Brody Lamb’s phone buzzed a minute after midnight on New Year’s Eve. Then it buzzed again. And again.
The 16-year-old from Kasson hadn’t set multiple alarms, nor was it his buddies texting to say Happy New Year. The buzzing and text messages came from Division I college hockey coaches, eager to reach out to one of the more highly touted prospects with 2003 birth years.
“I kind of expected it, a little bit, but not really a minute after midnight,” said Lamb, who turns 17 next month, just days prior to the start of his junior year of high school. “I was surprised, excited. It’s always been a dream of mine to play college hockey.
“It’s still a dream. Once they start calling, you realize it might happen.”
Lamb has had contact from more than a dozen Division I men’s hockey programs in the months since his recruiting window opened -- college coaches may contact athletes beginning on Jan. 1 of the athlete’s sophomore year of high school.
The 6-foot, 160-pound forward with a heavy shot and quick release has been on college scouts’ radars for at least three years, having watched him closely at Minnesota Hockey High Performance camps in the summer and at USA national development camps.
Lamb’s 25-goal, 72-point season as a high school rookie with the Dodge County Wildcats last winter only increased his value, but he has remained grounded throughout the recruiting process.
“I would say it’s certainly been more exciting than overwhelming,” said Brody’s father, Jeff, who graduated from Rochester Mayo in 1982, then played for the Austin Mavericks of the USHL before a four-year career at the University of Denver. “We’ve really tried to downplay to some degree the whole process, trying to keep Brody in the present as much as we can. It’s exciting and cool, but he has to keep playing and getting better, otherwise those opportunities may not be there.”
Brody will return to Dodge County for his junior season this winter, hoping to help the Wildcats build on their 21-win season of a year ago, when they earned the No. 1 seed in the Section 1A playoffs for the first time in program history. It’s also an opportunity to play a full varsity season with one of his best friends, Matt Donovan, who missed much of last season with a broken leg.
“I’ve talked to quite a few coaches about staying (in high school) and they say another year of high school won’t affect how they recruit me as long as I work hard in practice and show that in games,” Brody Lamb said.
Brody said he hasn’t set a firm timeline as to when he wants to commit to a school, saying it could likely be during or after his senior season. He has been to some college hockey games in years past and has unofficially visited a couple of campuses. But he wants to take his time, and take advantage of the official on-campus visits he’ll be allowed to take when in-person recruiting resumes. The University of Wisconsin even e-mailed him a “virtual” tour of their campus and facilities.
“I like the coaches who, when they call, we don’t talk much about hockey,” Brody said, “we talk about their personality, their team, their facilities. I like to ask about their summer plans for their players, to see how that compares to my training.”
A DIFFERENT ERA
Brody Lamb’s recruiting process is quite different, to say the least, than the process his dad went through. Jeff Lamb was a standout at Mayo, helping the Spartans reach the state tournament in 1982.
He had plans to play Division III hockey right out of high school, but a young coach named Frank Serratore invited Lamb to the Austin Mavericks’ camp. Serratore, who has been the head coach at Air Force for 24 seasons, is one of the best and funniest coaches currently in the college game.
“He called me and put on a heck of a recruiting pitch,” Jeff Lamb said. “He got me excited about playing junior hockey. We had our camp here in Rochester at the Rec Center. At the time there weren’t USA Hockey camps or anything like that, so at Mavericks camp we had kids from all over, from California to Pennsylvania, and that got me excited.”
Jeff Lamb had a strong first season with the Mavericks; he labeled it an adjustment period. During his second season in Austin, his recruitment picked up after he got off to a hot start, with six or seven schools knocking on his door.
“It was snail-mail,” he said. “I’d get a letter saying they saw me play, and ‘we’ll send you more information if you’re interested.”
Around Thanksgiving time of the 1983-84 season, the University of Denver lost two players -- Kevin Dineen and Craig Redmond -- to the Canadian national team, so the Pioneers sent an assistant coach to Austin to watch Mavericks’ defenseman Tom Maroste.
“I’d like to give Frank a little credit, too, because I know now that he told Denver to watch me, too, when they came to watch Tom,” Jeff Lamb said.
Serratore’s tip to the scout worked. Denver offered Lamb a spot immediately and he moved from Austin to Denver, where he stepped into the lineup immediately. Lamb recorded 129 points in 139 games for the Pioneers, then played three seasons of professional hockey in the AHL and IHL.
Denver struck at the exact right time. The day after Lamb committed to the Pioneers, then-Gophers coach Brad Beutow called and offered Lamb a full-ride scholarship to play at the University of Minnesota.
“News didn’t travel fast then,” Lamb said. “He had no idea I had just signed. It worked out well in the long run. Denver was a great fit for me.”
Now Jeff has been able to witness the recruiting process from a different perspective. It’s a process that has just recently started for the Lamb family, and one they intend to enjoy and not allow to become overwhelming.
“We didn’t get involved in the real early recruiting process,” Jeff said. “A lot of guys Brody has played with or against were committing to schools, but we just tried to stay focused on the present and told Brody to play the best he could on whatever team he was on, whether it was Bantams or Dodge County, or (High Performance) teams.
“Just continue to have fun and get better. He’s been patient and felt the process would come.”