Life was easy for Chad Demers this time a year ago.
He woke up at 9 a.m. Got some breakfast. Did his workouts. Played some hockey and that was about it.
Demers is still playing hockey and getting in his workouts. Just everything else has changed. Going to the Air Force Academy tends to do that. Demers recently said he is enjoying his freshman year at Air Force but admits its a change when he spent last season in Fargo.
“It’s a full 180,” he said of the change between Fargo and the Air Force Academy. “This year I am up by 6 a.m. and at least three days a week a little bit earlier than that for military duties you have to do. Then you have all-day school at one of the top academic schools in the nation. Homework here isn’t a slouch and there is a benefit to keeping your grades up.”
Demers said school is going well. As for the hockey thing, that’s going pretty well too.
Air Force is enjoying one of the better seasons in college hockey this year having gone 21-10-7 and over the weekend won the Atlantic Hockey Association regular season title with Demers playing a role.
Demers is the team’s fifth-leading scorer with 24 points (8 goals, 16 assists) in 38 games this season.
Air Force opens the NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament against No. 1 Boston College on Saturday. He is one of three former Force players – forward Cole Gunner and Dan Weissenhofer – who will play for Air Force this weekend.
“I’d say the biggest adjustment is the strength and physicality of the players,” Demers said about going from the USHL to college hockey. “Here you are playing against older guys. Last year you went up against guys who were 16 to 20 and the guys who are 19 to 24 are built like men.”
Demers showed last season in Fargo he could make the jump.
Coming into his third season with the Force, Demers 66 games – six games more than a full USHL schedule – and was told by the coaching staff if he wanted to be traded to the NAHL to get more exposure they’d do it.
He declined and opted to stay in Fargo having one of the better season in the league scoring 50 points (18 goals, 32 assists) in 51 games. Demers was also named team captain and led the Force to the second round of the playoffs.
Demers started getting attention from various schools and ultimately committed to Air Force where he’s with former teammates in Weissenhofer and Gunner, who are also having success.
Gunner, who spent last season in Chicago and Tri-City, is tied for third on the team in points with 28 having scored eight goals and 20 assists. Weissenhofer, who’s lone year in the USHL came with the Force, has seven points (1 goal, 6 assists) in 34 games.
“Freshman year is tough to always to put things in perspective because they are restricted as far as leaving base and they are under more scrutiny than everyone else,” said Air Force captain and Fargo native Paul Weisgarber. “Lots of times freshmen go through lulls but he hasn’t and he’s done extremely well. He’s on our top line and was playing right away. He’s made the transition with ease.”
Weisgarber helped recruit Demers to Air Force. Weisgarber’s mother was a teacher at Fargo South which is where many of the Force players attend high school.
Demers said Weisgarber has helped him make the transition into the Air Force Academy.
What has also helped is talking about memories from back home. Demers laughed a little bit when he talked about how he holds it over Weisgarber about Grafton-Park River eliminating Fargo South from the North Dakota state hockey tournament.
Demers, who was the captain at Grafton-Park River, won a state championship. His alma mater was recently in the finals where it lost to Fargo North.
He talked prior to the state tournament and had a feeling the Spoilers could have a good tournament run.
“My little brother, Joey, is captain of the team,” said Demers, who was an all-state selection in football and hockey in high school. “Him and I talk a lot. I listened to their regional game on the radio and about had a heart attack. They won in triple overtime so that was great.”