Brice ready to take the next step with Huskies
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of features nicknamed “Tech Tomorrow” where we will be featuring incoming Michigan Tech athletes.
HOUGHTON – When the Michigan Tech Huskies hockey team takes to the ice this fall, a familiar local name will be joining the ranks in Raymond Brice from Houghton. A speedy forward with skilled hands, Brice could provide a spark to the Huskies offense while also being responsible defensively.
A 2014 graduate of Houghton High School, Brice is excited about the opportunity to play for the team he grew up watching as a child.
“Growing up, obviously, that is your dream to play at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena in front 4-5,000 people there,” said Brice. “It was always my dream.”
Brice scored 134 points in his final two seasons with the Gremlins on the strength of 74 goals in 52 games. However, the one thing he never had the chance to accomplish was a state title. However, he still felt he learned much from head coach Corey Markham and his staff.
“Corey did a nice job,” said Brice. “Just playing in front of your high school. I could have probably gone and played somewhere else, but it all worked out in the end. I’m glad looking back now. It worked out perfect.
“I met a lot of good people and a lot of good coaches. I think I needed four years there developing, becoming bigger, stronger and faster.”
The transition from high school to juniors was a major change for Brice, who had been used to be one of the most talented skaters on the ice.
Playing for the Soo Eagles in 2014-15, Brice had to learn how to think the game at the North American Hockey League level. That first season, he played in 57 games, scoring just eight goals and 20 points. While the offense did not come as quickly as it did before, Brice learned much about how to think and approach the game.
“That year was more about getting me ready for the second year,” said Brice. “It was all about learning the little details of the game and getting my confidence up, being stronger down in the corners, finishing hits. [It’s really about] fine tuning your game.”
Normally, when players end up playing for multiple teams during their junior career, they are subject to trades as a team prepares to make a deep playoff run. Brice experienced something completely different for his second season. The Eagles moved their franchise from Sault Ste. Marie to Middleton, New Jersey.
With a new head coach at the helm in Rich McKenna, the Titans looked to Brice as one of eight returning players to help the way. He relished the opportunity to be a leader.
“It was a great experience,” said Brice. “It got me farther from home, see more of the world. It was awesome. The new staff was great.
“I liked that job, being a leader and a role model for the younger guys. I think I fit better in those situations. It puts more pressure on you, but I think that is one of the best parts of the game.”
In 57 games with the Titans, Brice scored 21 goals and 36 points. After starting hot and scoring 17 points in his first 17 games, he struggled to score points through the middle of the season. After committing to Michigan Tech, Brice saw his production return down the home stretch, as he scored 11 points over his last 18 games, including a pair of goals in a 7-3 win over Kenai River on March 18.
Growing up in the Houghton area, Brice enjoyed going to Michigan Tech hockey games despite the fact that the program struggled. Now, as a freshman, he is excited about the possibility of helping head coach Mel Pearson and his staff lead the Huskies back to the NCAA Tournament after missing the chance last season.
“It was a no-brainer,” said Brice. “When Mel called me, it was tough to say no. It’s a great program.”
Brice has had the opportunity to get to meet some of his teammates already, and feels he should be able to fit in.
“All the guys are real nice,” Brice. “It’s been a smooth transition so far. I’ve become pretty close with some of the guys.”
When asked who he models his game after, Brice suggested his game is very similar to Ryan O’Reilly, a center with the Buffalo Sabres. O’Reilly is a speedy center who plays a strong two-way game with good hands and a terrific attitude, according to Erik K. Piri of eliteprospects.com.
O’Reilly was a second-round draft choice of the Colorado Avalanche, and scored 21 goals and 60 points last season in his Sabres debut.
Brice possesses high end speed, and that should come in handy at the NCAA Division I level. He has learned to think the game as fast as he skates, and that should give the Huskies a couple of forwards, along with sophomore Jake Jackson, who give the Huskies the type of speed necessary to make life difficult for opposing defenders.