Most grade-schoolers aren’t fortunate enough to know what they want to be when they grow up.
Some people don’t even know at age 50.
Sheldon Dries doesn’t have that problem.
The senior forward from Western Michigan has known since he was in the sixth grade that he wants to be in law enforcement.
“I couldn’t tell you really why,” he said. “None of my family is in it and when my mom sees the riots and what’s going on it scares her. I don’t know, maybe it’s the TV shows making it look more glamorous than it is, but I know I could never be stuck behind the desk. I need action.
“The relationship between the police and the community right now is in a rough patch, I know that, but the only way to make change is to be a part of it. I want to be a part of it.”
Dries’s leadership is a key reason the Broncos are one of the surprise teams in all of college hockey after an 8-25-3 finish last season.
At 6-3-1 and having already played the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams in the country, 18th-ranked WMU is back in the USCHO rankings for the first time since since March 7, 2014, when the Broncos were 19th.
The Broncos earned a road split at then-No. 1 Minnesota Duluth last weekend and were swept the week before at now-No. 1 Denver, also the No. 1 team in ASN's Elite Eight. All four games could have been decided by coinflips.
Another reclamation project becoming a blip on the national college hockey radar is vote-getting Air Force (6-3-1), which already owns a win over Denver and a tie with once-beaten Ohio State.
Both the Falcons and Broncos are inching their way up the national college rankings and square off in for Military Appreciation Weekend.
Friday’s game will be televised on ASN starting at 8 p.m. ET, while Saturday’s game was moved back an hour to accommodate ESPN’s College Gameday coming to town for the 10-0 football team’s showdown against Buffalo.
The Broncos and Alabama are the only unbeaten football teams in the country.
“There’s a good feeling around here right now with how we’re doing and the football team,” Dries said. “We’ve got the Lawson Lunatics across from the bench from us just lining up and down all along the ice and they are relentless against opposing teams. They bring a lot of energy and get crazy. It’s a different feeling around here this season. Everyone is supporting both teams.”
WMU is 3-3-0 in NCHC play. After this non-conference weekend, the Broncos face perennial conference powers St. Cloud State and North Dakota in back-to-back weekends.
Dries doesn’t believe the Broncos will be looking past Air Force.
“Coach (Andy) Murray gave us a tough skate on Monday and again (Tuesday) because of the way they come at you,” he said. “We’re two blue-collar teams. On paper they may not look like they have the talent or pedigree of teams like Denver, North Dakota or Duluth, but they’re relentless.”
So is Dries and the Broncos.
At 5-9, 186 pounds, he has three goals and five assists and has finished with 29 points in each of the past two seasons. So far he’s been paired with super sophomore Matheson Iacopelli, who has 10 goals (second in the nation) and two assists with a whopping 49 shots on nets this season.
Dries has 23 shots on net, tied for third most on the team.
“Ike’s work ethic is a big part of his success,” Dries said. “Last season I think we all learned a lot of lessons. We had a bad year, period, and there’s no use sugarcoating that.
“Ike came in as a freshman after being a big scorer in the USHL, but he’ll tell you he struggled. Now he’s adjusted to the pace. He knows now how tough it is to get open ice and shots off in our league and he really worked at it this offseason. We all did. It’s a different culture around the rink, but it’s only November. We want that good feeling we have now in March and April.”
Dries would love to continue to play hockey long after WMU, but the undrafted free agent continues to prepare for his ultimate goal of working in law enforcement.
He’s filled out an online application but is waiting until after the season to turn in his paperwork to do his first ridealong with the Kalamazoo police department. Besides being a criminal justice major, he’s also minoring in sociology and addiction studies.
“Eventually I will enroll in the police academy, get 10 to 12 years of experience under my belt and then get in with the Secret Service, DEA or SWAT,” he said. “I want to be engaged and be a part of the change.”