BEMIDJI -- Scoring a goal in your first collegiate game is quite an accomplishment for any hockey player.
But it meant even more for Bemidji State sophomore Adam Brady.
Almost two years ago, Brady survived a brutal car accident that left him with a compound femur fracture, multiple pelvic fractures, a tailbone fracture, internal bleeding and a slightly collapsed lung.
The Dec. 22, 2015, accident hospitalized the Delhi, Ont., native for three weeks and brought his promising hockey career to a halt. Brady was home for Christmas while on break from the Lincoln (Neb.) Stars of the United States Hockey League when the truck he was riding in left the road on a foggy, wet night.
Following a 22-month recovery, Brady finally suited up for his first game Oct. 13, Bemidji State’s season-opener against Minnesota Duluth.
In his first game as a Beaver, Brady scored the go-ahead goal in the third period to lift the Beavers to a 5-2 win over the then fifth-ranked Bulldogs.
Brady, who less than two years ago wasn’t sure he’d play hockey again, has already made an immediate impact on Bemidji State.
The accident was serious enough that police officers at the scene said it was a miracle the four occupants survived. Brady spent the better part of two years recovering from his injuries before taking the ice for BSU.
“It was a long road,” Brady said. “Just a lot of therapy and (it was) mentally taxing, physically taxing. Just had to work hard.”
Playing hockey again was not guaranteed.
“That was one of the first things you start to think about when all the surgeries are done and you’re kind of laying in bed,” Brady said. “You can’t really do too much and a lot of negative things creep into your mind. But I just tried to stay positive. Deep down I was just hoping that something would work out and luckily I got an opportunity here.”
After beginning the recovery process in Ontario, Brady returned to Lincoln to continue rehabbing his injuries in late March 2016, about three months after the accident.
But his injuries complicated where he would continue his career. Brady had decommitted from Robert Morris and reopened the recruiting process prior to the 2015-16 season.
“After it happened I didn’t really have too many schools that really believed in me,” Brady said. “Bemidji was the school that believed in me and felt that I could come back from this and be better than I ever was.
“I was just so happy and blown away by that and just jumped on the opportunity right away.”
Brady’s dedication gave BSU head coach Tom Serratore faith that he would be an asset to his team. Brady committed to Bemidji State in May 2016 and redshirted his freshman year as he continued the recovery process.
“Adam Brady is an unbelievable kid,” Serratore said. “How he’s bounced back from that injury is unbelievable but it’s because Adam Brady is who he is.
“He worked so hard last year -- and he still does -- before practice, after practice. He put so much time and he’s so committed to becoming the best hockey player he possibly can be. And he’s a kid that does everything the right way…. The impact that he’s made on our team is amazing. We knew he was a heck of a hockey player, but he’s everything we thought he would be and more, and we’re lucky to have him.”
For his workouts, Brady skated by himself four days a week his first semester until he was cleared for contact at the start of the second semester in early January.
“That’s when I began starting skating with the team once or twice a week, just trying to get the legs back and the lungs back,” Brady said. “Once I kind of got back into shape with no pain or limited pain, I was practicing everyday at the very end of the season.”
While Brady rehabbed, he watched the Beavers ride a 20-13-3 record to the MacNaughton Cup as Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular season champions.
“It’s obviously not fun being on the sideline watching the team, but we had such a good year,” he said. “It was fun to watch and it’s exactly what I needed.”
Brady’s teammates were there to support him every step of the way.
“The guys were always there pushing me and motivating me,” Brady said. “Like I said, it was tough not playing but they made me feel a part of it every step of the way. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to play with and they made last year a lot of fun even though I wasn’t playing.”
“He’s come back from an outrageous injury -- something you can’t talk about (or) explain how hard that would be,” said junior forward Jay Dickman, who overcame his own injury woes after tearing his Achilles two years ago. “I obviously went through an injury but the work that he’s put in just to play, it’s incredible.”The return
Now that he has made a complete recovery, Brady says he feels better than ever.
And it’s showing on the ice.
Through his first 10 games, Brady is fourth on the team in scoring with six points (two goals-four assists).
“I think I feel better than I have ever felt on the ice,” he said. “I think last year was a big part of that -- just getting back in shape and taking some time. And also watching hockey I think for a whole year made a big difference too. You get to see different parts of the game. And now I’m in no pain and I’m kind of in the groove now.”
The sophomore has been in a groove ever since his Oct. 13 debut.
The long-awaited night featured the Beavers against the No. 5 team in the country, Minnesota Duluth, last season’s national runner-up.
Brady’s first college hockey game probably felt a bit sweeter than it does for most players.
“It was the best feeling in the world,” Brady said. “It was something I had been waiting for for a long time. It was a lot of fun. Definitely a game I’ll never forget, that’s for sure.”
The left winger certainly made it a night to remember.
With the game tied 1-1 early in the third period, Brady gave the Beavers their first lead with his power-play goal that eventually led to a 5-2 upset win.
“I wasn’t expecting that but I just thought I’d go out there and do my thing, have some fun and work hard,” Brady said. “It was pretty special. All that hard work, when that puck goes in the net, that’s kind of what you think about.”
And to think that less than two years ago, Brady wasn’t certain if he would be where is now playing Division I hockey.
“I think for a lot of the time I tried to be positive, and I tried to think positively, but there’s obviously some days that you have your doubt,” Brady said. “And a lot of people believe in you, and some don’t, but luckily I was believed in by the BSU staff and everyone here, so I couldn’t be happier.”