When Dylan Fitzpatrick was a freshman at Brewer High School, he and his older brother, Devin, had their father, Mike, build them a shooting gallery behind their house.
“He made it with plexiglass and stuff. My brother and I would go out and shoot pucks every night. We’d play [accuracy shooting] games,” said the younger Fitzpatrick.
That has paid dividends.
Senior center Fitzpatrick has scored 116 goals in his four years at Brewer and his 25 goals this season lead the state’s Class A programs at the Tier 1 [top] level. The Tier 1 level refers to long-established hockey programs.
The 18-year-old Fitzpatrick scored 34 goals two years ago when the Witches claimed their first state championship with a 4-3 overtime win over Greely of Cumberland Center in the Class B title game. His six postseason goals tied with Reid McLaughlin for the team-high.
That was the highlight of Fitzpatrick’s career to date.
“And to be able to share it with my brother made it even better. The greatest thing was us having our picture taken with the trophy. I had always wanted to share a moment like that with him,” said Fitzpatrick, who had 23 goals as a freshman and 34 last season.
This season, he has 19 assists to go with his 25 goals and his 44 points are nine more than his linemate, Ryan Nadeau, and Waterville’s Eric Aldrich.
Fitzpatrick credits a lot of his success to right wing Nadeau.
“Ryan and I have been linemates since Bantams. That’s at least six years, if not more,” said Fitzpatrick. “That has helped a lot. When you play with somebody that long, you get to know where each other is going to be. It enables you to play your game.”
Nadeau said Fitzpatrick has always had a knack for scoring.
“He has a quick release and an eye for the net. It’s like he knows what the goalie is going to do when he shoots. He’s an outstanding hockey player,” said Nadeau.
“He has great hands and great vision,” said John Bapst senior center Casey Hull. “I don’t know if anybody has an answer for him. He has a nose for the net. He’s hard to contain.”
Brewer goalie Eric White has to face Fitzpatrick every day in practice and said, “He has one of the most accurate shots I’ve seen in a long time. And he can get it off [quickly] from anywhere.”
Fitzpatrick said being surrounded by good players has been a big plus.
“If you’re the leading scorer in the state, you have to have someone working with you. You can’t do it on your own. I’ve always had someone to pass to and I knew I’d get the puck back. What’s the point of being selfish with the puck?” said Fitzpatrick, who feels he has improved each year.
“I’m stronger and little bit quicker now,” said the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Fitzpatrick. “I’m always working on my stride. I’m obviously not the fastest kid out there, but I’ve got hands and I’ve developed my stickhandling. I keep my head up and know where the play is. I know what’s going to happen and that really helps me.”
He said Maine assistant coach Dan Kerluke’s summer hockey camps have been helpful in the development of his skating stride. And he intends to keep going to them.
“They’re the best camps I’ve ever been to,” said Fitzpatrick, who draws a lot of attention from opposing teams.
“If you give him the puck in the slot, he’s going to capitalize most of the time,” said Lewiston senior defenseman Jake Brown. “You always have to be aware when he’s on the ice.”
Fitzpatrick has worked on becoming a two-way player instead of just a point-producer.
“You have to be a two-way player. You shouldn’t rely on your teammates to do it all for you [defensively]. You need everyone to come back [to the defensive zone], and you’ve got to know your position,” said Fitzpatrick.
“He has been hustling a lot to get back. That has helped us out,” said Nadeau.
Brewer senior defenseman Andy Bush said Fitzpatrick is tough to handle in one-on-one situations.
“He has all these moves. His stick will go one way and his body will go another. He’s shifty and he’s very strong. It’s hard to get him off the puck,” said Bush.
Brewer coach Bill Schwarz said Fitzpatrick has improved “tremendously” in all areas.
“Nobody else around can handle the puck like he does,” said Schwarz.
Fitzpatrick, who also plays baseball and began playing football several years ago to “toughen me up” for hockey, wants to play college hockey someday but isn’t sure which route he’ll take.
“If I want to eventually play Division I, I’ve got to play junior hockey for a few years. To go away and not be able to take college classes would be hard to do. But if you really love the game, it’s something you have to do,” said Fitzpatrick, who could also play at a nonscholarship Division III school.