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Games with Providence and Holy Cross Highlight Brett Berard's NTDP Career

By Becky Olsen, 04/14/20, 11:45AM EDT


Berard has family connections to both programs and will attend Providence next year

Photo by Rena Laverty

There have been many special moments and memories for Brett Berard during his two-year stay with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, but one special weekend from October will forever stick in in his mind.

Playing college games is a unique opportunity afforded to NTDP players and the two opponents that weekend had special meaning for Berard; one his future school and the other where his dad is the head coach.

“It was probably one of the best experiences in my hockey career,” said Berard. “Providence College is only 15 minutes from my house, so my family and friends were able to come to the game and support me. It was a dream come true.

“Being able to play against Holy Cross the next day and beat my dad’s team was fun and cool. It was some of the most fun games of my hockey career and a once in a lifetime experience.”

Despite Team USA falling to Providence, 2-1 in overtime on Oct. 12, Berard will look back on it fondly.

“I think I will always remember skating out for the first time and lining up at the goal,” he said. “Then, when the starters were announced, and I had to skate from the goal to the blue line when my name was announced. I got to start that game. It was a huge pick-me-up and of course, having my friends and family there to cheer me on is what still sticks out to me.”

In the 4-2 win over Holy Cross on Oct. 13, it was a big offensive afternoon for Berard in beating the team his dad, David, has coached for five seasons, earning some family bragging rights.

“I scored two goals in that game,” he said. “On the first goal, Chase [Yoder] and I had a 2-on-1, it was a backdoor play and he found me, and I was able to bury the puck. I think that goal will stick with me. Overall, it was a big night for our team.”

The two happiest individuals in both buildings over the weekend might have been Berard’s parents. After all, they played a huge role in his hockey career through the years.

Photo by Rena Laverty

“My dad had a big influence on the hockey side as he was a coach,” said Berard. “He was the one who helped me develop my skills and really got me into the game. My mom learned the game as the years went on. Since my dad was coaching, she was carpooling my brother and I all around the northeast so we could play the sport. She played a huge role in getting me here, too.”

So, it should come as no surprise that he looked to his parents when it came time to picking his future college. He didn’t choose where his dad coaches, instead choosing Providence, where both his parents were student-athletes.

Photo by Rena Laverty

“My parents went there — my mom played field hockey and my dad played ice hockey; he was a goalie,” explained Berard. “My dad was an assistant coach there for 20 years, so we grew up around the program. During the summer, we would sometimes get to go with him to work and eat lunch in the cafeteria.

“I grew up at the rink and it was something that I dreamed about. To be able to come home and play in front of my family and friends is really a childhood dream of mine.”

It wasn’t always easy for the 5-foot-9, 152-pound forward to get to this point. After all, he went through some growing pains during his first year with the NTDP. It was amazing for him to see the difference in his development.

“I think I made huge improvements in my game,” said Berard, who closed his career with 22 goals and 54 points in 92 games. “The Under-17 year was hard. Making the switch from playing high school hockey in Rhode Island to the USHL was a big jump. It was challenging and an adjustment playing against bigger, older and stronger players.

“In my U18 year, I felt more comfortable with the USHL games, but the college games were definitely that challenge. It was definitely fun.”

He also credits head coach Seth Appert in helping him figure out who he was as a player on the ice.

“Coach Appert and I had a long talk about my identity as a player,” he stated. “We decided that [Boston Bruins winger] Brad Marchand was someone I wanted to model my game after. He is an undersized player and has had NHL success. It’s really being a grinder and playing with a chip on my shoulder. It really helped me this season.”

Unfortunately, the U18s' season ended before they had a chance to host the Under-18 World Championship in Plymouth this month. Despite the disappointment, Berard is trying to make the most of his time as he gets ready for the NHL Draft and of course, his college season next year.

“I’m trying to make the most of it since we are in quarantine right now,” he said. “I’m doing in-home workouts with my brother [Brady]. He will be coming out to the program next year.

Photo by Rena Laverty

“We are trying to keep up with each other and push each other to keep going and not give up. We have been shooting pucks, playing hockey in the driveway and going for runs. We are helping each other out and staying motivated.”

The good news — Berard has been able to offer some sound advice to his younger brother.

“I told him to do what is expected for him to be able to play at this level,” he explained. “I also told him that he needs to play his game as this is no longer a skill game only. One of the big lessons that I learned is you need more than skill; you need to be able to play a 200-foot game. It is all about the hard work you put in, each and every day.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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