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October 23, 2018

8/24/2017 3:54:00 PM
North Branch's Brady Meyer represents USA Hockey in Europe
Above, Meyer (left) and teammates celebrated after a win.
Above, Meyer (left) and teammates celebrated after a win.

Brady Meyer knew from an early age that the sport of hockey would take him so much further than the Fawn Lake confines where he skated as a youngster.

Meyer recently returned from a two week adventure as part of the United States Under-18 Select Team that participated in the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in Breclav, Czech Republic.

The 16-year-old, who grew up in Stacy and has been  part of the North Branch hockey program since he was four years old; is a big, left handed center who has run amok in the Mississippi 8 Conference for the past two years. He’s led a renaissance in North Branch hockey with his six foot, four inch frame, He was a main reason the Vikings turned their team record from 8-19 in 2015 to 19-7-1 last year. Meyer scored 31 goals and dished out 23 assists on the season.

That sterling season led to him playing in a high school section showcase where,  if he played well enough, it would earn him a potential invite to a New York try out for the US Under-18 Select Team. Meyer, like he has at every level he played at, shined and earned an invite.

The camp wasn’t easy for Meyer. “There were 200 kids there broken up into 10 different teams” he said. And despite being a big kid, Meyer admitted most of the players are still stronger than he is. “I think I’m really starting to come into my own with how strong I’m getting, but there’s some tough kids I had to go through. At North Branch, I can carry the puck all the time, but here, guys were on top of you instantly and I had to keep my head up and always be aware.”

Despite his self-critique, the coaches at the camp thought highly enough of Meyer to select him for one of two All-Star teams from that camp field. The final select team would be comprised of players from those two All Star squads.

Meyer said after the game, the coaches brought them into meeting rooms and just read off the names of the players who would be a part of the team, and Meyer was ecstatic when his name was read.

“A lot of the guys picked have put on the USA sweater in other competitions,” he said. “But this would be my first time playing for Team USA.”
In late July, Meyer and the other selected players boarded a nine hour flight to Budapest, Hungary, where they would take on the Hungary U-20 National team in an exhibition to prep for the Ivan Hlinka Cup, which Team USA won 4-2.

After that, they took a short ride over to Bratislava, Slovakia for one more exhibition, against the Slovakia U-18 team. The Americans dominated the game, winning 7-2.

After going 2-0, the Team USA seemed ready for the cup to start, but they ran up against a buzzsaw in Sweden in their opening round game and lost 6-1. “That was a wake up call,” Meyer said. “We quickly realized that we weren’t the best in the world.”

The Americans bounced back for a 2-1 win over Switzerland before falling to the host Czechs 7-3.

That sent them to the fifth place game, where they beat Finland in overtime 4-3.

“It was such an honor to represent my country,” he said after the tournament. “Just throwing on that jersey was such an experience.

The games were played on an Olympic-sized sheet of ice, which is significantly bigger than high school rinks Meyer is used to playing on.  But that doesn’t mean he didn’t pick up plenty of skills to bring back to his North Branch teammates for his junior year. He said they really worked on film study and found the nuances in the game that can make the difference between a goal and a save or a win and a loss.

Meyer has a bright future ahead of him in the sport. He’s been drafted by teams in both the NAHL and the USHL, so either junior league is an option, and he has also already committed to play Division 1 hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, following in the footsteps of fellow North Branch alum and recent Arizona Coyotes-signed Hunter Miska.

Meyer counts Miska as one of his good friends and noted that he talked to him before making the decision to sign with the Bulldogs.

Meyer said he will absolutely be playing his junior year at North Branch, however, and has some lofty goals for the Vikings’ hockey program.  If he has it his way, it would mean ending the season in St. Paul. After that, though, Meyer has plenty of options to sift through pursuing his future hockey career.

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