By Mick Hatten
ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Chase Brand has had to deal with a decent range of hockey experiences since he decided to play junior hockey after his junior year at Park Rapids High School.
Brand has been released, benched, traded, made a commitment to a college team and then had that team’s coaching staff all get let go by the university.
So when Brand decided to de-commit from Miami University this spring and he found himself in demand, it was a bit of a shock to the system of the 20-year-old from Nevis, Minn.
“Probably around 10 schools contacted me,” he said. “I kind of knew it was down to a handful of schools already.
“But it was kind of crazy. When I finally got released from Miami, I got bombarded with phone calls. It was very overwhelming. But I’m glad how it worked out.”
How it worked out is on May 8, Brand announced his commitment to play for St. Cloud State this fall. The left wing, who played four seasons for Park Rapids, tied for ninth in the United States Hockey League in assists (37) and tied for 19th in the league in points (54) in 62 games for the Madison Capitols.
Brand is expecting to be on St. Cloud State’s campus with the rest of the Huskies’ freshman class on June 10 for some workouts and orientation. He will be one of eight freshman expected on next season’s St. Cloud State roster.
Brand said that the Huskies’ coaching staff was one of the first to get a hold of him after his paperwork went through on getting released from his national letter of intent. That was far from his first contact with St. Cloud State coaches.
Former St. Cloud State assistant coach Garrett Raboin had led the recruiting charge on Brand when Brand was a junior at Park Rapids.
“Things didn’t work out then,” Brand said.
Raboin left St. Cloud State to be an assistant for former Huskies head coach Bob Motzko at the University of Minnesota in March 2018. Former Minnesota Duluth assistant coach Brett Larson was hired to replace Motzko and had also recruited Brand in high school.
“My junior year, (Larson) took me on a visit to Duluth,” he said. “I thought really highly of (Larson) then and now I think even more highly of him.
“I went on my visit to St. Cloud with both my parents and they were just raving about him as a person after. A good thing I took away from the visit was when I sat down with some of the players, they said, ‘This his how he is. He’s a great guy. He’s not one of those guys who is a great guy just when he recruits you and then is a mean guy when you get here. He’s very genuine.'”
Brand’s road to college had more than one pothole for him drive over and get through.
Junior hockey challenges
Brand joined the Park Rapids varsity hockey team as an eighth-grader. Playing mostly center, his production increased each season and he had 32 goals and 36 assists in 26 games as a junior in 2015-16. He decided to leave his high school team to play juniors for the Brookings Blizzard in the North American Hockey League.
“Up until my sophomore year, I didn’t know if I wanted to pursue baseball or hockey,” said Brand, who played shortstop in high school. “I kind of separated myself in hockey a little more. I came back after my senior year and played (American) Legion ball and that was a lot of fun. My dad was one of the coaches.”
With Brookings, he had 11 goals and 24 points in 62 games. The Sioux Falls Stampede had his USHL draft rights and he went to camp with the Stampede in the fall of 2016.
Brand played in two games with the Stampede and got released. So he rejoined the Blizzard and had 13 assists and 19 points in 29 NAHL games.
“At Christmas, I got called up to (the USHL’s) Omaha (Lancers) and I spent the rest of the season with them,” he said.
But he was a healthy scratch more than he was in the lineup for the Lancers and Brand finished with one goal in 12 games.
“It was tough and they had a really, really good team there and I was one of the odd men out,” he said. “That was probably the low point. It was really, really tough.
“It definitely made me a better and stronger player and person. Looking back, I’m glad I went through that.”
Brand admits that he thought about asking for his release from Omaha and returning to Brookings, but he wanted to stay and work hard because he thought he would have a chance for a lot more ice time in 2018-19 with the Lancers.
Then Omaha traded him to Madison before the season started.
He joined a Capitols team that went 15-38-5-4 and finished last in the Eastern Conference. But Brand led Madison in goals (17, including 16 at even strength), assists, power-play assists (12), killed penalties and he led the team in points by 16 over his next teammate.
“I think my speed is probably one of the best parts of my game,” said Brand, who is listed at 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds. “I’ve always thought of myself as a pass-first guy and I’m skilled with the puck. I like to have the puck on my stick and distribute.”
He is not the lone hockey player in his family. His sister, McKenna, played college forward for Northeastern and was second on the Boston Pride in points in the National Women’s Hockey League last season.
“We’re hoping that she can make the Olympic team,” Brand said of his sister. “That’s been her goal since Day 1.”
His parents met at Mayville State. While his dad, Craig, was a baseball player there, his mom, Cami, played volleyball for the Comets. Cami is a math teacher at Park Rapids and Chase was in her class for two years.
Don’t think that he got preferential treatment, though.
“It was pretty fun, but it was weird,” he said. “Whenever I would goof off, she’d say, ‘I’m going to tell your dad’ or ‘I’m going to take your phone away.’
“Everyone thinks that if your mom is a teacher that you just get an ‘A.’ She held me to a way higher standard than anyone else in the class.”
Brand got a 28 on his ACT and plans to major in finance and Craig works in financial planning.
“With my mom being a teacher, it was always kind of preached to me that schoolwork is important and I’m glad I listened to her,” he said. “Going through the recruiting process, it helps so much to have good grades.”
His parents and grandparents are excited about his decision to play college hockey closer to home.
“When I committed to Miami, they were happy for me,” he said. “When I told them I made my decision to go to St. Cloud, my grandparents were the happiest.
“Driving two hours for games isn’t too bad. I’m super excited. A lot of my family and friends will be at my games.”