Two years ago, Zach Bearson dominated while playing for Team Illinois, tallying 80 points in 79 games. Last year, his first in the USHL, Bearson helped lead Waterloo Black Hawks to the league championship. This season, his draft year, the 17-year-old forward has doubled his point total of a year ago. The 6’2, 190-pound forward from Naperville, Illinois has 18 goals, 18 assists, 56 penalty minutes and six game-winners after 50 games.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Bearson after he scored the second goal of the game on March 13th, a brilliant deflection out of the air, leading the Black Hawks to a 4-0 road victory over the Green Bay Gamblers. He discussed the game, his past, and what lies ahead for him.
HF: How has your experience been so far in the USHL, and what have you got out of it that has made you a better player?
ZB: I’ve had a great experience so far. I have a great coach and we have a great organization here. I think the coaching here, and the schedule definitely, playing a lot of games, that has helped to make me a better player, along with playing with a lot of great players. Last year we had a lot of great players on our team like Joe Pavelski, and I got to learn a lot from them and I think that’s helped contribute to how I’m doing this year and how the team is doing.
HF: This being your second season, are you used to more games now and not hitting a wall? Do you see other players tiring, maybe not used to a season longer than what they were used to in high school? Is that a tough adjustment?
ZB: Yeah, I think that’s a lot of it, the amount of games. I definitely think a lot of younger guys hit a wall, but you know, everyone gets through it and keeps going. I hit it last year, right before Christmas, I was tired and worn out. I came back from break and I felt good and I think it’s the same with the guys this year.
HF: There’s only one USHL team with a losing record at home. How hard is it to win on the road? It seems almost impossible.
ZB: Oh yeah, it’s real hard. Like tonight, to win on the road for us was big. It’s real hard. Every team in this league is good and with the home crowd support and everyone rooting for their own team. It’s real tough to win on the road, especially with all the travel.
HF: Let’s compare your team right now to the team at this same point last year. Did last year’s success result in a bigger difference as far as confidence is concerned, heading into this year’s playoffs?
ZB: I think last year and this year are pretty similar. We had our struggles in the regular season. I think it’s almost the exact same feeling we had at this point, as we did last year. We are going into the playoffs. We feel like we are playing well headed in. We still have about 8-9 games left in the regular season, but I think we are pretty much at the same point as we were last year.
HF: You had that goal tonight where you hit it out of the air. Was your stick over the crossbar? Was it close?
ZB: Yeah, I think I waited for it to come down; I got it about right here (motions towards midsection).
HF: That was a nice play. Is that something that you practice? Or is it more eye-hand coordination?
ZB: I think, you know, I mess around with it a little bit, but it’s not really anything that you go out and practice.
HF: You are committed to the University of Wisconsin in 2006. What were the factors that made you choose Wisconsin?
ZB: I think it’s a great program they have there with Coach Mike Eaves, and the rest of the coaching staff, Coach Tony Ward and Coach Mark Osiecki. I think it’s close to home for me and has a lot to offer educationally. The hockey program is definitely on the rise I think, and I’ve had relatives play there, and had relatives play for Coach Eaves, and people have told me nothing but good things so I was really excited to get the opportunity to go there.
HF: Who were your relatives who played at Wisconsin, or for Coach Eaves?
ZB: I had an uncle and a cousin play at Wisconsin. Jimmy Shires and Tony Shires. (Jim also played in the National Hockey League from 1970-73, tallying 3 goals and 6 assists in 56 career games with the Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues and Pittsburgh Penguins.)
HF: Have you been to any Wisconsin games this year, or had a chance to see them on television?
ZB: Yeah, actually we went last night to the playoff game (a win by Alaska-Anchorage over Wisconsin in Madison). I also went on Halloween and saw the Denver series.
HF: What tip would you give a young kid who was just about to enter the USHL and doesn’t know what to expect?
ZB: Just be prepared to work and be prepared for the grind. Because that’s how it’s going to be, night in and night out. There’s not a bad team and you have to be ready to go every night.
HF: What do you do one hour before a game? Do you have any superstitions, or any specific music that you listen to?
ZB: I don’t know. I just try to stay loose and stretch out and just try to get mentally focused. I’m the guy who tries to keep the locker room loose a little bit so I try to do that.
Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.