Dylan Brown’s high school hockey career started out just about as well as he could have dreamed.
With his older brother, Jordan, skating by his side, Dylan’s freshman season ended with a Badger North Conference championship and a trip to the WIAA state tournament.
Although Dylan and his Reedsburg co-op teammates couldn’t complete the charge to a state championship, that trip — and that season — set the tone for the rest of his prep career that will reach its climax in the next one to three weeks.
“I learned a lot my freshman and sophomore year,” Brown said. “I just sat back and tried to learn as much as I possibly could.”
What he learned was how to send the puck into the net. Brown has spent almost the entire season atop the state leader board for assists (47 so far) and total points (85). He has scored 38 goals, ranking in the top three in that category.
While Brown was learning the ropes, Cheavers coach Neil Mattson was watching with pride as the young forward continued to grow.
“As a freshman, he scored both of our goals in the state quarterfinal (a 3-2 loss to Cedarburg),” Mattson said. “I’m just glad I’ve been able to watch such a talented kid play for four years.”
Although Mattson tracked Brown’s potential from the start, it wasn’t until later that it struck Brown that he had the tools to be a top-notch high school player.
“I never really envisioned it until the latter part of my high school career,” Brown said.
That time is now. And instead of basking in the glory of his statistics, Brown is quick to credit his teammates.
“A lot of it lies on their shoulders,” Dylan says, “I’ve played with Jacob Ely, Ben Jones and Derek Pawlak for two years, and a lot of credit lies in their hands — because to get an assist, they have to score.”
Pawlak, a junior, transferred from Baraboo to Reedsburg and has become half of an impressive scoring duo with Brown. Their ability to score together is built upon the chemistry that Brown felt from first day the two played together.
“It was pretty instant,” Brown said. “Just the way he plays, he makes everyone on the line better.”
That chemistry has helped the Cheavers to an 18-5-1 record and the Badger North Conference title, the second in Dylan’s tenure.
Overcoming a slow start earlier this season, which saw the Cheavers lose four of their first six games, the co-op now has a potential state trip on its mind as the WIAA postseason begins tonight with WIAA regional semifinals.
The Reedsburg co-op drew a first-round bye and will play host to either sixth-seeded Baraboo or 11th-seeded Sparta at 7 p.m. Thursday at Reedsburg Area Community Arena. The winner advances to sectional play on Tuesday, Feb. 20.
“We’re taking it one game at a time,” Dylan says, “Last year, we lost a tough game in the sectional title game. We have goals to get back to Madison.”
Just like the Cheavers’ last state time, this team is led by a group of talented and experienced seniors. Most of the seniors have been playing together for at least three years and were freshmen on the team that lost in Madison three years ago.
Those seniors left an impact on the Reedsburg program, and this group of seniors is ready to do the same.
“I’ve played with these guys for years now,” Brown said, “and it’s like you don’t even have to talk. You just know where they are at all times.”
Although Brown and his teammates are focused on that impact coming in the form of a state title, Mattson believes that that impact has already been made.
“This senior class grew up together,” Mattson said. “They have been phenomenal for us, and the younger kids have bought into their approach.”
More specifically, Mattson said Brown will leave an impact not only on the Cheavers’ program, but on him personally.
“I’ve watched him grow up from a young boy to a young man,” Mattson said.