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Howie and Banks ready for ‘Tauros homecoming

Submitted Photo Darren Banks, pictured as a player from his 2014-15 season with Minot, will take on an assistant coaching role along with former Tauros teammate Jake Howie.

Darren Banks and Jake Howie will certainly have the benefit of familiarity on their side when they make their coaching debuts for the Minot Minotauros next season.

Minot made official the pair’s selection to replace Wyatt Waselenchuk as the team’s newest assistant coaches June 22, and their respective appointments mark a sort of homecoming for both.

Banks has actually seldom left the Magic City since he played with the Minotauros in the 2014-15 season. Following a playing career that included three games at the forward position for Minot, he joined the United States Premier Hockey League as an assistant coach, and took on a scouting role for his old team, the June 22 Minotauros press release states.

He quickly rose through the ranks with Minot, earning a promotion to the Director of Scouting, a role he has served in throughout the past year, before he was bumped up once more to his assistant coaching role this week.

“Working with the ‘Tauros over the last year, I really enjoyed working with the staff there,” Banks said. “And when I was offered the position, I just couldn’t turn it down. I think everything that [Director of Player Personnel] Brad Clayton has done, he talks about having the best for recruiting, and I think he’s been able to do that. To be a part of it is something I was really excited about and why I wanted to be on board.”

Howie was Banks’ teammate during the latter’s sole season with Minot, and the former spent two of his four skating years with the Minotauros. In 103 games with Minot, Howie scored 23 goals and recorded 28 assists from 2013-15, finishing fourth and ninth on the team in points in his two seasons and currently sitting in a tie for the 4th-most points in Minotauros history with 51.

He also appeared in 91 games in the North American 3 Hockey League, scoring 32 regular-season goals, as well as a goal and an assist in the NA3HL’s Top Prospects Tournament for Team Michigan in 2013.

“It was something I’ve always wanted to do, was jump back into coaching when my playing days were over,” Howie said. “Minot was the right fit for me. I’ve always wanted to return back and stay close with a lot of people there. So I felt like it was the right time when the opening came up.”

Head coach Shane Wagner will also have double the help in his second season at the helm, and was hesitant to name concrete roles for his two new hires; the Minotauros’ leadership instead will work through the season together, one day at a time while constantly assessing the best fits for Howie and Banks.

“I think it’ll be one of those things where we, as the season progresses, we find out maybe Darren’s better in one area, and Howie’s better in another, and then they take the ball and run with it,” Wagner said. “I think just feeding off what we do well and our experiences and utilizing as much as we can with the three of us is going to be huge.”

The fresh perspectives factor into Wagner’s confidence in his coaching staff’s new additions as well. He pointed to the repetitive nature the schedule can sometimes present, and the ability to divide the coaching duties between three people rather than only one or two paves way for more flexibility and the ability to better prepare the team for opponents.

With the Minotauros reeling from a heartbreaking first-round Game 5 overtime defeat at the hands of the Aberdeen Wings in the 2021 Robertson Cup Playoffs, Minot is hopeful that the familiar faces will only strengthen the team and bolster its chances of surpassing its 2020-21 finish.

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