UWSP men’s hockey team looks to make Championship run
Following back-to-back NCAA Division III National Championship
Game appearances, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) men’s hockey
team has remained among the top teams in the nation this season.
The Pointers lost four First Team All-Wisconsin
Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) selections from a year ago, but are
off to a
start this season and are ranked third in Division III in the USCHO.com Poll
and fourth in the D3Hockey.com Poll.
UWSP carries a six-game win streak into this weekend, when it
will play at seventh-ranked UW-Eau Claire (11-4-2, 1-1) at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan.
22, and then will host WIAC leader and 11th-ranked UW-River Falls (11-4-3, 2-0)
at K.B. Willett Arena at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23.
“It’s been a little bit up and down,” said fifth-year UWSP
men’s hockey head coach Chris Brooks of this season. “In order for us to be a
championship team, we’ve got to play 60-minute games, we’re not going to beat
St. Norbert or some of those top teams from the east playing 40 minutes or
playing 50 minutes, it’s going to take a 60-minute game for us.
“So we’ve got to get there,” he said.
After finishing as the National Runner-up in 2014, the
Pointers advanced to the NCAA Division III National Championship Game again
last season, where Trinity (Conn.) scored with 3:52 left in the game to take a
3-2 lead and added a pair of goals in the final 37 seconds to win the National
Title with a 5-2 victory that left UWSP as the National Runner-up for the
second year in a row.
Along with 2015 WIAC Player of the Year, Division III
National Player of the Year Finalist and First Team All-American defenseman
Kevin Gibson, the Pointers also lost three-time First Team All-WIAC goalie
Brandon Jaeger, two-time First Team All-WIAC forward and 2014 WIAC Player of
the Year Garrett Ladd, two-time First Team All-WIAC and 2014 All-American defenseman
Kyle Brodie and three-year assistant captain Scott Henegar from last year’s
team that finished 23-7-1, but still returned a talented nucleus for this
“We did lose some key players,” said Brooks. “At the same
time, we still returned nine seniors, and I think that that was overlooked.
“Coming into the season, as an outsider looking in, I thought
a lot of people were probably questioning where we were going to be in net, and
our goaltending’s been very good,” he said. “It hasn’t been bad, it hasn’t been
great, it’s been consistent, and that’s the one position I think we were
Leading the way on offense for the Pointers is the return of
their two leading scorers from last year in First Team All-WIAC senior forward Joe
Kalisz (12 goals, 13 assists, seventh in Division III with 25 points this
season) and First Team All-WIAC junior forward Kyle Sharkey (eight goals, seven
assists), while junior forward Lawrence Cornellier (11 goals, eight assists)
also saw regular action the last two seasons.
Junior forward Eliot Grauer (six goals, seven assists), senior
forward Logan Lemirande (two goals, 10 assists), senior forward Evan Dixon (six
goals, four assists), junior forward Jacob Barber (three goals, seven assists),
senior forward Alex Kromm (three goals, five assists), senior forward Nick
D’Avolio (four goals, three assists) and senior forward Drew Graves (one goal,
two assists) also returned from last year, while junior forward and NCAA
Division 1 Nebraska-Omaha transfer Jono Davis (six goals, eight assists),
freshman forward Tanner Karty (four goals, two assists in four games since
joining the Pointers), junior forward and former Stevens Point Area Senior High
School (SPASH) standout Joey Haydock (two goals, two assists after two seasons
at UW-Stout) and freshman forward B.J. Duffin (two assists) are key newcomers
for the nation’s third-ranked offense (4.94 goals per game).
“You talk about those three guys (Kalisz, Sharkey and Cornellier), and then you
add Eliot Grauer, who’s been banged up his first two years and is elite,” said
Brooks. “You bring in Jono Davis, who transferred here from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and just played in a
Division 1 Final Four, and Tanner Karty, who’s played four years in the USHL.
“Then you bring back Logan Lemirade and a handful of guys,
Jacob Barber stepped up and filled a big void for us, and you look at Joey
Haydock, a local kid who’s transferred here from Stout,” he said. “And now our
depth and our competitiveness up front is what separates us from a lot of other
teams in the country.”
Two-time First Team All-WIAC senior defenseman Alex Brooks
(three goals, ninth in Division III with 15 assists this season) returned on
defense, where he has been joined by junior defenseman and NCAA Division 1 Lake
Superior State transfer Nathan Harris (three goals, nine assists), junior
defenseman Trace Strahle (one goal, nine assists), freshman defenseman Stephan
Beauvais (two goals, seven assists), junior defenseman Mark Bittner (four
assists), freshman defenseman Ethan Strong (four assists) and sophomore
defenseman Ryan Scherer (one goal, one assist).
“Mark Bittner’s been good, Brooksie’s been good, Stephan
Beauvais coming in as a freshman has been very good for us,” said coach Brooks.
