WOONSOCKET — Brady Berard didn’t get the opportunity to compete at the National Team Development Program’s evaluation camp. As it turned out, Berard had done more than enough playing for the Mount St. Charles Hockey Academy 15U team this season to impress the NTDP’s scouts.
Last week, NTDP assistant coach Kevin Reiter contacted Berard, his father, Holy Cross coach David, and his mother, Lynne, through Zoom to let the East Greenwich native know he earned a spot on the U17 national team next season.
“It’s crazy. Getting invited out to camp was one of my goals, but it didn’t happen [due to the COVID-19 pandemic],” Berard said Wednesday night. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to represent my country. They just said I have to be one of the hard working guys and be a power forward. I’m just going there to be Brady Berard and let the skill guys do there skills. I just need to be me and play my game.”
While most of Berard’s new teammates don’t have any experience with the NTDP, Berard understands the commitment he’s about to make. His older brother, Brett, just finished his two-year run with the program where he was third on the U18 team in scoring with 34 points this season. The younger Berard said he went to Plymouth, Michigan to visit Brett on Feb. 24 and 25.
Even though they share the same last name, the Berards are very different players. While Brett is just 152 pounds and relies on his superb skating and stick skills to create scoring chances, Brady is nearly 180 pounds and developed into an elite power forward under the tutelage of 15U coach Scott Gainey and assistant Jim Creamer, who coached Berard at Bishop Hendricken last season.
Playing for one of the top 15U teams in the country, the team captain led the Mounties with 29 goals and 64 points.
“Playing at Mount helped me a lot,” Berard said. “It was way better than I expected because coach Gainey had a plan and he executed the plan. I can’t thank them enough to get me to where I am right now. I don’t know where I would be without my teammates. I can’t thank them enough. If I didn’t get this opportunity I would’ve played 16s at Mount because they helped me develop so much.”
“I’m thrilled for him because he’s a perfect example of sticking to the gameplan and working as hard as he possibly could,” Gainey said Thursday afternoon. “What’s great about Brady is when things aren’t going well, he has a very good B game that is better than most. He knows what he needs to do to be a successful player and his work ethic is always excellent. I don’t think Brady ever had two bad days in a row.”
Wednesday’s announcement was also a feather in the cap for the Mount Hockey Academy, which finished up its first season with all three of its midget teams finishing in the top-10 in the country according to MYHockeyRankings.com. The U18 team earned an automatic bid to USA Hockey Nationals, while the U16 and the 15U teams were in good position to earn at-large bids before USA Hockey cancelled next month’s event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re thrilled for our program, but we if we do things right, things like this are going to continue to happen,” Gainey said. “We’re going to have kids that will have opportunities to further themselves and better themselves and continue to develop. We’re thrilled for our entire program and I’m very confident he won’t be the last player that has this opportunity.”
Berard verbally committed to Providence College before he came to Mount, but the 16-year-old flourished playing alongside some of the country’s best players. After a slow start to the season in September and October, Berard said he felt his game reached a new level at the New England district tournament in Marlboro, Mass. in November.
In the five-game tournament, Berard led the Mounties with five goals and four assists. He played a role in all three goals in a 5-3 defeat to South Kent in a pool-play game. In the district championship game, Berard scored a goal in a 5-2 loss to South Kent.
“This year, in the middle of the season I got going and the regionals really helped,” Berard said. “That was a turning point in the season and I realized I could do this. I just gained a lot of confidence in that tournament and I played South Kent twice and I played really well against them. I scored some points and I felt like I matched up well.”
The former South Shore Kings and Bishop Hendricken standout helped the Mounties claim the inaugural Northeast Pack title last month in Cranberry Township, Penn.
Berard said a big reason he earned this opportunity was his teammates. He and Cranston’s Perry Gaudreau played on the same South Shore Kings U14 squad last season, but he quickly developed friendships with talented defenseman Ben Robertson and Canadian standout Jake Furlong.
“Obviously I was close with Perry, but Ben Robertson was an unreal kid and he pushed me to be a better player,” Berard said. “We’d go after it in practice and he helped me get this opportunity. Jake Furlong is one of our better skilled defensemen and he knew how good I was and he pushed me to be a better player every day.”
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