BOSTON – Entering the season there was no shortage of hype surrounding Minnesota State junior defenseman Daniel Brickley.
On Friday night at Boston University’s Agganis Arena, Brickley proved he was every bit as good as advertised.
The top undrafted NHL free agent in college hockey had a goal and three assists as the Mavericks skated past the Terriers, 6-3, in an early season nonconference matchup.
Brickley’s offensive impact was felt immediately with a goal and an assist in the opening period. With the Mavericks on the power play, his shot from the point got through to the net for a score by Zeb Knutson who cleaned up the loose puck.
With MSU trailing 2-1, Brickley picked off an errant clearing pass. He took one step and rifled a wrist shot that clanged the bar and fell down into the net.
“I had my head up. I noticed the middle was open. They were trying to flip it out of the zone. They only had one guy in front of me. I took my opportunity. I don’t know who it was cutting to the net, but he gave me a screen. I just ripped one and luckily it found the back of the net,” Brickley explained.
The Sandy, Utah native didn’t let up in the second period. He added two more assists and his possession numbers were outstanding. He was on the ice for eight shot attempts for compared to just one shot attempt against during even strength.
The 6-foot-3 Brickley hails from a hockey family. His uncle Andy Brickley played with five NHL organizations and is now the color analyst on Boston Bruins telecasts.
But, it wasn’t always this easy for Brickley. He was passed over three times in the NHL Draft. He never played in the USHL. He played a year in the CCHL with the Hawkesbury Hawks and a year with the Topeka RoadRunners in the NAHL before matriculating to Mankato.
The development and improvement in his game is perhaps what his coach, Mike Hastings, is most fond of.
“The abilities are special, but you combine that with the type of young man he is. He’s a video junkie. He watches his shifts. Everything that’s under his control to get better he takes care of,” Hastings began.
“From a coaching standpoint, when you see guys grow like Danny has, it’s reaffirming to see a guy get rewarded. It’s great to see him take the steps he has because he’s put a lot of work into it.”
The size and offensive production are quantitative numbers that jump out immediately, but there’s more to Brickley’s game than just what is on a stat sheet.
For his imposing size, Brickley isn’t just a big, stay-at-home defenseman who makes big hits. He recorded just 20 penalty minutes in each of his first two seasons at MSU. On Friday night, he used his body position and stick in the defensive zone to block shots and force pucks out of play. He was successful on retrievals and his first touch was consistently a smart play.
“Poise,” Hastings emphasized. “He doesn’t get too high or too low defensively. For a big guy he’s got a really good stick defensively. A lot of guys that size will try to run around and use that size to be overly physical and get out of position.”
“Danny has a real calmness about him in the defensive end. He does a good job stick defending and getting physical when he needs to, but he doesn’t run himself out of smart areas of the rink,” complimented Hastings.
Brickley took home the game’s number one star, but his fellow blue liners also got in on the act. Sophomore Ian Scheid had the game-winning goal and freshman Riese Zmolek recorded his first collegiate goal. Forwards Knutson, Charlie Gerard and Jared Spooner also tallied markers.
It was a nice bounce back win for the Mavericks after losing, 4-0, to St. Cloud State in their regular season opener. If Friday night was any indication, Minnesota State will have more nights on the positive side of the scoreboard. That’s what’s most important to Brickley.
“I’m a we guy. I want what’s best for the team. Whatever comes individually – award-wise or stats – that’s just a bonus. I want to win the WCHA and get to the NCAA Tournament,” said Brickley.