Every good hockey team needs solid goaltending and a strong defense. It needs grit, determination, good coaching and skilled players making the right decision at the right time out on the ice.
Oh yeah, good hockey teams need a finisher. You know, someone who puts the puck in the net – that’s pretty important, too. For the Skyline hockey team – which qualifies as a very good hockey team – Noah Bradburn clearly knows how to put the puck in the net.
Skyline’s “finisher” has finished 27 times this season, which is first on the team and among the top 10 in the state in goals scored. Also in 22 games this year, Bradburn has racked up 19 assists proving he’s not all shot and no pass.
“I think two things set Noah apart from almost any player I have ever coached,” says Skyline Coach Jake Stripp. “His hands are unreal, he tries things in games that most players would only dream of, and it’s because of countless hours growing up stick handling almost every day.
“The other thing he has is a lightning quick release of his shot, his shot is good but he gets it off so quick most goalies have a hard time reacting.”
Skills aside, it’s Bradburn’s passion that lights the lamp more than anything.
“What sets him apart is his love of the game,” Stripp says. “He was forced to take most of the summer and fall off this year after spending time in the hospital due to an illness and all he talked about was getting back on the ice. It was a huge factor in his rehab and promised he would be back day one of tryouts.”
Bradburn has been one of the top players on the ice for the Eagles the past three seasons but he has really taken his game to the next level this year.
“I’m positive Noah will have hockey a part of his life somehow, someway forever,” Stripp says. “He is a coach’s player, first on the ice and usually the last off. I text him every day we get ‘free ice’ before our practices so he can show up early and get work in before everyone else shows up.”
Still only a junior, Bradburn is not only a “coach’s player” but a team player as well. The goals mean nothing if they don’t score a victory for the Eagles.
“We knew we were going to have a good season going in but I don’t know if we expected to have this good of a season,” he said. “Our goals were to compete in the league and make it far in the playoffs.
“We have gotten really good defense and goaltending all season. And we’ve been able to score which has helped us a lot.”
And that’s where Bradburn comes in with his team-best 46 points.
“You have to have a little bit of luck to score that many goals,” he said, showing off his humble side. “But I practice a lot on my shot and that helps. Of course, my teammates play a big part.”
The Eagles (17-5 overall) didn’t get much luck in their loss to Chelsea on Thursday as the Bulldogs broke a 4-4 tie with just 49 seconds to play to knock off Skyline with the SEC championship on the line. It was the second heartbreaking loss to Chelsea this season.
“It was a hard-played game and either team could have won,” Bradburn said. “I thought we played really well. They got a lucky bounce at the end and took advantage. It was one of our better games this season and maybe that loss will help fuel our playoff run.”
Bradburn was introduced to the great game of hockey at an early age.
“My bad (Tim) played hockey so when I was little I would go to his games and I started playing as early as I could,” he said. “I used to play around the house before I was old enough to start playing organized hockey.”
Bradburn couldn’t wait to get on the ice – but preferably with a hockey stick in his hands. “I started skating when I was 3 or 4 years old. When I first started I didn’t really like the skating lessons. I just wanted to play hockey and not just skate.”
Once he learned how to skate, it was full-on hockey. And he quickly discovered the thrill of putting the puck in the net. What’s not to like. You get to raise your stick, your teammates gather around you to celebrate and they put a point up on the big scoreboard under your team’s name. A young kid can get used to that…
While his dad helped teach him the game, the son has passed him by on the ice.
“Yeah, I guess you could say so,” when asked if he was better than his dad at this point in his career. “Yeah, he still plays. Sometimes I will go with him and play drop-in with him. It’s a lot of fun.”
Bradburn hit the road at an early age, playing travel hockey for the Victory Honda Canton team for two years. He’s played the past two years for the Chelsea Chiefs.
“I want to play hockey for as long as I can,” he says. “I will go as far as it can take me. I just want to play in college so I will go to whoever gives me the opportunity.”
Bradburn and the Eagles face Milford at 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Arctic Coliseum before opening the state playoffs against city rival Pioneer on Monday, Feb. 26.
The Eagles beat the Pioneers in overtime in their only meeting this season.
“If we play like we can then I think we have a good chance,” Bradburn said. “My personal goal is to win Regionals.”
For that, they will need good goaltending, strong defense, smart decisions on the ice along with the grit and determination that has helped earn them 17 wins this season. Oh yeah, they also will need a finisher. You know, someone who can put the puck in the net.
Someone like, exactly like, Noah Bradburn.
Photos by Robert Bowden Photography