Western Michigan freshman Ben Blacker has emerged as the starter for Andy Murray’s Broncos, following a recent run that seemed to start with an early December win at North Dakota. In that game, Blacker made 21 saves in the third period alone, and aside from an anomalous outing at Denver in mid-January, he’s been stellar for WMU — 8-1-0 this season, and has helped propel the Broncos to the No. 5 position in the Pairwise.
I spoke with Blacker on Wednesday, and you can read the full story here.
Not included in the feature was our conversation about his transition to college hockey. As a freshman, he’s had plenty to adjust to, including the college game itself. Before starting his college career, Blacker played two seasons in the USHL with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. In the 2015-16 season, he led the USHL in wins with 33.
“The pace is a lot faster, guys are a lot bigger, shots come a lot faster,” said Blacker of NCAA play. “You learn your game through practice. That’s what coach stresses a lot with your team — that you get better every day. And that comes in practice and off the ice.”
Blacker has matured quickly in all aspects. He’s one of four goaltenders on the roster and is by far the youngest, with a 1997 birthday (the other three, including senior Collin Olson, who was a 2012 NHL draft pick, were born in ’94).
“We all have a pretty good relationship, and we push each other,” Blacker said. “We make each other better. Having that kind of support, and the competition between us, I think that’s making the team better.”
Blacker and Western Michigan begin a two game series at Miami tonight. Blacker will match up against Miami goaltender Ryan Larkin, a former teammate of his with the RoughRiders.