By Mason Lyttle (@MasonLyttle) | Feb 14, 2018 | 5:08pm
JANESVILLE, WI – The Janesville Jets, proud members of the North American Hockey League, are pleased to announce that forward Brenden MacLaren has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey for the Ferris State Bulldogs of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).
“This is a dream come true,” said MacLaren. “This means everything to me. It’s great to feel this all pay off. I want to thank my teammates, my linemates, all my coaches, and my family for everything they’ve done for me along the way. This is really exciting.”
MacLaren’s commitment is the second in a week for the Jets. Carter Ekberg committed to Air Force last Wednesday night.
As a rookie with the Jets last season, MacLaren suited up for 29 games, often on the fourth line, and played in an energy role. Like so many Jets players before him, he trusted the process, grew and developed, and now boasts a Division I deal, said Shuchuk.
“We’re very happy for Carter and Brenden, and proud of them for believing in the process,” said head coach Gary Shuchuk. “It shows our younger players that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. If you take care of your school and grades off the ice, and let your play dictate on the ice, then things will work out.”
MacLaren’s path to the Jets started with his hometown Soo Indians, where he played three seasons of U18 AAA hockey. In 173 games with the Indians, the Upper Peninsula native totaled 70 goals and 141 points. After grinding through a learning year as a rookie, MacLaren has shown significant growth this season, scoring nearly four times as often in his second year of junior hockey. The center’s 10 goals and 19 points are third and fifth on the Jets respectively, despite missing more than a third of the season with multiple injuries. Though he’s spent more time with Jets athletic trainer Kathy Calkins than he probably would have liked, MacLaren’s injury battles were just another example of his top-tier work ethic.
“The hip [pointer] was only a week, but the torn MCL was two months,” MacLaren said. “That was hard, but it just meant a little more work and a little more patience going through therapy and working off ice to battle back.”
The Bulldogs play at the 2,500-capacity Ewigleben Arena in Big Rapids, Michigan, about an hour north of Grand Rapids, and less than four hours south of Sault Ste. Marie. Head coach Bob Daniels has led the program since 1992. The Bulldogs won the WCHA tournament in 2016, and most recently captured a regular season title in the 2013-14 season. Like TJ Polglaze’s commitment to rival Michigan Tech, MacLaren’s fit at Ferris State is perfect, said Shuchuk.
“Ferris is getting a hard-nosed player who plays bigger than he is,” Shuchuk said. “MacLaren has skill and grit, and isn’t afraid to go into the hard areas to make a play. Bob Daniels’ teams are some of the hardest teams in the WCHA to play against, and Brenden fits that mold.”
MacLaren, who plans to study business, agreed.
“My style of play fits in well, I think,” he said. “Their coaches I think knew that. They’ve been great through this process.”
MacLaren said he had thought about some other programs, but Ferris State has always been a frontrunner.
“I’ve wanted to go to Ferris State since I was little,” he said. “It really is a dream come true. They’ve been my top school for a long time. I love the school, love the size, and love the hockey. My sister lives about 45 minutes away, and it’s not too far from home, either. Obviously it’s great to go back to Michigan to play at the next level, and it’ll be great to play against TJ and a couple of buddies of mine at Lake [Superior] State, so that’ll be fun.”
MacLaren was named Monday to the Midwest Division team for the upcoming Top Prospects Tournament. Another player will soon be announced to take his spot.
Here in the exciting part of the calendar one might call “commitment season,” Shuchuk said he finds a balance between celebrating the individual achievements while striving for team goals.
“I’ve always been told, and I believe this, that teams and schools want winners,” he said. “If you’re on a good team who’s having success as a whole, individuals will get noticed. If your team is winning and playing well, that stirs the interest of schools. That’s what happened here. So, as a team, if we keep winning and proving ourselves as an organization, schools will continue to come out and watch us play, and other players will get their opportunity to get noticed.”
The next opportunity starts this Friday in the colloquial State of Hockey as the Jets play a set against the Minnesota Magicians. The Jets return to the Janesville Ice Arena for a home-and-home series with the Coulee Region Chill next weekend.
MacLaren becomes the eighth player on the 2017-18 Jets roster to commit to a Division I program, joining Carter Ekberg (Air Force), Kip Hoffmann (Robert Morris), TJ Polglaze (Michigan Tech), Jakov Novak (Bentley), Daniel Lebedeff (Wisconsin), Ian Malcolmson (Northern Michigan), and Sam Renlund (Colorado College).