Brandon Tanev scored the biggest goal in the history of Providence College hockey last April. His snipe into the top corner off a face-off win from Kevin Rooney with 6:17 remaining in the Frozen Four final gave the Friars a 4-3 lead that they wouldn't relinquish on the way to their first national championship in school history.
It's a moment and accomplishment that Tanev will never forget, but his humility in talking about it is a character trait that NHL teams will certainly point to as they look to sign the senior to an entry-level contract as one of the top free agent prospects in college hockey once the season is over.
"That was definitely the biggest moment in my career. It was huge for myself, but more importantly the community and our fans. It was great to give back to the fans who've supported us. We're a family here at Providence College," said Tanev.
While that goal is what college hockey fans might remember him for most, his ability to be a complete player and play a 200-foot game are what have NHL organizations courting him. Tanev has an incredibly strong work ethic, gives it his all each and every shift and brings blazing speed to the ice.
"I've coached some other players who have the same speed as him, but never coached a player with the same speed and motor. He comes over the boards at 100 mph. There is no other gear in his game," said Providence head coach Nate Leaman.
Tanev's work ethic and speed have been a long time in the making, according to the Toronto, Ontario native. "Growing up my father put me in a lot of power skating sessions. You can never be fast enough. My work ethic allows me to play to my strength. For that to be a strength is a big deal," Tanev explained.
A lot of players just fly around the ice with reckless abandonment and don't make true use of their speed, but not Tanev. He plays with a purpose and makes players around him better because of it.
"The thing that makes [Tanev] special is his speed, but really his motor. How he uses his speed, he uses it really well. He can get on top of people quickly. He can drive guys wide," Leaman said.
Tanev credits Leaman, the rest of the coaching staff and the culture that has been enforced at Providence for helping him further his game and work ethic.
"Over the years, different coaches have helped me learn to play with a strong work ethic. Coach Leaman preaches a high compete level. He's helped develop my game and pushed me to get better. I owe a lot to Nate and the culture here," said Tanev.
Tanev, who came to Providence from the Surrey Eagles in the BCHL, has seen his offensive production increase each year in Hockey East. He went from four goals as a freshman, six as a sophomore, 10 as a junior to 13 this season with at least a half dozen games left to improve on that number.
"There are a lot of great teams in this conference. Hockey East is a great league for a player to grow," remarked Tanev.
If Tanev is to make it at the next level, it will be as a bottom six forward who can occasionally chip in offensively. His speed, work ethic and ruggedness will allow him to be a checking line forward who can kill penalties.
"He's probably our best penalty killer because he can recover so well," said Leaman of Tanev, who has a +18 plus/minus heading into this weekend's series against UMass.
Tanev knows full well what it takes to make it to the NHL as a college free agent. His older brother made it into the league the hard way as an undrafted free agent out of Rochester Institute of Technology. Chris Tanev, a defenseman with the Vancouver Canucks, has played in 281 NHL games after a remarkable rookie season with RIT that saw the Tigers advance to the school's first ever NCAA Frozen Four.
"Growing up with an older brother, I looked up to him, his work ethic and professionalism. How he plays and how he conducts himself as not just a hockey player," said the younger Tanev.
Tanev said he grew up being a huge fan of Mike Modano and Paul Kariya, but tries to emulate a pair of current NHLers with a similar style of play.
"Carl Hagelin and Darren Helm are two guys that I think I have a similar style to," said Tanev. "They both use their speed to their advantage."
Thanks to a sweep of Notre Dame last weekend, the Friars have an outside chance of winning the league's regular season title. Tanev had a goal each night, including the power play game-winner in Saturday's series clinching victory.
"I thought he was our best forward [Saturday]. He kept chipping pucks deep. He probably won six or seven races," said Leaman.
The Friars have their sights set on another championship run, but the nine seniors know that they can't look too far ahead if they want to duplicate last year's magic.
"We just need to be focused. We need to take it week-by-week, not get ahead of ourselves and stay level-headed. A good week of practice each week will help," Tanev explained.
When Tanev and his classmates leave Providence after the season is over, they can do so with their heads held high knowing the program is in a much better place now than when they arrived.
"It's definitely a great feeling. We were a bubble team my freshman year. The program has grown every year. We've followed Coach Leaman's goal. We now have high expectations. We want to be able to look back years from now and still see Providence as a top program," said Tanev.