Bismarck Bobcats alumni Jordan Singer, Isaiah Bennis and Alex Olson are making the jump to the collegiate level this, and they’re all making the transition together at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
It’s not just as former teammates at the junior level, however, that the trio is preparing for the upcoming season with the Blugolds; they’re also doing so as housemates.
“We actually got a house together on campus - all three of us,” said Singer, who hails from Lino Lakes, Minn. “It’s part of the reason we all decided to come (to Eau Claire).”
“We were all really close on last year’s Bobcats team and hung out a lot,” said Bennis. “It’s made things a lot easier than if we had all lived alone or with people we didn’t know or were uncomfortable with.”
“They’re a couple of great guys to live with,” added Olson. “We have a great time and we’re always giving each other flak; it helps keep us at a good level for school and for hockey.”
With the home-opener just over two weeks away on Oct. 30 against Marian University, the team is in full-scale practice mode in preparation for the season. Off the ice, the trio of former Bobcats is finding a new batch of challenges.
“We’ve definitely got a lot less time on our hands,” said Eau Claire native Bennis. “There’s a little more freedom in juniors, but here we have to balance classes, homework and hockey.”
“Getting back into school has probably been the toughest thing after playing in juniors for a couple years, but our teammates have helped make it a lot easier for us to ready for that change,” said Singer.
Among those teammates are three former Bobcats: senior goalie Tyler Brigl (2005-06) and sophomore forward Tyler Romasco (2005-07) and junior forward Ross Janecyk (2006-07).
As far as getting in the swing of things on the ice, all three alums agree that their time with the Bobcats helped put them in a great position to start strong with the Blugolds.
“The Bobcats did a great job developing me to be ready for the collegiate level,” said Olson. “Playing 60-plus games was a grind at times, but I know we had a blast and I would recommend the experience to anyone who wants to play hockey in college at whatever level. I’m very thankful for my three years in Bismarck.”
“The hard work that Coach (Byron) Pool made us put in day in and day out is already paying off at this level because everyone is so much bigger and stronger here, and playing at such a high level last year has us ready for it,” said Singer.
“Playing for the Bobcats - playing junior hockey - it makes you such a stronger player,” said Bennis. “A stronger player and a stronger person. I got better every game last season in Bismarck and I know that’s going to help me out this year.”
For Bennis, the adjustment is made even easier by going to school in his hometown and playing in front of his family, who could often be seen at Bobcats road games during the 2008-09 season.
“It’s definitely a positive thing, to be able to have the whole family right here when we start having games,” said Bennis. “They can just get in the car and the rink is two minutes away. It will be great to keep having their support in the stands for the next four years.”
The Blugolds play in the prestigious Northern Collegiate Hockey Association - widely considered to be the best conference at the Division III level - against competition like St. Norbert College, St. Scholastica, UW-Stevens Point and 2009 national semifinalist UW-Stout. The highly competitive conference was a big draw for the former Bobcats.
“Being able to play in the NCHA is a big reason I wanted to come to Eau Claire,” said Singer. “I wanted to play and challenge myself in the best and toughest league out there.”