Brandon Prodoehl’s time on Region rinks culminates in leading PNW to national relevance

Brandon Prodoehl’s time on Region rinks culminates in leading PNW to national relevance

Correspondent for the Wes Lukoshus Times

Brandon Prodoehl isn’t the star of his Purdue University Northwest national ice hockey team — just a guy who understood his role in making his team better.

The 22-year-old from Münster has been taking part in the PNW ice hockey program since it was founded in 2019. During his four intercollegiate seasons on the ice, he has played for three head coaches.

Prodoehl was also part of Pride’s transition from Division II of the American College Hockey Association (ACHA) to jump to DI this season, which saw PNW make an unexpected statement of achievement and hold its ground at No. 22 nationally with a 12 -5- 1 record.

While he may not be one of the elite players on a team full of seasoned and proven former junior hockey players, Prodoehl still brings a lot to the rink, tangible and otherwise. In 86 career games with PNW, the 6-foot, 175-pound forward has 35 goals with 37 assists, including seven and six respectively this season and 14 and 17 in the 2021-22 season.

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“He’s someone who shows up every day, goes to work and doesn’t complain,” said Carl Trosien, PNW’s first-year head coach. “He understands the game; For the first two weeks here, I kept asking myself, ‘Where does this kid fit in?’ It didn’t take long for it to become obvious.”

Trosien, who joined PNW this fall after four seasons at ACHA DI conference rival Grand Valley State (MI), continued: “[Brandons]isn’t the fastest or the purest skater, and he’s not flashy, but mechanical he is pretty good and he’s got a lot on his mind offensively; He scored some big goals for us.”

Case in point: his game-changing record on December 2 against Adrian (MI) College, the national second-ranked opponent in the Great Lakes College Hockey League, in a contest PNW eventually lost 4-3.

“I got a penalty three minutes after the start of the game,” Prodöhl recalled. “It was a bad penalty and I didn’t play the rest of the (first) period. But when I got back on the ice in the second period, I scored the equalizer. I had to find a way to help my team after my first period mistake.”

When asked what he brings to the rink, Prodöhl said, “I would describe myself as a utility player. There’s nothing I’m great at, but there’s also nothing I can’t do. I don’t have to be a star. I’m just trying to embrace what is necessary to help our team.”

Trosien added: “Brandan’s hockey IQ is high; He has a knack for knowing where the puck is going to go and then getting where it needs to be. He makes his teammates better. He’s what I call ‘devious good’.”

Although Prodoehl was an accomplished high school-level scorer and had 19 goals in 43 games in his senior year, he had not planned to pursue college hockey until his first PNW coach, Kevin Cole, briefed him on PNW’s plan to to launch its program in 2019.

“I was planning to go to college near where I live,” Prodoehl said. “When (Cole) invited me to come out for the new team at PNW, I decided to give it a try. I was excited to play but had no ambitions as to what to expect. Now, over four seasons, we’ve gotten better and better every year. It was a fun ride.”

Prodoehl credits PNW’s continued growth and development to the program’s ability to attract an increasing number of talented student athletes. Though a more competitive squad has reduced their minutes on the ice, Prodoehl, who normally rotates between the second and third rows, says it’s not a problem for him.

“Wherever I’m needed, that’s all right with me; I know what I have to offer,” he said. “I came here as a goalscorer; My job now is more to make sure we don’t get hit and net a few when the opportunity arises.

“As a freshman, I spent time figuring out my role. But since we have hired better players every year and this year we have moved up to DI, I can do what is best for our team.”

Prodoehl admits PNW’s rise from D-II to DI this season has been eye-opening.

“There’s more speed and scale in DI,” he said. “We don’t have the speed and size of some opponents but we make up for that by playing smart and learning from our mistakes. At the beginning of this season we played Adrian back-to-back. The first night they brought it to us, 10-1. We learned a lot that night and knew we had to adapt. We played hard against them the next day and lost by a goal.”

“In DI, every player is good, so it’s important to position yourself – to be in the right place – and to move the puck.”

One of just two seniors on a team made up mostly of freshmen, Prodoehl is also a welcome voice of sanity for his younger PNW teammates, according to his coach.

“He’s really popular — a great locker room guy,” said Trosien, last season’s Great Lakes Collegiate Hockey League Coach of the Year. “He has a way of calming things down; He takes care of the younger ones and explains to them what it’s like here at PNW, both on the ice and at school. He’s not one of our team captains, but he’s absolutely a leader. He’s quiet, but when he speaks it’s worth hearing what he says.”

Prodoehl’s veteran knowledge and experience could prove particularly beneficial in the second half of a marathon ACHA-DI season that began in late September and will continue through mid-March with post-season games.

According to Trosien, his surprise squad, now enjoying a welcome break until January 20, is quietly positioning itself for a possible national tournament spot. Twenty teams qualify.

“It will be interesting where we end up,” he said. “Second-placed Adrian is the team to beat for our conference championship and automatic tournament bid. But if we finish 17th or 18th in the (national) ranking, we would also have a chance to qualify.

“I’m impressed with what the PNW athletic department has done to put such a competitive DI team on the ice. If someone had asked me if we would be in the position we are in in our first DI season, I would have said, ‘No way’, because at this level it takes time.”

As for Prodoehl, while he has another hockey credential should he choose to do so, his business administration degree is also due next December. So as he weighs his options, he looks forward to enjoying what’s left of his PNW career as a student and athlete.

“I’ve had great experiences,” he said. “The friendships I’ve made just hanging out with the guys, all the people I’ve met, and PNW’s athletic-academic support program have been helpful. I’m glad I got the chance to come to school and play hockey here. I was not expecting that.”

Coach Trosien said: “When all is said and done I hope Brandon will be proud of what he has achieved here. He’s seen this thing (program) grow. In four years he is approaching a hundred points in his career. Playing four years of college hockey with (almost) 100 points is a good run.”

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