By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
Travis Brown knows his hockey future is bright. The star defenseman from Rogers is just unsure which surface he will be shining on.
After a junior campaign in which he finished second on the team with 14 goals and fifth in points with 21, Brown – a Michigan Tech recruit – is hoping to land his feet next season in the United States Hockey League.
“It’s up in the air,” said Brown, who was selected by the Tri-City Storm in the 5th round (63rd overall) in last fall’s 2012 USHL Draft. “I’m going to try out for the team at their mini-camp this summer. If things don’t work out, I’m happy returning to Rogers for my senior year.”
This is not the first time Rogers head coach Tim Marchand has coached a player with Division-I aspirations.
Jesse Ramsey (2007-09) was a three-year letter winner at Rogers and is currently a freshman at Air Force Academy. Nick Jensen (2006-08) led the Royals in scoring two straight seasons and recently was named the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s Defensive Player of Year playing for St. Cloud State.
Marchand said he is thrilled to have coached such talented players.
“It’s so fun to see these kids move on to the next level,” Marchand said. “I’ve known Travis ever since mites. As a coach, you want to put these kids into positions they can succeed. To see Jensen get the honor as best defenseman in the WCHA is awesome. Nick has really done the entire community of Rogers proud.”
Both Ramsey and Jensen were part of the 2007 team that was the first Royals team to win the Mississippi 8 conference title.
Their legacy has left an impact on the current team. Brown was part of the 2011-12 conference champions, which posted a perfect 9-0 record and finished the year with 20 wins.
“Winning the conference a year ago was the highlight,” said Brown, who finished with six goals and 23 points his sophomore year. “We had so much firepower. We lost 12 seniors from that team and this past year I tried more to put myself in position to put the puck away.”
His 14 goals could attest to that, but the 6-foot-1, 200 pound blue-liner is not yet ready to compare himself to Jensen.
“Nick’s a great puck moving d-man,” Brown said. “He’s the type of player you want to be like. I play a little different game than him. I’m a little bigger and I like to throw my body around a bit. I like to jump in the offensive rush, but the defensive zone comes first.”
“Travis is a big strong kid who shoots the puck well,” Marchand said. “Both he and Nick are guys that understand the game and see the game so well on the ice. He’s also a great student in the classroom.”
Those attributes landed Brown a full ride Division-I scholarship. He committed to Michigan Tech last October after he and his family took a trip to Houghton last summer.
Brown said he hopes to join the Huskies in 2015-16. But regardless of where he plays this season, he plans on playing at least a year of junior hockey at Tri-City before joining the WCHA – a league that will have an entire new look starting next season.
“The WCHA is losing some teams,” Brown said. “It won’t have quite the same firepower, but it will still be a great conference. Michigan Tech is bringing in a lot of great recruits and when I visited there, I fell in love with the campus.”
No matter where Brown ends up, his future is destined to change. With the loss of eight teams and the addition of six others, the WCHA will have a new look when he eventually joins the Huskies. If he plays juniors, he will get his diploma at a school in Kearney, Nebraska. If he elects to come back his senior year, the Royals will be making the jump next season from Class A to Class AA.
“It will be a challenge moving up,” said Brown, on the Royals moving up to Section 5AA. “It will be a lot closer geographically, shorter bus rides. Teams like Blaine, Centennial and Maple Grove are tough. But it’s nothing the guys can’t handle.”
Marchand knows he has to prepare his team for the jump in classes, regardless if it means life with or without his star defenseman.
“Selfishly as a coach, I would love to have him back,” Marchand said. “He has a shot to play in the USHL and I’m backing his decision 100-percent. Travis has so many tools to offer and I wish him the best no matter where he ends up.”