Hockey: Former Lourdes defenseman Brandrup helps Norwich to D3 title
It's been more than a week, and Alec Brandrup is just beginning to realize he's a national champion.
"It hasn't really settled in yet for most of us," Brandrup said. "The whole campus, the town, it's really excited and electrified about the national title. But most of us feel like we should be getting ready for another game."
Brandrup said those things late last week, just days after helping Norwich University — based in the 6,200-population town of Northfield, Vt., approximately 140 miles south of Montreal — win the NCAA Division III men's hockey national championship.
The Cadets were ranked at or near the top of the Division III national poll all season. They finished the season 27-1-3 after beating Trinity College 4-1 in the national championship game on March 25 in Utica, N.Y.
Brandrup is a 2011 Rochester Lourdes graduate who just finished his junior season at Norwich. He was the Cadets' second-leading scoring defenseman with five goals and 15 assists for 20 points in 31 games this season.
"The coaches want me to play defense first," the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Brandrup said, "possess and protect the puck, keep it away from our opponent as much as possible, then be as active (in the offense) as possible once we get it out of our own zone."
The national championship is the fourth for Norwich, which also won in 2000, 2003 and 2010. That success is part of what attracted Brandrup to the program after playing for three junior hockey teams — Fairbanks and Coulee Region in the North American Hockey League, and the Melville Millionaires of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
"I was recruited by assistant coach Steve Mattson; he thought I'd be a good fit," Brandrup said. "Once I heard about their history and style of play, I knew it would be a good fit for me, too.
"The transition from juniors to college, the game is just faster and more controlled. There's a lot of skill and quick puck movement."
Brandrup has more than lived up to his own expectations and those of the coaching staff. He has 12 goals and 44 points in 82 career games. He didn't score in the Frozen Four, but he registered a plus-2 plus/minus rating and four total shots on goal in the two games — a 5-4 overtime victory against Adrian in the semifinals and the win against Trinity in the championship game. He played much of the season on the team's top defensive pairing with senior Cody Smith.
"Just getting to the Frozen Four was unbelievable," he said. "They set us up in a really nice hotel and we played in the rink that Utica's AHL team plays in.
"We were fired up, but we kept our eyes on the prize. We didn't get too swallowed up in the hype. It was an electric atmosphere, unlike anything I've been a part of."
Brandrup said the closest comparison he can make to being in the Frozen Four is playing in the Minnesota state high school tournament three times with Lourdes, from 2009-11.
"I can't say one is better than the other," Brandrup said. "In high school, it was unbelievable to get there with friends I grew up with. We still get together and talk about it."
With 10 freshmen on the Norwich roster this season, Brandrup said the Cadets have their sights set on repeating next year.
"Definitely, that's our next goal," he said, "to do our best to do it again next year."