The hockey stats line of local junior forward Hunter Brazier did not expand a whole lot during the 2020-2021 campaign. Still, the RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) Tigers had seen enough.
The NCAA Division I school which competes in the Atlantic Hockey Association, offered the 19 year old product of the Nickel City Sons program a scholarship, effective the 2022-2023 season.
It's the latest step for the 9th round pick of the Oshawa Generals (2018), who made the decision to go the university route relatively early in his post minor hockey career.
"I think I needed to give myself a little more time to prepare myself to play at the next level, to really work on all parts of my game," said the eldest of two boys in the family (his brother, Noah, has also played extensively for the Sons).
Through it all, Brazier has tried to emphasize continual progress, looking for situations that would provide the ice time necessary for constant motion in a positive direction.
That would include suiting up for his first year of junior hockey with a French River Rapids squad that posted a modest regular season record of 14-39-0-3 in 2018-2019.
"We weren't the strongest team, but as a 16 year old, I was able to take on a role that a lot of 16 year olds don't get the chance to do in their first year," said the winger who finished with 41 points in 55 games.
"I thought that was huge for my development."
That fall, he would be traded to the Kemptville 73s of the CCHL (Central Canada Hockey League), where again the emphasis would lie in rounding out his game.
"Probably the biggest thing for me the past couple of years has been the defensive side of the puck," said Brazier. "Being better positionally in the defensive zone and being harder on pucks, not taking shifts off, especially in the defensive zone."
"I think the last two seasons in Kemptville, I've been more of a two-way player."
Even though game play was limited to roughly a dozen or so encounters in 2020-2021, Brazier nonetheless found grounds for improvement. "I was getting frustrated very easily in my first year in Kemptville," he said.
"It's something I worked on this year, staying level headed, not letting little mistakes bother me. That helped me be a lot more consistent this year, even though we didn't play as many games."
"I looked at it (the pandemic season) as an opportunity to better myself, to work on little things on the ice. We had a little more time to work on skills on the ice, and off the ice, a lot more time to get stronger and faster."
That attitude clearly resonated with the RIT coaching staff, who first showed interest in the northern lad roughly 18 months ago. "The interest started almost as soon as I made the move to Kemptville (September 2019)," stated Brazier.
"A few schools reached out to me early, and then playing in the CCHL Showcase and the CJHL Showcase helped me gain some traction with NCAA schools. I was talking with a few schools, but RIT seemed like the best fit for me."
Clearly, the past 12 months have been far less than ideal for pretty much everyone involved in hockey, or sport, for that matter. Brazier is among those who have coped fairly well.
"The biggest thing is to stay patient and trust yourself," he said. "I never once doubted that I could not move on to the next level. Obviously, it was nice to commit this year, but if things didn't work out this year, I was perfectly prepared to go back to Kemptville and keep working hard."
Leaning towards pursuing Business as his major, Brazier summarized with a few words of wisdom.
"It's sometimes unmotivating, but you have to remember why you are doing this. Keep your goals in mind."
The RIT Tigers are quite thankful that Hunter Brazier did just that.