Nevada product Harris using ‘blazing speed’ at NCAA level
The call of Minnesota’s Iron Range was too strong for Brendan Harris to resist.
This despite the fact the sophomore center grew up in Nevada and spent six seasons playing youth hockey in California and junior hockey up the West Coast in Washington.
Harris finds himself as a key cog on a Bemidji State team trying to re-establish itself as an NCAA Tournament contender.
“Hockey in Minnesota, there is really nothing better than that,” the 1996 birth year said. “The culture here is one where you’re expected to win. It was one I wanted to be part of, a team that wins a lot of games and has a chance to win a championship.”
If the Beavers are going to do that, they need the highly-skilled Harris to help them get there.
The Henderson native has always been able to score, whether in youth hockey (he averaged two points per game for the California Titans’ 16U AAA team in 2012-13) or juniors (where he won the BCHL’s Brett Hull Trophy for leading the league in scoring in 2016-17 with 98 points in 57 games for the Wenatchee Wild).
“He’s got blazing speed – there’s not many guys faster in college hockey,” Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore said. “His skill set is very high. He’s 5-foot-8, 155 pounds. He’s kind of a poor man’s Patrick Kane. He’s got great skills, great speed. He’s got a motor.”
And Harris has rounded his game out in his first two NCAA seasons, though he missed seven games in November and December.
“We’ve had him out of our lineup for the past month and it hasn’t helped us,” Serratore added. “When he plays, it increases our team speed, it helps our depth. He’s our first-line center as a sophomore, he’s on our top power play and he kills penalties. That tells you a little bit about what we think about him and where he’s at.”
Where he’s been has a decidedly Western flavor.
He played youth hockey in the Las Vegas area until he hit a speed bump.
“One year of Bantams, there wasn’t a team for my age group, so that was my first year with the Titans, playing under Barry Bartholomay,” Harris said. “I went back to Vegas the next year and played my first year of Midgets for Pokey Reddick of the Las Vegas Jr. Storm. Then I went back to the Titans for my second year of 16U with Peter Torsson.”
Harris said the coaching he received, particularly in those three seasons, helped him take steps that would prepare him well for juniors.
“Going to California is what gave me that spark and confidence to take my game to the next level,” Harris said. “Several years playing in Nevada, I was overshadowed by (Golden Knights prospect) Gage Quinney, and older players like that.
“It forced me to take my game to another level that I didn’t know was possible. Peter Torsson and Barry Bartholomay took me under their wing and pushed me to be better.”
Harris played four seasons of junior, starting with the Bismarck Bobcats (NAHL) before being traded to Wenatchee halfway through the 2013-14 campaign. Being back in the West agreed with him. His point totals increased from 25 to 44 to 56 to the 98-point onslaught.
The upward trajectory has continued in Northern Minnesota. After 11 points as a freshman, he’s nearly matched that in fewer than half the games.
“A big improvement has been my vision on the ice and being able to make plays in tight areas where in the past I thought I’d be dead if I tried them,” Harris said. “Coach Tom has prepped me to elevate my game to be quicker and more elusive.”
Harris’ rise from Las Vegas might not be so rare in the not-too-distant future.
“The community is outrageous,” he said. “I skated a couple times at home over winter break and there were 40 or 50 people on the ice. A few years ago, it would be me and a few buddies with a whole rink to ourselves.
“It’s really good to see the sport taking off there. It’s really exciting.”
Photo/BSU Photo Services
— Chris Bayee
(Feb. 6, 2019)