'Kids to Men'
Allison Leads Western Michigan into Second Half
When Western Michigan finished its forgettable 2015-16 season — with only eight wins, and the second-most losses in program history (25) — Wade Allison had not yet arrived in Kalamazoo, Mich.
His childhood companion, Colt Conrad, however, was a freshman that season, when the Broncos won only one of their final 18 games of the year.
"We were six years old, playing in summer hockey," said Allison, a native of Myrtle, Manitoba — a town designated as a "hamlet" on Canadian government websites. "He lived 45 minutes away from me, in a town of like 20 people or whatever. And my town was 30 people. So we each had to go down the road, and our teams just happened to play each other. Then we were kind of rivals for that year.
"We happened to be on the same summer team later on, and played together growing up until we were 14 or 15."
Eventually, Allison and Conrad parted ways, before reuniting officially in the summer of 2016 — immediately after the Broncos' eight-win season — as Allison began his freshman campaign for Western Michigan, fresh off the thrill of being drafted in the second round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers.
"When I was making my decision to come here, he was heavily influencing it," Allison said. "He's one of the reasons I'm here. Coming from juniors to college was a big step. You went from playing with kids to men."
In Allison's rookie season, the Broncos won 22 games, in one of the turnaround stories of the year, earning a trip to last spring's NCAA tournament. Now, a year older, Allison — a 6-foot-2, 205-pound power forward — has his sights on a larger goal already.
"I think everyone's got the same mindset," said Allison, after finishing a post-final exam workout earlier this month. "We're all trying to win a national championship here, and all of us believe that we can. We know we're a great team, and it's definitely something we're going to push for."
Certainly, the sophomore from the hamlet of Myrtle has done his part so far. Only two players in the nation (Clarkson's Sheldon Rampal and Northern Michigan's Robbie Payne) have scored more goals this season than Allison, whose 14 goals have helped propel the Broncos to the No. 10 position in the Pairwise as 2018 draws near.
Still, nothing has come easy, by any means. The Broncos started December with a three-game losing streak, and at the time, their dramatic weekend sweep of the reigning national champion Denver Pioneers, suddenly seemed like a distant memory. Facing a fourth defeat, Western Michigan trailed league rival Miami, 3-1, midway through the second period of the team's final game before its holiday break.
At that point, Allison took over the game — scoring a natural hat-trick to lead the Broncos to a come-from-behind win. Conrad assisted on Allison's overtime game-winner.
"We've played together for eight years now," said Allison, who has five multi-goal games this season already. "So we have that chemistry. It's a great feeling playing with your best friend all the time."
Now, as Western Michigan readies itself for this Thursday's game at Bowling Green, before beginning its all-NCHC stretch run towards another possible NCAA tournament run, Allison will undoubtedly play a key role in the Broncos' fate.
"We know that if we stick to our systems, do what we do, play the way we can, that we'll win some games," Allison said. "It's not necessarily all about the results though. It's about the process sometimes, and we work really hard every day.
"We learn every day. Coach [Andy Murray] comes to the rink every day with the mindset that we're going to learn today, that we're going to get better. And that's the mindset everyone has during practice. I have to say that I've improved in every part of my game, for sure, every day. That's what we strive for."