skip navigation

2020-21 Season Head Coaches Bios

Director of Hockey Tony Lessel

Born and raised in St. Louis, MO  Tony enters his fourth season as Director of Hockey for the Jr. Everblades and the sixth year for Hertz Arena. Tony played youth hockey with the Chesterfield Falcons leading to tier 1 for the Jr. Blues and attending Chaminade College Prep. in St. Louis.

Since arriving in Florida in 2008 with a degree in Sport Management, Tony began working with the Florida Panthers in an entry-level sales position. From there he worked his way through the organization.  Within a couple of years, he was running the youth and adult travel/recreation programs out of Panthers Ice Den. Now with the Hertz Arena and the Jr. Everblades, Tony has grown both programs year after year with an emphasis on structure, development, and fun!

A USA Hockey Level 4 coach, Tony has coached numerous state championship teams of all levels over the years and worked with USA Hockey’s player development camps locally. He prides himself on development at the grassroots levels to ensure the stability of this great game in Florida for the future and has been recognized numerous times by USA Hockey for such achievements. Tony looks forward to raising many more championship banners once again this year for the Jr. Everblades.

8U Minor Head Coach Ernie Hartlieb

Coach Ernie's interest in athletic performance development stems from his extensive career competing in ice hockey.  After a life-threatening hockey injury suffered at 18 years of age with a prognosis that he may never be able to play the game again, his passion for hockey and his desire to succeed expectations fueled his rehabilitation and lead him to become an all-rounded athlete who has garnered respect from coaches and players on all levels.

During his four years of collegiate play for the Miami OH Redhawks (CCHA), he received the Terry Flannagan Humanitarian Award recognizing Ernie's strong character and leadership skills both on and off of the ice.

Having played over a decade in the ECHL including four seasons playing at the AHL level (Worcester IceCats, Grand Rapids Griffins, Lowell Lock Monsters, and Rochester Americans), his eight seasons with the Florida Everblades culminated in the team Captain having his iconic #9 jersey retired.

Coach Ernie's leadership, motivational skills, training skills, and exceptional training ethics bring exciting elements to the Junior Everblades organization.

8U Major Head Coach Brad Petersen

Coach Brad grew up playing AAA hockey in the Ontario, New York, and Pittsburgh areas.  His coaching career spans across twelve years in the 8U through 18U age divisions. 

Brad is a USA Hockey Level 4 coach, spending the last three seasons with the Junior Everblades.   His teams have had successful winning seasons with multiple championships including the 10U A  SAHOF State Gold Division Championship, 12U AA SAHOF State Championship Finalist, and the 8U AAA Buffalo Winter Classic Championship.  His 12U Junior Everblades teams were ranked within the top Tier II 100 teams in the nation, the last two consecutive seasons.

Coach Brad believes in pushing a player outside their boundaries to help them develop as a player through advanced skills, fundamentals, and competitive play.

10U A Head Coach Austin Petersen-DiRosario

Coach Austin is originally from Los Angeles, California, and has been a part of the Junior Everblades organization for more than ten years.  He is currently working towards his Masters degree in Psychology at FGCU.

Austin played for the Junior Everblades in the 12U through 18U divisions, was selected for the USA Atlantic Developmental Team, and as a defenseman for Florida Gulf Coast University. 

Currently, a USA Hockey Level 4 coach, Austin has been coaching with the Junior Everblades the past three seasons and has been a skating coach with the Hertz Arena Learn to Skate program for the past six years.  His coaching accomplishments include numerous tournament championships, the SAHOF State 12U A Championship, and  SAHOF State 10A Silver State Championship. 

Austin's coaching philosophy focuses heavily on, creativity, character development, leadership skills. 


10U AA Head Coach James Johnstone

Coach James has more than 20 years of experience instructing at hockey clinics and camps from Ontario to Southwest Florida.  

James' coaching tenure with the Junior Everblades began in 2006 leading the Mite AA team and since then he has coached every youth age division. Some notable coaching achievements include winning State Championships at the U18 AAA level in 2008, U12 A in 2018, and U10 A Silver in 2020.

James played minor hockey in Guelph, Ontario, and then for the Junior Everblades. He played junior hockey for the Walkerton Hawks and club hockey for Florida Gulf Coast University. In addition to coaching and playing, James has been a linesman in the ECHL since 2007.

Some key components of James’ coaching philosophy include an emphasis on developing strong team chemistry as well as helping each player improve their fundamental skills. Winning AS A TEAM, or at least improving outcomes over the course of the season, is a good measure of whether we are succeeding in our primary objectives, so James likes to win; plus winning is fun.

12U A1 Head Coach Keith Van Damme

Keith comes to us from Crystal Lake, IL with a wealth of coaching and clinic experience.

