For some people, senior year of college is the last chance to be young and crazy, and do those things you might never get a chance to do later in life. For men’s ice hockey’s senior forward Brandon Wong, it’s the last chance to prove himself in the college hockey world and propel his team deep into the postseason.
“I just feel like since it’s my last year, things have to be done,” Wong said following his team’s 3-2 overtime victory over Bentley on Saturday.
The Victoria, British Columbia, native showed he had the ability to get things done early on in his time at Quinnipiac. Wong took the country by storm back in the 2006-07 season when he led Quinnipiac with 27 goals, and has been a go-to player for the Bobcats since his arrival. Many fans were surprised by Wong’s offensive prowess as a freshman, but Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold knew that even at a young age, Wong was a special player.
“The first time I ever saw [Wong], he was 16, just a young kid in the BCHL [British Columbia Hockey League],” Pecknold said. “I didn’t see him again until two years later when he had really blossomed into one of the big time players there, and it was pretty obvious that he was a great scorer. He had a great knack for being in the right place at the right time, and you could tell he was going to be a high-end player at our level.”
The Bobcats’ soft-spoken assistant captain attributes his success on the ice to his lifelong love of the game, and remembers learning to move on skates only shortly after learning to move on his feet.
“I started when I was about 2-and-a-half, 3 years old, just skating around with my family,” Wong said. “I would always play road hockey every day with my friends, just consistently every day, even with my mom and dad.”
Wong spent his youth playing for many teams at different levels of junior hockey before finally being recruited to play at Quinnipiac. Despite being more than 3,000 miles away from home, the change in scenery wasn’t as difficult for Wong to adapt to as some might think.
“It is a big change for anyone like me going across the country, or not even the country because it’s a totally different country,” Wong said. “But I moved away from home when I was 16 to play hockey, so at a young age I was used to it anyway.”
Another player who found himself in the same spot as Wong is senior forward, and current team captain Jean-Marc Beaudoin. Wong and Beaudoin have been linemates for most of their time at Quinnipiac, and their success on the ice has been helped by their friendship off the ice.
“We were roommates as freshmen in the dorms here, and we’ve had a lot of chemistry on the ice right from the get-go,” Beaudoin said. “He’s got great character and leadership. We’ve been together on the team for four years now, and not a lot of guys can say that. I’ve been very fortunate to play with such a skillful guy.”
But while freshman year couldn’t have been better for Wong, his sophomore season left much to be desired. Following his breakout season in his first year, his goal production dramatically decreased to just 13 tallies in the 2007-08 campaign – 14 fewer than the year before. Pecknold felt that there were a couple of factors that lead to Wong’s struggles that year.
“I think two things happened: teams started to key in on him, and they would put their checking line on him, and not on the [Jamie] Bates-[Mark] Nelson-[Bryan] Leitch line, which opened up things for those guys,” Pecknold said. “But the second thing is that Wong just didn’t compete as hard his sophomore year as he did his freshman year.”
Wong was itching to prove that his freshman season wasn’t a fluke, but a mid-season injury sidelined him until the playoffs. He showed his value to the team with two overtime, game-winning goals to propel Quinnipiac past Colgate in the first round of the postseason before ultimately losing to St. Lawrence. After having such success early on at the collegiate level, there’s no question Wong has faced his share of adversity.
“It’s definitely been a rollercoaster, but I don’t regret one bit of it,” Wong said. “It’s just the way hockey is, the way life is. There’s ups and downs. It’s just how you handle it and I think I’ve done a good job.”
“He’s been through a lot, coming from such a high his freshman year, and getting pounded and pounded down into the ground,” Beaudoin said. “He’s grown so much, and I think you’re going to see him do things this year that you haven’t seen him do before.”
Wong’s journey has now nearly come full circle. Once a young freshman phenom, he is now the assistant captain on a team full of young players in need of veteran leadership. He is wearing the ‘A’ on his jersey this season for the Bobcats, and while Wong isn’t the type of guy to get in a player’s face or raise his voice in the locker room, his captain couldn’t be more thrilled.
“I think he’s more of a leader by example, but he leads well,” Beaudoin said. “He does it on the ice and does it in the gym. He’s a hard worker, and for all of these 13 freshmen to see that is huge. It’s a lot of weight off my shoulders to have another leader like that.”