In college hockey, talent and skill can take a player a long way. But Michigan hockey players will tell you that it takes hard work and determination to get beyond that level.
These are the words by which Michigan junior defenseman Brad Fraser lives. Through hard work and consistent play, Fraser has earned a spot on the ice that was not originally his.
“I was hoping for this opportunity, and fortunately I have been able to make the best of it so far,” Fraser said.
Fraser was inserted into the lineup for the Northern Michigan series and has retained his spot, playing in eight games thus far. This season, Michigan”s coaches have been blessed with more defenseman than they know what to do with. But what they have in depth, they”ve lacked in consistency.
The defense looked impenetrable when the Wolverines swept Alaska-Fairbanks, allowing just one goal in the two games. But it looked sloppy against No. 1 Minnesota when the team allowed three goals in the first seven minutes.
Because of this up and down play, the Wolverines have struggled to find defensive pairings to play on a regular basis. But Brad Fraser”s solid play has made the situation slightly easier for the coaches.
“Brad Fraser has been a pleasant surprise,” said assistant coach Mel Pearson. We weren”t counting on him to play as well as he has, but he has outplayed a couple of the kids who we thought were going to be solid.
“The thing with Brad is that he”s got to give you his hardest effort every night he doesn”t have much room for error.”
Of course, Fraser knows this as well as anybody. Since he joined the team, he has always had to put forth his best effort in order to play. Fraser, who is from West Bloomfield, joined the team as a freshman walk-on.
“My coach called (Michigan assistant coach) Billy (Powers) and Mel (Pearson) and asked if there was a possibility of a tryout,” Fraser said. “As school got closer, one Michigan defenseman became ineligible and another left to go to Niagara, so a spot just kind of opened up for me. I was in the right place in the right time.”
Fraser played in 19 games as a freshman, and recorded his first career point on Oct. 6 of that year an assist against Notre Dame. The most valuable part of his freshman season, he says, was what he learned from the experienced players.
“I learned a lot freshman year. It was a great year to watch and learn from (Jeff) Jillson, (Dave) Huntzicker and (Jay) Vancik. I got a better sense of how to play defense.”
When Huntzicker, a senior, went down with an injury early the next season, it was a golden opportunity for Fraser to step in. Unfortunately, injuries to both his knees kept him out of all but 13 games that season.
“It was kind of a downer,” Fraser said. “I was hoping to step in and show what I had, but it wasn”t the time for me.”
Entering this season, Fraser was once again in a position where he had to regain his spot in the everyday lineup. But he has done just that, and doesn”t intend to go anywhere.
Although he may not be the most talented defensive player on the team, Fraser, along with the rest of the Michigan hockey players, knows that talent can only take you so far.
“If you work hard and prove to coaches that you can do the job, they”re going to give you a chance. They don”t care who it is or if they”re on scholarship or not, that”s what they believe.”