The line of Austin Carroll, Max Jennrich and Chase Hamstad has been a familiar sight to fans of White Bear Lake boys’ hockey.
The trio has made up the top line for the Bears for the past three seasons, but this season has been its best.
The three rank among the top five in goals for the Bears (19-3-2). After the team’s recent frustrating seasons and early playoff exits, White Bear Lake is looking to flip the script and go deep into the postseason, with help from its top line of seniors.
“[Hamstad and Jennrich] have definitely challenged me to get better every day,” Carroll said. “Now that it’s our senior year, our third year as a varsity line, we’ve just been clicking that much better this year.”
The line of Carroll, Jennrich, and Hamstad is nicknamed the Big Picnic Line. The three players went on “Karaoke Zamboni,’’ a video segment produced by the State of Hockey.
Before that, the players just went by the White Line, the color of their practice jerseys. But the presenter of the segment thought the Bears’ top line should be named Big Picnic, because bears cause trouble at picnics.
“They all started laughing,’’ said Bears coach Tim Sager, adding, ‘‘That is a good name for them.
The Big Picnic Line has caused plenty of trouble for opposing defenses as well.
Jennrich leads the team in goals with 25. Hamstad has 18 and leads the team in assists with 33. Carroll is third on the team in points, behind Hamstad and Jennrich, with 32.
The line’s offensive production has helped the team sit second in the Suburban East Conference standings, but that wasn’t always the case.
The line has played together for five consecutive seasons. The trio made up the Bears’ varsity first line as sophomores, when it combined for a total of just nine goals.
“We knew as sophomores it was going to be hard and we were just going to have to learn,” Jennrich said. “It prepared us very well for this year.”
The Bears finished 10-14-1 when Carroll’s line were sophomores before losing in the section playoff semifinals. The Bears improved the next season to 14-7-4, but lost to Tartan in the section quarterfinals.
“It’s something you just don’t want to happen ever again,” Hamstad said. “You could tell there’s a totally different model in this locker room than there was last year.”
Sager said he knew he had a special team in the summer. Sager teaches physical education and health at Central Middle School — a school in the White Bear School District — and the coach said he knew the class of 2018 was competitive.
Sager said when Carroll and other current seniors were sophomores: “You could see it, even back in sixth grade. It didn’t matter if it was dodge ball, or if it was flag football, everybody was competing all the time.”
The Bears retained their top line from last season, but they lost the team’s three-year starting goalie Bob Parenteau to graduation.
Goalies Evan Foss and Stephen Uremovich have been his main replacements so far. The two were both on junior varsity a season ago.
Now Foss and Uremovich each have nine varsity victories. Foss has a .911 save percentage, Uremovich .898.
“[Uremovich] is a great guy, going every other [game] with him. I’ve been watching him in practice and in games, and it’s been a great time,” Foss said.
With new goalies stopping shots and older forwards scoring goals, the Bears are riding a seven-game winning streak heading into Friday’s game against Blaine.
White Bear Lake has yet to win a championship in the school’s history in 18 state tournament appearances, but this year the team has set its sights on a title at Xcel Energy Center.
His favorite memory of playing with his linemates, Carroll said, will be “when we’re announced as a line at the X.”
Jack White is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.