Sometimes those warm summer days just appear to fly by. That can be especially true in the life of a newly-hired hockey coach, professional and collegiate alike. Hired this past July 15, Chris Brooks had to have a quick introduction to Division III hockey at Wis.-Stevens Point after coaching professionally for the past three years.
“Stevens Point is a great situation for my family,” Brooks said. “When I was coaching in the pros, there was some family sacrifice.”
Prior to taking the coaching position at Wis.-Stevens Point, Brooks spent the last three seasons as the head coach of the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees of the Central Hockey League (CHL). Rio Grande Valley is located near the Mexican border in Texas. The team would have to travel, by bus, as far north as Wichita, Kan., or as far west as Prescott Valley, Ariz.
In three seasons as coach at the professional level, he led the team to an 87-86 overall record, and had playoff appearances in two of his three seasons. In his first season, he led the team to a franchise-record 35 wins and its first playoff series victory. The team was also named the CHL’s Franchise of the Year under Brooks’ direction. Brooks was the runner-up for the league’s Coach of the Year award that season.
“In the pros, it was a business,” Brooks said of his CHL experience. “I loved the hockey part, but the business side wasn’t always fun.”
Brooks had coached in the collegiate ranks before coaching in the professional ranks. He spent nine years at Western Michigan University, his alma mater, six as an assistant coach and his last three as the associate head coach. His roles included coordinating the Broncos’ recruiting efforts, preparing scouting reports, evaluating game video, and organizing the Bronco Summer Hockey Schools. He also managed the practice plan and team travel. In addition, Brooks served as an evaluator for USA Hockey at Michigan Select Festivals in 1999.
The preseason Coach’s poll in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) had Wis.-Steven Point picked to finish fifth.
Wis.-Stevens Point opened some eyes in the conference opener in late October with a 5-1 victory over St. Norbert, the defending national champions.
“If we play hard for 60-minutes, we’ll have great success,” Brooks said of his team’s overall performance so far this season.
“We have to play to our strength as a team; we want to be consistent with the system.”
“There is no wiggle room with our roster. We have 21-players,” Brooks added.
Brooks has one goal above all for coaching in Stevens Point: “Develop people through sport and have success outside hockey.”
During his career as an assistant coach at Western Michigan, the school produced eight NHL draft picks. In addition to those players, many others went on to sign free agent deals with NHL and minor league clubs.
Brooks also played at Western Michigan. He lettered four seasons and finished as the eighth-leading scorer in school history, compiling 57 goals and 127 assists for 184 points. Brooks led Western Michigan in assists four straight seasons, and twice captured the team scoring title. He was a member of two NCAA tournament teams, and was the recipient of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association’s (CCHA) Rookie of the Year award in 1993. He also received Honorable Mention CCHA All-Academic status.
Brooks went on to play professionally with stops in Amarillo (WPHL), Mobile (ECHL), Springfield (AHL), and Kalamazoo (UHL). He led the WPHL in scoring and assists during the 1996-97 season, posting 110 points (45-65-110) in 64 games. He earned the league’s Most Valuable Player. After an 82-point campaign with Mobile, he returned to Amarillo and again led the team in scoring (48-57-105), and was the league leader in goals.
He also started his coaching career that season, serving as a player/coach while being named team MVP and appearing in his second WPHL All-Star Game.
Wis.-Stevens Point is currently 2-5-2 overall and 1-3-2 in conference play.
The MCHA, MIAC and NCHA have announced player of the week awards for the week ending November 20.
Player of the Week — Shelby Gray, (Fr.), Adrian. Gray started the weekend with a pair of assists in Friday’s victory over Lake Forest and added two goals, including the game-winner, and an assist Saturday for a five-point weekend.
Defensive Player of the Week — Ian Perrier, (Fr.), Northland. Perrier earned his first two collegiate victories with 62 saves in two games against Concordia (Minn.), recording a save percentage of .939 and a 2.00 goals against average.
Freshman of the Week — Peter Emery, Lawrence. Helped his team go unbeaten against Marian this past weekend. He made 32 saves Friday and 40 more Saturday, including several key stops in both overtimes, for a .947 saves percentage on the week.
MIAC Player of the Week.
Chris Neamonitis, Concordia (Minn.). Neamonitis has had a breakthrough season so far. Concordia swept Bethel with back-to-back shutouts, highlighted by a 1-0 win Saturday in which Neamonitis stopped nearly 40 shots to blank the Royals. Though Saturday’s performance was likely Neamonitis’ best of the season, he’s been consistently good through the first month of play. He hasn’t lost yet, posting a 3-0-1 record, and he currently leads the MIAC in goals against average (1.27), saves percentage (.961), and winning percentage (.875). He’s allowed just six goals while making 146 saves in 284:08 minutes this season.
NCHA Player of the Week
Cody Keefer, St. Norbert. Scored three goals and added an assist in two road wins for St. Norbert last weekend.