by Bruce Strand, Sports Editor
It says “defenseman” next to Travis Brown’s name in the program, and he’s a rugged one, but the Rogers senior always keeps one eye peeled on the other team’s net, too.
“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” quips Brown, a Michigan Tech recruit who’s notched 25 career goals for the Royals and currently leads them in scoring.
“Travis looks for any opportunity possible to get pucks to the net,” Royal coach Justin Strunk said. “He rarely passes up a shot. He is very good at finding even tiny lanes. He’s an extremely rare high school player who can shoot it 90 mph with such a quick release.”
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound defender leads the Royals (6-1-1) with 16 points on five goals and 11 assists, along with a plus-16 rating.
He made all-Mississippi 8 as a sophomore (six goals, 17 assists on a 20-7-1 team) and junior (14 goals, seven assists on a 12-13-2 team).
Brown is keen at making the right read, Strunk said. He’ll spot an opportunity for a 3-and-2 rush and quickly join in. Or he’ll recognize when it’s the right time to go into shut-down defense mode.
“Our team doesn’t spend a lot of time in our own zone,” Strunk said, “because Travis makes such good reads on first touches that we usually have a clean breakout the first attempt.”
Brown, an Otsego resident, started skating at age 4 at the Handke ice sheet with his dad, Tim, who played high school hockey in Michigan.
“I fell in love with skating right away,” said Brown. He played some baseball and football along the way but made hockey his lone sport in ninth grade.
Brown verbally committed to Michigan Tech a year ago, although he won’t formally sign until spring. He was taken by Tri-City (Nebraska) in the USHL draft last year and hopes to play with them next winter. His game has been further honed by two seasons in the autumn Elite League with Team Northwest.
Brown said the highlight of his prep career so far is playing in the section finals in Duluth against Hermantown his sophomore year, even though the northern power beat them 4-0.
“Just playing in a big game like that, with the place packed, that was great,” he said.
This afternoon (Saturday), the Royals will host Hermantown, hoping to finally beat their longtime nemesis.
About his blue line duties, Brown said: “You have to take care of your defensive zone. You have to play physical. You can’t let your man by you. The puck maybe, but not the man. You’ve got to sacrifice your body a lot.”
This is Brown’s senior year, and his final go-around with a special group — “We’ve been together since squirts, since we were 6 or 7” — and he intends to make the best of it before skating off to pursue further puck dreams. They are hoping for a deep run in the playoffs.
“Travis is a great kid, and the hard work is paying off,” Strunk said. “He’s paying attention to details and taking his game to a whole new level. He will be a big-time contributor at Michigan Tech with a great chance to play professional hockey.”
THE BROWN SCORECARD
Personal file — Age: 17 … Family: parents Tim and Jennifer; sister Amy, 15 … Sport: hockey … Academics: 3.4 GPA … Other activities: IMPACT leadership … College plans: Michigan Tech (after juniors hockey), probably engineering management, play hockey
Favorite stuff — Class: gym, especially racquet sports … TV show: “Gossip Girl” … Movie: “Anchorman” … Reading: Sports Illustrated, USA Hockey… Music: country and Justin Bieber … Food: Chipotle fare and Bobo’s (chinese) … Drink: Gatorade yellow … Team: Michigan Tech hockey, Twins, Vikings, Wolves, Wild … Athlete: Ryan Suter … Hobby: fishing …. Wants to visit: Alaska