Brett Beauvais is not a typical newcomer to this year’s Robert Morris University men’s Hockey team. As a graduate transfer, he came to the Colonials with 101 collegiate games under his belt and 20 points. More important than his point total, however, is the fact that he brings 101 games worth of different situations and experiences he’s had to deal with and adapt to at a college level.
He’s had to protect leads with a shutdown defensive presence, and he’s had to push the pace to help his team overcome a deficit. These skills will be very valuable for a Colonials squad looking to push farther than last year’s did, and into the NCAA tournament.
However, there is still a necessary adjustment for him, much like the adjustment a freshman faces when he comes to a new campus. First comes the transition on the ice, where he has to move away from the systems he knew as a Bemidji State Beaver and pick up the way the Colonials play. After a few weeks of practice, an exhibition game and a regular season game, he has adapted to his new team’s style well.
“I really love playing here,” Beauvais said in a phone interview. “The systems are really awesome. It’s really fast-paced and upbeat. Our team really gets up and down the ice, and I think from a fan perspective, it’s a real fun product to watch on the ice. I’m really happy to be a part of it.”
This transition has been especially easy because of his self-described style of play. He is the type of player that thrives in the team’s system.
“I make a good first pass,” he explained. “I can generate some offense from the blueline. I’m a good skater who can move the puck up the ice and just help out with the offense.”
This skill set is something that head coach Derek Schooley noticed as well. Beauvais’ offensive ability as a defender is something that he feels will help the team this year.
“There’s obviously a lot of talent there,” coach Schooley said on a conference call. “We feel that he can help increase our depth and help us move the puck up to our forwards.”
The other aspect of transitioning to a new team is meeting new teammates and adjusting to life on a new campus. Beauvais came to RMU not knowing anyone previously. A few of his former teammates knew some current Colonials from juniors, but other than that he entered into a locker room full of strangers.
There is also the school aspect. Beauvais graduated from Bemidji State with a degree in sports management. He did so in just three years, allowing him to be a graduate transfer on RMU, which allowed him to be eligible to play in games immediately. At RMU, he is working on his master’s degree in instructional leadership.
“I’m really enjoying it here,” he remarked. “The guys have been great, and the coaching staff has been great. My classes are going well, too.”
During the team’s first game this past weekend against Niagara, Beauvais started the game, and played a majority of it paired with team captain Alex Bontje. As the leader of the team, Bontje has a good pulse on the team dynamic. He thinks that his defensive partner has fit in with the Colonials very well.
“He’s done a fantastic job at getting to know everyone,” Bontje said. “He’s a great guy; great player. He will be a great asset to our team this year. He’s had no problem fitting in with the rest of us, and I’m looking forward to playing with him this year and seeing how he can help our team.”
The opportunity to play with not only the team’s leader, but also such an experienced, solid defender has also proved to be very beneficial to Beauvais. Despite only knowing Bontje for a few months, he feels the two have already begun to develop chemistry on the ice.
“I really enjoy playing with him,” he expressed. “He’s definitely an experienced guy. He’s great, a very vocal leader, and I think we have some good chemistry there, too. As the year goes on, hopefully we can keep playing together and get some great chemistry, but I think we are starting off on the right foot.”
As a college hockey veteran, Beauvais brings a lot to the table this year for the Colonials. Of course, his puck-moving ability and defensive skills will be beneficial. Another key aspect, however, is his ability to handle pretty much any situation he and the team may be faced with over the course of the season.
The team was down two goals late in the third period against Niagara, but were able to come back and force overtime before eventually coming up short. Experienced players like Beauvais can play a key role in keeping the team level-headed and focused on playing the right way to achieve success.
“I think you are in a lot of different situations,” he explained. “At the college level, whether it’s being behind a few goals or trying to defend a lead, I think being put in situations already before I came here has made me a better player.”
The fact that he has encountered so many different situations during his career means that he is unlikely to be surprised this year. This idea was reaffirmed during the first conference matchup this past weekend, as the game itself felt like what he was used to.
Despite it being his first game in Atlantic Hockey, the basic elements were the same as his previous games in the WCHA. A few minor noteworthy differences were that the pace was fast, energy levels were high, and there was a lot of offense. These were all things that Beauvais could adjust to easily thanks to his previous experiences.
Another similarity that this RMU team has with his former squad is the presence of a star goalie. For his former team, Michael Bitzer was the standout netminder. At RMU, Francis Marotte leads the way. Both are on the watch list for this year’s Mike Richter Award, given annually to the top men’s college hockey goalie.
As a defender, knowing a goalie like Marotte has is back during a game is something that is very helpful. His competitive nature is also very beneficial to the team as a whole during practice.
“He (Marotte) is a really good goaltender,” he said. “I could tell as soon as I got here when we were doing our captain’s practices. He’s a real competitor … it doesn’t matter if it’s a practice or a game, he’s always giving his best effort. It only makes our team better too having a goalie that’s going to give it his all in practice. He’s a really great talent, and he’s really great to have on our team for sure.”
Since it’s his last year of college hockey, his motivation to make the NCAA tournament is perhaps even higher than it ever has been.
“I think a lot of our team shares the same goals. Obviously we want to win our league,” he reflected. “I think a big goal for a lot of our team, especially the seniors since it’s our last kick at the can, is to make the NCAA tournament.
“We know it doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a process. So every day when we come to the rink for practice and workout, and every weekend when we go in there and play games, we know that’s a big part of getting there.”
This work ethic and attention to detail is something that the entire team has adapted. Coming off a disappointing loss in their first true test as a team, as they know they need to be better in their next chance.
That chance will come against Canisius this upcoming weekend. Given the team’s culture, he knows that the team will be ready to play, and do what is necessary to get a win on the board. After that, they can continue to improve each day and work towards achieving their ultimate goal.
“I think coming here, the biggest thing is this team wants to win, and that’s what we are looking forward to this year, he said. “Nothing less than that, we want to go all the way. The biggest thing in the culture is definitely the winning atmosphere and all the guys pushing each other each day to get better, and it’s fun to be a part of.”