Will Bernicke is intense. Just ask Champlain Valley Union (CVU) head boys ice hockey coach Mike Murray. “Will is an intense competitor on the ice and a fun-loving, well-liked teammate off the ice. He is a big, energetic power forward who loves to play a physical game.”
Born on Jan. 8, 1996, Bernicke grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich. His family, parents Veronica and Jeff; and brothers Charlie, a CVU freshmen; and James, a Shelburne Community School sixth grader, spent a brief time in Virginia before settling in Shelburne.
Bernicke has been ice skating his entire life. “I think I was around three years old when my dad first introduced me to hockey. He always made a backyard rink for us. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t skate,” he continued. “I played for the Ann Arbor Wolves travel team when we lived in Michigan. When we moved here I made the CSB travel team.”
A skilled player and intense competitor, Bernicke and the Redhawks are off to a strong start this season. At the top of the metro standings and undefeated through nine games, Bernicke has scored 5 goals and made 2 assists. It’s unlikely that Bernicke’s game day ritual of taping his stick, completing the same workout routine, or knocking off the pucks had much to do with it. Instead it is his dedication to the sport and his off-season preparation with former UVM hockey player Brett Leonard that is paying dividends for the Redhawks.
When he’s not spending countless hours on the ice, Bernicke was a varsity volleyball player and will most assuredly make the varsity baseball team for the second consecutive year this spring. As for employment, Bernicke is a USA hockey referee, a baseball umpire, and has been a landscaper with a focus on turf care at Vermont National Country Club for the past two summers.
Community service is also a priority for this CVU senior. A former volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, Bernicke was a volunteer in Africa last summer. And it is for this community service for which he is most proud. “My greatest achievement was going to Africa, building medical outposts and huts for the elderly, and assisting students in the classroom,” he shared. “I took tennis balls and used them in the classroom to help teach a lesson. Every kid that got a ball was so happy. Helping kids that didn’t have anything in terms of material wealth and seeing how happy they were to see us was a life-changing experience.”
Bernicke combined his two passions, hockey and community service, for his Grad Challenge Project. “I help the Vermont Sled Cats, a sled hockey team made up of handicapped athletes of all ages, at Cairns Arena every Sunday afternoon. “Sled hockey is fast, exciting, and essentially the same as traditional ice hockey,” Bernicke said. “And even though I completed my Grad Challenge hours I will continue coaching. I really enjoy it.”
As for his future, Bernicke is planning to attend prep school as a Post Graduate (PG). “I would like to take another year to better my academics and focus on my game. I want to play hockey at the next level so an extra year to prepare will be really beneficial for me,” he acknowledges. “I’m considering Holderness, the Hill School, Brewster Academy, and Lawrenceville. After my PG year I plan to go to college.”
Based on past experience there’s little doubt that Bernicke will continue to use his intense energy for educational and athletic success wherever he chooses to go.