Bemidji State men's hockey: Hunt's slap shot stands out
There are a few circumstances that get Bemidji State men's hockey team fans on the edge of their seats during a game.
A sure one is whenever freshman defender Brad Hunt gets control of the puck at the point.
A murmur steadily growing louder can be heard, "shooooot ... shoooot the puck!"
A booming slap shot has a way of energizing a crowd ... and Hunt has one -- a very good one at that.
The freshman defender has made an immediate impact with the Beavers, who face Notre Dame Saturday in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament's Midwest Regional in Grand Rapids, Mich.
To this point in the season Hunt has amassed nine goals and 22 assists for 31 points. That ranks him fifth nationally among all rookies and defensemen overall. Seven of his goals have come on the power play
His prowess on offensive and dependability on the defensive side earned Hunt College Hockey America Rookie of the Year honors.
Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore doesn't mince any words when describing the impressive freshman.
"Hunt is the best freshman we've had here at the DI level," Serratore reported. "Coming in we knew he was crafty, but we didn't know how quickly he'd adjust to the collegiate level of play. He adjusted very quickly."
Coming into the 2008-09 season, Serratore reported the BSU coaching staff had some concerns about the power play. "Hunt's quick maturation took care of that," Serratore reported. "Our power play is ranked sixth nationally and Hunt is a big reason why."
Hunt's a scoring threat with his big shot, but he also makes plays with excellent passing abilities. "He's learned how to fake the shot and then move the puck around defenders," Serratore reported. "That's added another big element to his game.
"Defensively he's very accountable and we are confident playing him in any situation."
Possibly most impressive about Hunt's rookie season is how much stronger he's become over the course of the season, Serratore continued. "Early in the year he'd work hard to the point where his legs would give out," he said. "He's so much stronger now we can have him on the ice a lot."
Hunt admitted he was a bit nervous when he first came to Bemidji State, not really knowing what to expect from the University or college hockey in general. "The veteran players made me feel comfortable immediately," Hunt reported. "It was just like having a bunch of big brothers looking out for me."
Not the biggest of players at 5-9, 168, Hunt said it was immediately evident he would have to work hard to get stronger. In addition, he soaked in pointers given by the BSU coaches on how to use his quickness and gain leverage against bigger players.
"I worked hard in the gym and then on the ice during practice as well," he said. "I was fortunate to get a shot at playing and things just went on from there."
Somewhat surprisingly, Hunt said he never realized he had the capability to generate a big shot until a couple of years ago. "To that point I concentrated on making plays through passing," he said. "Once I realized I had a pretty good shot I worked on it all the time -- shooting in the back yard and the garage off of little sheets of plastic."
With a CHA regular season title, a CHA playoff championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament already in the bag, Hunt said this is the most enjoyable hockey season he's ever experienced.
"I am so excited to get the opportunity to play in the national tournament against a very tough team like Notre Dame," he said. "This is what we work so hard for -- this kind of opportunity. We are all really pumped up to play.
""We've had six solid weeks of very good and hard working practices," he said.
What's it going to take to defeat a quality team like Notre dame on a national stage? ""Just keep doing what's made us successful all year," he said, "work hard, play smart and listen to the coaches. In order to compete against a team like Notre Dame we have to take care of the puck and then capitalize when we get the opportunity."
If one of the opportunities is a Hunt slap shot, it's certain the Bemidji State fans will be on the edge of their seats.