The Ice Bears are ranked 34th in the American Collegiate Hockey Association — 16 spots away from No. 18, which will likely be the cutoff for the national tournament in March.
The team has received a boost in the form of three players who did not play for the team in the first half of the season.
The only completely new face is forward Garrett Wojcicki, who transferred from Albertus Magnus College — an NCAA Division III school in Connecticut. Wojcicki played junior hockey for the Minnesota Iron Rangers where he had 27 points in 54 games and served as captain in the 2018-19 season.
The other two players have played for the Ice Bears recently. Defenseman Brian Schumacher was a regular last season with 17 points in 41 games. Defenseman Bradley Anderson, younger brother of former Ice Bears captain Brennan Anderson, played in eight games last season. Head coach Jeremy Law said both players were unable to play in the first semester due to personal reasons.
Law said the addition of two players on defense is something the team needed.
“We were shorthanded on defense this year — we lost four defensemen from last season before the season started,” Law said. “Having Schumacher and Anderson helps recoup what we lost, and Schumacher was a huge part of our team the last two years. (Anderson) is young and adds a lot of energy.”
Anderson said he is glad to come back as the team begins to make a push for the national tournament.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve played, but I’m glad to be back on the ice,” Anderson said. “I was around the guys even when I wasn’t on the team, so the transition has been easy.”
The additions of Schumacher and Anderson allows Law to experiment with different lineups. For most of the first half of the season he used six defenseman and 12 forwards. With eight defenseman on the team, Law can occasionally use seven defenseman and 11 forwards.
Wojcicki adds more utility in the bottom-six forward group, which was a rotating group of players in the first semester.
The Ice Bears begin what assistant coach Brendan McClew said is the most important three-game stretch of the season tonight, Thursday, Jan. 16, on the road at No. 19 Arizona State. Nov. 17 and 18 they will play No. 7 Arizona.
Losing more than one game in this stretch will put the Ice Bears almost completely out of national tournament contention.
“We’re focusing on Arizona State,” Law said. “After that we will regroup — it would be nice to win the first game and then get a split with Arizona, they’re a good team.”