The University of Maine men’s hockey coaching staff is continuing to rebuild its defense corps after losing four regulars off last season’s team.
Dawson Bruneski, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound defenseman from Camrose, Alberta, has verbally committed to attend UMaine on a scholarship this fall.
Bruneski, who made the move from forward to defense a year and a half ago, posted three goals and 13 assists in 41 games for the Drumheller Dragons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League last season.
“He is a 200-foot defenseman,” said Kevin Hasselberg, the head coach and general manager of the Dragons.
“He is a very good skater who likes to jump up into the rush. He defends hard as well. I compare him to Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins,” Hasselberg said.
Hasselberg said Bruneski, who quarterbacked the Drumheller power play, is committed to becoming a defenseman and uses his strength to overcome any size deficiencies.
Bruneski, who turns 20 in June, said he was sold on UMaine when he visited Orono.
“[I liked] the whole campus, how hockey is the main sport, the facilities, the history of it, all the [well-known] alums,” said Bruneski, who also was impressed with the coaching staff and the game atmosphere at Alfond Arena.
UMaine lost defensemen Rob Michel, Keith Muehlbauer and Sam Becker to graduation and sophomore Brady Keeper signed with the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers.
“It’s a huge opportunity for me,” Bruneski said.
Alexis Binner, who was a sophomore, and freshmen Simon Butala and Jakub Sirota will return along with Veli-Matti Tiukraniemi, who played only six games last winter due to injury, and sophomore Cam Spicer.
University of Wisconsin transfer J.D. Greenway, a third-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Levi Kleiboer, who is from Saskatchewan, are the other newcomers to the program.
Bruneski said he is comfortable on defense now and feels his skating ability and hockey IQ will help him make the jump from Junior hockey to college hockey.
“The team comes first [for Bruneski],” Hasselberg said. “He wants to make the team stronger. He would do anything for anybody else. He is well-respected.”
Bruneski said his time spent as a forward has helped his offensive game on the blue line and that he takes tremendous pride in blocking shots.
“I want to come in and have an impact as soon as possible so I can help the team out as much as I can,” he said.
His participation at UMaine is dependent upon his being accepted by the school and meeting NCAA eligibility requirements.