Jasen Fernsler named new Traverse City West hockey coach

May 6—TRAVERSE CITY — Jasen Fernsler hopes to bring some stability to the Traverse City West Titans' varsity hockey program.

Fernsler, who has been an assistant with West for the last two seasons, was announced Tuesday as the new head coach — making him the fourth person to hold that position in the last four seasons after Jeremy Rintala, Zack Bargy and Anthony Palumbo.

"The hope and plan from (TC West Athletic Director) Jason Carmien, Anthony Palumbo, Bob Spence and myself is that I'm going to be the long-term solution and we're going to help our student-athletes on and off the ice to the best of our abilities," Fernsler said. "The past two years with Zack and Anthony and Bob, we've really laid the foundation to build and grow and become competitive for the foreseeable future."

Bargy and Palumbo both remain on staff as assistant coaches with Palumbo focusing on player development.

"Anthony, last year, really steadied our program," Carmien said of Palumbo, who previously coached the Titans for seven years in the earlier days of the program's history. "He came back and really solidified some of the things we were doing."

Fernsler played in the North American Hockey League from 2013-15 before competing at the collegiate level for the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2016 and then later at Ferris State University. The "itch" to stay around the game and be involved in hockey in some form or fashion drove him to be a coach.

"Even in my playing days, I knew I wanted to be involved in coaching," Fernsler said. "I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to do this with a great group of young men."

Fernsler said guiding his players to succeed "in the classroom, in the community, and on the ice" is priority No. 1.

"Part of that is putting them in tough situations that will allow them to grow and become better," he said. "At the end of the day, the thing I'm most looking forward to and going to be most proud of is watching these young men go off to college and graduate and live successful and healthy lives. You can't put a price tag on that, and it's more important than winning. I want to help them become better versions of themselves and win some hockey games along the way."

Carmien said he is excited by Fernsler's energy and passion for the program.

"Jasen really has that drive to be a head coach and run his own program, and we felt very fortunate to be in a position to allow him to step forward into that role," Carmien said. "Jasen's college experience and playing in the semi-professional ranks is a big draw, and I think kids really rely on coaches who have been there and played at a high level. Jasen fits that bill."

The Titans finished the 2023-24 season at 11-14, splitting the season series against the rival Traverse City Central Trojans and falling to Sparta, 5-3, in the regional semifinals. West went 9-16-1 in 2022-23, dropping both games to Central but picking up a playoff win before losing in the regional semis. The 2021-22 season saw the Titans finish just below .500 at 13-14-1 with another playoff win and regional semifinal exit.

The abbreviated 2020-21 season was the last time the Titans finished with a winning record, going 9-6-1 and reaching the regional championship game. West was 17-10-1 in the 2019-20 season, going 7-3 in the Big North Conference. The last time the Titans won the BNC was in 2017-18 when they went 7-2-1 in conference action and made it to the state championship semifinals with a 17-10-3 record.

Fernsler said competing for the Big North Conference title will be a top goal in the 2024-25 season. He mentioned Kallen Ray as being one of the best players in the state who will be key in achieving that goal.

"When you've got a player like that, the sky's the limit; so anything less than a conference championship would not reach the standard we've been working toward the last three years," Fernsler said. "It's going to be a challenge for me in year one, but it's something I'm looking forward to. We're going to put our best foot forward when we play."