MEN'S HOCKEY: Brown Dives Into Key Role For Eagles
Published: Sunday, February 17, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 17, 2013 23:02
As Vermont hurried the puck up the ice on a power-play advantage, BC’s Patrick Brown skated into position to halt the opposition’s advance. The Boston College men’s hockey team already found itself trailing by a goal late in the first period, desperate to muster some energy and emerge from its longest slump of the season. Brown found the first shot of a Catamount volley heading right toward him, and got a piece of it with his stick. Though the puck hadn’t found its way to BC’s net, it had cracked Brown’s stick beyond repair. The junior suddenly found himself unarmed amidst one of the season’s most crucial moments.
Yet there was no time for Brown to return to the bench for a new stick, as the puck was still under Catamount control and dangerously close to BC’s goal. There was no time to think—Brown could either return to the point with only his body as a blocker against Vermont’s attack, or hopelessly watch a vital game get out of hand. For Brown, the decision was easy: stop the opposition’s advance or go down fighting.
What happened next sent Brown and the Eagles headed toward the highlight reel and soaring toward the win column.
Brown set himself up to engage in man-to-man coverage, but the first Catamount shot was instantaneously fired from another player near his point. The junior stood squarely and stopped the puck dead in its tracks with his six-foot-one frame, but he was taken out of position as the puck bounced back to his man.
Lightning might not strike twice, but Patrick Brown does.
He immediately slid across as a booming shot left the Catamount’s stick. Once more, Brown knocked the puck down before it could threaten to sneak toward the goal. Yet before the standout play could be complete, the hard-hitting forward had to place a few finishing touches.
“The funniest part was that the puck went down to their forward behind the net,” Brown said, “and he tried walking out in front and I hit him without a stick, and it knocked him over. Then the guy behind him fell and then the ref fell over. It was cool, but watching it on video with my teammates was the best part.”
ocked two hard-hit pucks with his body, sent a couple of Catamounts to the floor with a crushing body check, and single-handedly halted Vermont to keep the Eagles in contention. His effort eventually translated into a much-needed 4-1 BC victory and a win streak, but momentarily brought Conte Forum to its feet.
“Very rarely do you have the crowd respond to a defensive play,” said head coach Jerry York. “Maybe a great save by a goaltender, but it’s usually an offensive goal. The whole place erupted with that one shift, and I think the respect that Pat has always had with our team all of a sudden even went to a different level.”
The man behind what was arguably BC hockey’s play of the year has come a long way since his days as a high school star in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where he led his squad to two straight state titles. Aside from his ability on the ice, it’s no surprise that Brown ventured to BC for his collegiate career. Considering the tradition of Eagle pride that runs in blood, his arrival to the Heights was a matter of destiny.
Like any other youngster, Brown didn’t know what the college experience far-off in his future would be all about. Yet whenever someone would jokingly ask him where he wanted to go to school when he grew up, he always gave the same answer: Boston College.
Both of Brown’s parents attended BC as undergraduates and met during their days on the Heights. His father Doug starred on the BC hockey squad before enjoying a 15-year career in the National Hockey League. After a decorated high school career on the ice, the younger Brown’s dream of playing college hockey was about to become a reality. The idea of signing as a member of York’s Eagles and playing under his uncle, associate head coach Greg Brown, was too good to pass up. Brown had graciously taken the torch passed down to him, eager to skate off with it to Chestnut Hill and continue his family’s legacy.
Even so, his decision to join the ranks of York’s thriving powerhouse was not only a sentimental one. Brown had grown accustomed to winning on the ice from a young age, and wasn’t about to shy away from a shot at a collegiate hockey championship—even at the expense of his own playing time.
“To play at this level, you have to want to win,” he said. “Maybe I wouldn’t play as much if I came to a school like BC because it’s such a dominant school, but I really wanted to come here and try to win another national championship.”
Brown had undoubtedly put himself in a position to win, but it didn’t come without the price of adjusting to the collegiate level while trying to find a place in one of the country’s top hockey programs. The former high school standout’s work ethic was unquestioned, but his struggle to keep up with the pack resulted in limited minutes and only 42 combined appearances in his first two seasons. In retrospect, York realizes that his third-year forward’s path to becoming a major contributor was arduous.
“We saw the effort,” York said, “but it was just a battle every day to stay even with our team.”
Athletes with a will to win as strong as Brown’s, however, cannot be kept down for long. He came storming out of the gates this year with an improved skill set that caught the attention of coaches and teammates alike. The reputation he built his first couple of seasons as a defensive stalwart has been supplemented by a new offensive element to his game that’s resulted in a career high four goals.
“His character has always been A-plus-plus,” York said. “We saw that early, but it’s one of those pleasant surprises. Right now, he’s worked himself to the top three lines, playing in a lot of different situations. He’s on the power play now, killing those penalties. Late in the game, he’s dependable to play.”