When Bemidji State defenseman Brad Hunt digs his skates into the ice at the blue line and winds up for his signature slap shot, there is a probability one of three things will happen when he follows through:
– The puck zips through traffic for a goal.
– The puck misses wide and thunders off the back boards.
– The goalie makes the save only to give up a goal on the rebound.
“That’s his ‘wow’ factor,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. “He had an NHL shot when he came to campus four years ago and he’s just built on that.”
Hunt, an alternate captain, reached his milestone 100th career point for the Beavers in last Saturday’s 3-1 victory at St. Cloud State during the first period when he leaned into a shot at the blue line and sent it to the back of the net for the eventual game-winning goal.
Hunt became the eighth player and first defenseman during Bemidji State’s Division I era to accomplish the feat.
“I’ve been talking to my dad and he’s asked me if it’s sunk in yet,” Hunt said. “I said ‘no, not really but it’s just one of those things that’s cool to reach.’ I’m excited about it but I’m more looking forward to this week against Denver.”
Hunt leads BSU into this weekend’s series against the Pioneers at the Sanford Center (Friday 7:37 p.m., Saturday 7:07 p.m.) as BSU’s top scorer after 16 games with three goals and 11 assists for 14 points.
Standing 5-foot-9 at 175 pounds, Hunt has scored his points at BSU by playing the defensive position with an offensive mentality.
He developed his shot growing up in Maple Ridge, British Columbia by taking advice from a former goalie in his father, Steve, and shooting pucks at a net off his backyard deck.
He played junior hockey in British Columbia and was College Hockey America’s Rookie of the Year as a freshman during Bemidji State’s Frozen Four season in 2008-09.
“He was a big piece of the puzzle that year we went to the Frozen Four,” Serratore said. “He came in and was a quarterback on our power play. He’s played a lot of tough minutes and he’s the best defenseman we’ve had at the Division I level and one of the best defensemen we’ve ever had play at Bemidji State.”
After his 32-point freshman season, Hunt followed with 33 points as a sophomore and 21 points as a junior in the first year of WCHA play. He needed 22 goals and 78 assists to reach the 100 points.
BSU senior goalie Dan Bakala has witnessed those points and faces Hunt’s shot daily at practice.
“He’s one of the best players and people I’ve ever played with – that kid’s shot is meant for the back of the net,” Bakala said.
Hunt has the potential to make a lasting impression on the Bemidji State record books in his final season and the possibility is there given the way he approaches the position.
“As a hockey player you’re never perfect,” Hunt said. “I feel like I need to shoot a little bit more and get pucks to the net. I always need to get better at my defensive game too because being a smaller defenseman, you can never be good enough at defense. You have to have a good stick, good feet and good position to get on those bigger forwards.”
Hunt needs four assists to break Terry Mattson’s career record of 81 assists for BSU defensemen set in 1989. Hunt needs 16 points to break Jude Boulianne, Jr.’s 115-point record for career assists by a BSU defenseman set in 1995.
If Hunt maintains his current scoring pace, he could become the first defenseman to lead the Beavers in scoring in a season since Stefan Bjork did it in 1999-00 with 34 points.
Hunt has proven to be versatile in the BSU lineup by logging a large amount of minutes, playing on the power play and penalty kill, and using his speed to help drive the offense.
But his game starts with that big shot at the blue line.
“When you don’t have it, you realize how bad you want it and there’s years where you don’t have a defenseman who can shoot like that,” Serratore said. “Those guys are few, far between and hard to get.”
Hunt said he hopes to keep playing hockey as a professional next season.
“That would be a great honor,” Hunt said. “I just want to play as hard as I can right now for Bemidji State. Hopefully those kinds of things will happen at the end of the year when my career here is over and I can continue playing hockey.”