated between Denver and New York.

It was during his time with Team USA Hockey, Joe became more familiar with leadership and neuroscience performance and the impact of MPO, Mindset Predicts Outcomes training implemented at the Olympic Training Center for many athletes.

Also, while in Colorado, Joe would call college football games for PrimeSports network as well as Public Address announcer at McNichols Sports Arena for NHL exhibition games and pre-Olympic Team USA Hockey games hosted in Denver.

Joe returned to Minnesota when he took a role with Medtronic in CRM Sales and Leadership Training, which also allowed him to continue enhance his broadcasting skills over the course of the past couple of decades.

Currently, Managing Partner of YourTime Performance Agency, he has continues to strategize and lead leadership and sales launches for medical, healthcare, software companies and Momentum based performance initiative for sports franchises and businesses as well.

You may hear him during telecast for QCTV sporting events or college sports across the radio waves. He continues his passion for hockey and in his call as he has the ability to recognize when key momentum-based moments are about to take place during our Blue Ox games.

Listening and catch the Joementum this season during his Blue Ox Hockey broadcast.

TIM LEACH

GAME DAY SECURITY

Retired from the Postal Service after 30 years – and has since worked security for various sporting and music events events here around the Twin Cities!  “Leacher” was raised in South Saint Paul played and coached youth ice hockey for many years. Now he enjoys watching the greatest sport in the world and is an avid Blue Ox fan!

Let’s Go Boys!  Be sure to stop Tim at a game and say hello!  He loves meeting all of our awesome Blue Ox fans!

JESSICA KOTCHEN

OXMOBILE COACH DRIVER

Jess is a MN native growing up in “Nordeast” Mpls.

She currently resides in Andover, MN with her husband, Tom and Daughter, Madi.

When you don’t see her driving the OX boys around town, you can find her recruiting school bus drivers, or driving the kids of Anoka Hennepin District 11 to and from school and activities.

In her spare time, Jess helps with the Andover High School Girls Volleyball and Softball programs.

Jess joined the Herd for our Wisconsin Rapids playoff series this past season – and secured her contract for this season.

Welcome aboard the Blue Ox Bus Jess!

JACK JENDRO

GAME DAY HELPER

ANNIE JENDRO

GAME DAY HELPER

BUTCH HATHAWAY

GAME DAY HELPER & RETIRED MILITARY VETERAN

JORGEN BALK

GAME DAY HELPER