WADENA -- It's nothing new for a Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines boys' hockey player to be one of the top 10 scorers in the state.
It is rare, however, to have three, and all are on the same line.
Junior forward Andrew Stearns is currently third in the state with 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists). Senior forward Jason Merickel is fifth with 41 points (19 goals, 22 assists) and senior forward Josh Schumacher is sixth with 40 points (20 goals, 20 assists).
They are the consummate group with their passing, scoring and leadership.
"We just go all-out heads-up," said Schumacher who has a career total of 119 points (55 goals, 64 assists). "We like to pass. We're unselfish. We go out there with the right frame of mind and get our job done. We have a job, we do it and have fun doing it."
As the captain, Merickel enjoys the responsibility of getting his team fired up for a game.
"We just go into every game and we know we have to spark the fire," said Merickel who has a career total of 90 points (43 goals, 47 assists). "We've been down in some games or pretty close and we start scoring and it lifts the team up."
Together they are one of the hardest-working lines in the state.
"When you watch that threesome playing you notice Schumacher's quickness and the others' strength," said Wolverines head coach Brad Shelstad. "When you see them play together, a trait that stands out is their work ethic. I think they would be successful if they didn't work that hard but it's because they work so hard that really makes them a remarkable group."
In a game last week against Morris, all three had hat tricks. Stearns also finished with four assists and tied a school record with seven total points.
"We just want to score enough to win games and to get somewhere come playoff time," said Stearns, who has 85 career points (33 goals, 52 assists). "The team counts on us to put the puck in the net so that's what we do."
Although they have been playing hockey together since they were old enough to remember, this is the first season all three have been on the same line. As a result it didn't take long for them to feel comfortable with each other.
"We've been playing together for three years on the varsity so we know each other really well," said Schumacher. "Last year we played power plays together so we have a feel for each other. We know how each other is going to react.
"We can hit the open man with the puck and we have faith when we get the puck to the other guy that he's going to get it down the ice."
That knowledge and confidence of each other has made this group that much better.
"It's a big advantage when you can pass the puck to a guy and you know there's a good possibility he's going to score," said Merickel. "You have to have confidence in each other and we have that confidence."
Shelstad was worried about putting all three on the ice together but he's glad he did it. And it's paying off for the Wolverines who are 6-0 in Section 4A play and 10-4 overall.
"They started out working well together but it's gotten even more so as the year's gone on," said Shelstad. "They just know where the other person is going to be. They anticipate each other's moves and it makes them look that much more."
Each has a distinct style of play that makes it hard for opponents to defend.
"Everyone has their different analogies but I think of Merickel as a freight train," said Shelstad. "Schumacher is more of a water bug. He's always darting around. When Merickel gets up to speed he's got so much inertia that opponents just kind of hang on him but they can't stop him. He's just a big strong freight train.
"Stearns is kind of in between. He's got the good quick foot speed, he's got the good lateral movement and he's real strong."
It's scary to fathom that these three think they haven't played a complete game. They're still looking to improve and hopefully make it to state.
"We need three solid periods," said Merickel. "We have to have the tenacity and the heart to play hard the whole game."
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