“Ethan Strong has continued to come; we just need to be better as a group back
“If you look at it, our penalty kill is tops in the country,
our power play is Top 10 in the country, team offense is Top 10 in the country,
and defensively, we haven’t been great,” he said. “We’re going to have to learn
how to limit opponents to one goal, two goals a game, because once we play
those elite teams in the country, we’re not going to be able to score four,
five or six goals.”
In the net, sophomore Max Milosek stepped in for four-year
starter and three-time First Team All-WIAC goalie Jaeger and is 9-2-1 this
season with a 1.99 goals against average and 0.92 save percentage, while Jesse
Gordichuk (3-1 with a 3.35 goals against average and .881 save percentage in
five starts this season) and sophomore and NCAA Division 1 Western Michigan
University transfer P.J. Bridges are also in the mix.
“It was a big question mark, and bringing in Gordichuk and
Bridges added to our depth there,” said coach Brooks. “Max was a seasoned
junior goalie and that first year he went through something that he probably
had never been through in his career (as a reserve last season) and handled it
pretty well, and had a good summer physically and mentally and came in and has
played very well for us.”
UWSP opened this season Oct. 30 with a 7-3 win at Aurora (Ill.) and followed with
victories over Lawrence (9-1), Gustavus Adolphus (Minn.) (5-1), Bethel (Minn.) (4-3), Concordia-Moorhead (Minn.) (5-0) and Saint John’s (Minn.) (3-2) to get out
to a 6-0 start.
However, the Pointers followed with a 3-3 tie at home
against 15th-ranked Marian Nov. 20, and then lost to top-ranked St. Norbert 5-2
Nov. 21, at second-ranked Adrian (Mich.)
3-2 Nov. 28 and at 11th-ranked River Falls 3-2 Dec. 4 to fall to
The Pointers bounced back with wins over UW-Superior (5-3), Northland
(6-1), Hamline (Minn.) (10-3) and St. Olaf (Minn.) (6-4), before they went on
the road last weekend and beat Saint Mary’s (Minn.) 6-2 Friday, Jan. 15, and Augsburg
(Minn.) 4-1 Saturday, Jan. 16, to run their win streak to six games and improve
“We started off the first six games, just inconsistent,” said
coach Brooks. “Even though we were 6-0, I thought we played to our
“Then we went 0-3-1 through that four-game stretch, tied
Marian, lost to St. Norbert, went on the road and lost a tight game to Adrian
and went on the road and lost a tight game to River Falls, and then won six in
a row again,” he said. “We’ve been a little bit more consistent over the last
four, but there’s still room.”
This weekend, UWSP will travel to face seventh-ranked Eau Claire Friday night,
before it returns home to take on 11th-ranked River Falls
“They’re huge conference games, but our goal is to win a
National Championship, so we don’t really concentrate on winning a WIAC
Championship,” said coach Brooks. “We need these games nationally.
a dynamic team, a veteran group, excellent goaltending and very, very dangerous,”
he said. “And then we’ll regroup and play a real good River Falls
team. They play each other Thursday, hopefully they pound each other, and we’ll
be ready to go for the weekend.”
The Pointers will be back on the road Wednesday, Jan. 27, to
take on Lake Forest
at , and then will
host Lake Forest
at K.B. Willett Arena at
Saturday, Jan. 30, for the seventh annual Put a Check to Cancer Night, where
proceeds will go to local cancer patients.
The team has raised more than $25,000 over the first six
years of the event, which will feature pink T-shirts for sale and an auction
for the Pointers’ pink, game-worn jerseys, as bidding is currently underway at
“That event continues to grow,” said Brooks. “It just seems
that so many more of us are affected by the disease, and part of our
responsibility is to give back to the community that takes care of us.
“So it’s an event that we look forward to every year, and
I’m sure it will be another popular one this season,” he said.
Along with a nonconference game at home against second-ranked
UWSP is on the road at UW-Stout (
1-1) Feb. 2 and at Superior
Feb. 6 and at home against Stout Feb. 12 and Eau Claire Feb. 13 to close out the regular
season, before the WIAC Tournament begins Feb. 19.
The five-team WIAC doesn’t have an automatic bid to the NCAA
Division III Tournament, so the Pointers team will look to close out the rest
of the regular season strong to secure a bid to the postseason, as UWSP has its
sights set on winning a National Title after back-to-back National Runner-up
“This group knows what it’s going to take to get there,
we’re 14 games away from being National Champions, and we’re going to take it
one game-at-a-time,” said coach Brooks. “But we have the group to do it.
“This group’s probably the most talented one that we’ve had
since I’ve been here, and now they just have to commit to it,” he said. “It’s
going to take a commitment, and when this group commits to it, we’re elite.
“When we try and shortcut, and when we don’t do things
consistently, we’re (only) good,” he said. “We need to sacrifice, and it’s going
to take a total team effort.
“And if they commit to it,” he said. “This group has the
ability to do special things.”