It all began in Superior, Wisconsin for Keith at a young age and developed into playing at the University of Wisconsin Superior. He has coached and developed players for over 35 years with USA Hockey Level 5 Master certification and IIHF certificate in Training Theory.

He’s known as one of the finest hockey clinicians in the Midwest and has volunteered many summers working with players of all ages and levels. He has a proven track record of commended performance coaching at the youth and high school levels, with a passion for amateur hockey and commitment to optimizing an unwavering team, players, and organizational success.

Keith’s overall coaching philosophy remains the same no matter what level the players are at; make sure the kids are having fun and skills development.

12U A2 Head Coach Johnny Pelletier

Coach Johnny is a native of Laval Quebec, Canada.  He played Junior AAA hockey and college hockey with Les Nomades Mont Morency, Laval, Quebec.

Johnny became a more versatile player by becoming a member of the Sacramento River Rats, and Chicago Cheetahs in Roller Hockey International.   He played semi-professional hockey from 1997-2005, and was named Best Defense player in 1997-1998 and again in 2002-2003. 

Johnny is certified in the HP-1 High-Level Performance Program and a USA Hockey Level 2 coach.  He coached for the Ligue Elite Quebec (LEQ) for four years, and during that time, thirty-five of his players were drafted into the LHJMQ (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League);7 who were first-round picks. 

Coach Johnny is energetic and looks forward to sharing his hockey expertise with his young players.

12U AA Head Coach David Vallieres

Coach Vallieres grew up in Alaska where he played his youth hockey for the Alaska All Stars.  While with the Alaska All Stars, he helped lead his team to that organization’s first National Championship and went on to win several championships before leaving home to play juniors in the USHL. 

While playing juniors, David was captain of the Dubuque Fighting Saints and lead his team to a national championship before accepting a Division I scholarship to the University of Alaska Anchorage (Seawolves). 

David went on to have a successful collegiate career and lead the Seawolves in scoring his junior and senior years finishing both seasons as an All American and touring with Team USA.   After college, David went on to play 250 professional games throughout North America and Europe.

As a coach, David believes that focusing on fundamentals and skill development should be the foundation for advancing the next generation of hockey players. He developed this ideology through almost four decades of hockey and being mentored by great coaches like Harry McDonald, Paul Brauneis, Mark Reeds, Paul MacLean, and Cary Eades.

After his playing career, David coached the FGCU hockey team (Division 2 - ACHA) and helped lead the team to the school’s first national championship (2012).  He has also coached with the Florida Junior Blades team as well as several teams within the Junior Everblades organization. 

14U A Head Coach Matt Culot

Matt comes to us from El Paso, TX by way of Boston, MA where he started his junior hockey career with the Boston Jr. Bruins. His junior career continued with various teams with the EHL, USPHL, and WSHL including his final year of juniors was with the Utah Outliers where he posted a team-leading 81 points.

With a stint scouting for the Lehigh Valley Rebels of the EHL Matt brings experience evaluating talent at a high level as well. Now turning his career to coaching, Matt has been running high-level skill development clinics for the Rhinos Youth Hockey Club with emphasis’ on power skating and agility. In addition, Matt managed the learn to play hockey program with the Dallas Stars, working with El Paso Rhinos (back to back WSHL champions and newly of the NAHL) and coaching various levels and ages.

Matt strongly believes in teaching skills that make players think a step ahead and make quick decisions. Challenging players to go beyond their comfort zone is the key to both player and team development in Matt’s eyes.

14U AA Head Coach Joshua Elzinga

Joshua Elzinga has been playing hockey at a high level his whole career. He started playing AAA as a peewee minor. He was one of six players selected from the US to play with team USA for a select tournament in the Czech Republic. Joshua was drafted in 2000 by the Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey League. He chose instead to continue playing in the United States.  He played in the North American Hockey League for two years then moved on to the United States Hockey league for an additional two years.  In 2005 Joshua continued to play professional hockey in the United hockey league for three years before retiring

Joshua has continued his love of hockey by coaching for six years. He started as an assistant coach with the Heartland Nationals out of Chicago. Then moved to Florida where he has coached the 12U AA and14U A teams for the Junior Everblades. 

16U AA Head Coach Peter Jerabeck

Coach Peter Jerabeck has been coaching hockey for the past forty-seven years.

He has been successful at coaching every classification in the game which includes, 8U-18U, Junior, High School, and College hockey.  Peter continues to have the passion, determination, enthusiasm, commitment, and love of the game.  

His ability to remain professional while helping his athletes deal with everyday problems that interfere with their ability to realize their potential has led his teams to successful seasons year after year.  

Coach Jerabeck is a mentor and someone that can be counted on.  He is looking forward to the challenges the upcoming season will bring for his 16U AA team.