It has been a challenging season for the Coulee Region Chill.
The franchise has gone through two coaches, numerous personnel changes and 32 losses so far.
Good thing they have Mac Jansen.
Jansen, a second-year wing from White Bear Lake, Minn., has been a solid presence and steady scorer for the Chill since day one.
With seven games left in the NAHL regular season — the Chill will not make the playoffs — Jansen is tied for second in the league with 31 goals.
Jansen is also tied with Zac Frischmon (2010-11) for second on the North Iowa Outlaws/Coulee Region Chill franchise single-season goals list. Brandon Brodhag (North Iowa) scored 33 in 2008-09.
Coulee Region plays a split series this weekend. The Chill are at Aberdeen today and Brookings on Saturday.
“He’s remained focused and kept his consistency,” Chill coach A.J. Degenhardt said. “That is tough to do with the record we have. He’s a guy that the other players gravitate to, and he’s been able to put the puck in the net.”
Jansen was the Chill’s first-round draft pick in 2011. His potential was obvious right away, but in his first 35 games in 2011-12, Jansen had just 16 points.
Then his persistence paid off. Jansen was one of the Chill’s top offensive players over the final two months of last season, finishing with 32 points, and he kept on rolling into this year.
“It’s definitely a maturity thing,” Jansen said. “I’ve played almost 100 games in the league now, and you start to get the feel for it. You start to go in and do the little things.”
Jansen has been on a line with Andy Faust and Hunter Anderson since the halfway point of the season. They’ve combined for 62 of the team’s 146 goals.
“We are definitely clicking right now,” Jansen said. “We know where each other are going to be, so it makes things easy.”
Jansen is one of four Chill players to have played in all 53 games this season. Faust, Anderson and defenseman Derek Smith are the others.
It hasn’t always been easy to show up to practice or sit on a bus for eight hours after a loss, but Jansen takes pride in practicing and competing at a high level every day.
“All hockey players are so passionate; waking up in the morning and going to the rink, there’s nothing better than that,” he said. “But it’s definitely a grind when you’re losing games. You’ve just got to take each weekend as a new opportunity.”
Frischmon (Mercyhurst) and Brodhag (Merrimack) both parlayed their junior success into NCAA Division I offers. Jansen hopes to do the same, but is considering using a third year of junior eligibility.
If he returns, Jansen, who played in the NAHL Top Prospects tournament last month, will be one of the league’s top returning forwards.
“I could be back but there are definitely some questions to be answered over the summer,” Jansen said. “Right now it’s a good possibility of coming back. I’ve been talking to schools, and it’s more of what they want my role to be, and what I want my role to me.
“Obviously, it’s my future so I know I’m getting to the point where I need to make a decision, but I don’t want to rush it.”
SIGNIFICANT SEVEN: The Chill (16-32-5) have seven games remaining, including six on the road, and a final game at home March 30 vs. Austin.
Degenhardt said he considers the final stretch just as important for this team as one trying to make the playoffs.
“I want to focus on the compete level in the games we have left,” Degenhardt said. “Anybody can be watching; there might be coaches from Colorado College, Wisconsin, Minnesota, so every game is an opportunity for them, and if you don’t show up, your name could be crossed off their list.
“Show me that you want to be there. We might be out of the playoffs, but a lot is on the line.”