Jake Bresser was at a family Christmas when he first had an interest in hockey sparked inside of him. One of his cousins, then a player at Marian, put a pair of skates on him.
The rest is history.
“We were bored one day and he threw a pair of skates on me. I loved the skating aspect of it,” Bresser said. “My parents got me into some youth skates and I just picked it up. I loved the fast pace of it and the hitting and checking was appealing as a kid. I’ve loved the game since.”
That love for the game has led to a successful college career at Wisconsin-Eau Claire where Bresser is a key player for the topr-ranked team in the nation in NCAA Division III.
The Blugolds are unbeaten and have won their last 10 games.
“To sum it up, it’s been a lot of fun. We have a good group of guys this year and we’re a big family. Being a tight-knit group has really helped us.”
On a personal level, Bresser boasts a solid stat line during the team’s 10-0-1 start to the year, scoring six goals and dishing out five assists to lead the team in points.
“It’s going pretty good. There’s a little bit of balance between my goals and assists this year, which has been good,” Bresser said. I have a couple of good linemates I’m clicking with, too and that has really helped in the process.”
A two-time All-WIAC selection, including first-team honors last season, the senior forward said he didn’t really focus on anything in particular getting ready for the season.
“There wasn’t a lot I focused on. I feel I’m more well-rounded,” Bresser said. “It starts in the defensive zone and getting into the offensive zone. And every summer you have to get bigger, faster and stronger. I stayed focused on that and prepared myself mentally for the season.”
It has paid off.
A year ago, Bresser scored four goals and handed out 17 assists. He tallied nine goals and six assists as a sophomore after managing just a goal and two assists his rookie season.
“I’ve focused on the player that I am and haven’t tried to be something I’m not,” Bresser said. “I found my role and niche. I’m not the flashiest player and my hands aren’t the best, but I’m a good shooter. I get the puck to the net and good things happen from there.”
The fact that he’s thriving on the ice for his hometown team carries a little extra meaning for Bresser.
“It’s awesome,” Bresser said. “Eau Claire is really into hockey and getting support from friends and family who watched me growing up has been great. And the university treats us very well. We are grateful for what we have here.”
Bresser said one of the things that has helped the Blugolds succeed out of the gate this season has been the fact that he and his teammates push each other day in and day out.There’s a competitive feel to practice that translates to game day.
“We are highly competitive and deep at every position,” Bresser said. “That shows in practice with the high intensity and we push each other. No matter who is in the lineup we are comfortable with it.”
The Blugolds are playing with a target on their backs, though, being the No. 1 team in the nation. But it’s not something the players have run away from.
“We embrace it,” Bresser said. “I think for some of us, it helps us play better. We haven’t been ranked this high in awhile, so we have a lot to prove, but we’re a really solid team and we know we are going to get everyone’s best shot.”
That includes this weekend when the Blugolds take on rival Wisconsin-Stevens Point, the reigning national champions.
“We know them well and we have to focus on playing 60 minutes of good hockey both nights,” Bresser said. “When you play Point, it’s something special. We want to come out on top.”
The Blugolds are accustomed to success and were the national champions in 2013.
Bresser said if this team wants to get to where it hopes to come March, playing well in the second half is vital.
“My last couple of years we have started slow and ended hot or started hot and ended slow. We want to remain consistent and pick up where left off,” Bresser said. “We can’t have any letdowns. A lot of that is going to depend on what we do while we’re home for Christmas. It’s important to stay active and come back ready to go.”
Around the West Region
Augsburg ranks fourth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 1.30 goals per game. Goalie Daniil Gerasimov has played a big role in that, saving 95 percent of the shots he has faced this season.
Kyle Meeh of Saint Mary’s has tallied five goals this year, the most on the team, and he has recorded at least one point in five of the six games he’s played in this season for the Cardinals.
St. Thomas standout John Peterson has already set a new career-best for goals, scoring six, tallying two in the last three games.
UW-Eau Claire head coach Matt Loen has 200 career wins. He reached the milestone in a 2-0 win over Wisconsin-River Falls last Friday. Loen in his 13th season with the Blugolds and is 200-117-28. He is the sixth coach in WIAC history to get to 200 wins.
Logan Nelson of Wisconsin-Stout leads his team in goals with four on the year, including one off the power play.
Christian Hausinger of UW-River Falls is the top scoring defensemen in the WIAC. He has come through with five goals and 10 assists so far this season for the Falcons.
Marcus Gloss of Finlandia recorded 88 saves last weekend in a pair of games. Gloss has started seven games for the Lions and has won twice. He has tallied 235 saves.
Peter Bates of St. Norbert leads the NCHA in assists with 12. He is one of four players in the league with at least 10 assists.
Josh Boyko of Aurora owns the best goals against average in the conference at 1.73. He has started 12 games for the Spartans and has come through with 311 saves.
In the Poll: In addition to UW-Eau Claire being ranked first, three other teams from the region are nationally ranked. Augsburg is fourth, Adrian is seventh and Lake Forest checks in at No. 13 this week.