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Obstacles, challenges create new opportunities for Halverson |

Patrick Features Writer

Goalie for the Syracuse Crunch Brandon Halverson face down stress – real stress, the kind where you wonder if anything is going to go well again.

You don’t know exactly where your career and life are headed, but it sure doesn’t seem to be in an encouraging direction.

Halverson talks candidly about the many career challenges that eventually led him to work on the farm instead of tending the nets, which he did one-handed while recovering from wrist surgery.

So hockey pressure? Even play hockey? After all he’s been through, Halverson has shown he can handle stress.

“It means everything to me,” Halverson said of his time with the Crunch. “It’s been a long, hard, very hard road.”

Go back a decade, and hockey was good for Halverson. He was 18 when the New York Rangers made him a second-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. By age 20, he had represented the United States twice at the IIHF World Junior Championship, winning a bronze medal in 2016.

He began his pro career in the ECHL, but logged 26 AHL games as a rookie with the Hartford Wolf Pack. By the second year, he had made his NHL debut. Sure, it was just 12 minutes of relief in a 6-3 loss in Ottawa, but it was helpful for the future Hockey Hall of Famer. Henrik Lundqvist. How many 21-year-olds – or anyone else for that matter – can apply?

Halverson’s future looked bright. But slowly his path began to deviate from those NHL prospects. He struggled up the depth chart in the Rangers organization. He spent 2019-20 with ECHL Norfolk. With his career in tatters, Halverson admits he was “going through really tough mental battles for me, and the stress and pressure I was going to put on myself to get that second-round pick. [status] it was really hard.”

The 2020-21 campaign was a tumultuous one for all of hockey, of course, and Halverson’s season was limited to four appearances in the ECHL with Wheeling.

Stress builds and builds.

“When things go bad, they’re going to go bad in my mind,” Halverson said.

A high-ankle sprain ended his season in Wheeling. A knee operation was performed. Wrist surgery, too.

In 2021-22, he did not play at all as he recovered. He got a job outside of hockey. He did what needed to be done.

“It [stinks],” Halverson said. “You go from playing hockey, stressing about things, and then you go into the real world. That’s real stress. Playing the game is not that bad.”

Halverson found work on a hundred-acre farm doing manual labor, whatever needed to be done. His first time there, he was still in a cast and couldn’t use his left hand. That’s a problem when you’re trying to fit 150-pound rugs into a horse barn you’re building, or cut through thick rubber with a razor knife. But he found a way. Life slowly began to change for Halverson. He began to learn more about his religion. He began to look at life differently, seeing those obstacles, no matter how unpleasant, as blessings.

“This [challenge] another opportunity that I get,” explained Halverson with that change in mind, “another challenge that God has given me to work on, and if I understand this and I’m on the other side, I’ll be a representative. a better man, a better goalkeeper, a better person because of it. I started looking at life in a very different way, and that helped me a lot.

“It was strange. I had a great time being thankful for the life I have and how much worse it could be right now. That kind of changed the course for me in the way I looked at things. Even if you are facing the worst situation of your life, it is not so bad. It could always be worse. I took that and continued to grind. I felt like my whole career I had just been kicked in the teeth time after time, scene after scene, and I just knew something was going to happen and I was going to get rewarded somehow. I didn’t give up, and I kept pushing.”

Through all of Halverson’s obstacles, he has had a great team around him. He had his father (“He’s the reason I’m here today and doing all these things and rebranding myself”) and his family of builders as sounding boards. And I’m from Traverse City, Mich., there’s a strong bond between players from the area.

Former pro forward Kyle Jean, who played in Hartford before Halverson, offered someone who was willing to listen. Halverson’s old coach Jeremy Kaleniecki he’s had an ear when he’s had a few breakdowns this season, watching video and offering comments. Orlando (ECHL) goalie coach. Nathan Craze helped Halverson get his game back together. Jon Elkin, now the director of goaltending for the Pittsburgh Penguins, was Halverson’s goaltending coach with Sault Ste. Marie for some time and the relationship continued with them doing offseason work together.

“I really wouldn’t be where I am without these guys,” Halverson said. “I’m very grateful and grateful to everyone to get to this point.”

Before the 2022-23 season, the opportunity with Orlando – Tampa Bay’s ECHL affiliate – is fading. Halverson managed to get a contract with Bayreuth, a team that plays in the second division of Germany. It was the only offer he had received, so he took it. However, he only played 17 games, failing to make another contract elsewhere this season a sure bet.

But finally something came up. Orlando gave him a shot this time. It was a job, but it also got him into the Lightning organization on time Andrei Vasilevsky he was expected to miss the start of the season, resulting in a drop on the organization’s depth chart.

“I knew I had the tools,” Halverson said. “I knew I had the skills. I needed someone who would believe in me and help me and work with me.”

Working with Craze, there were a lot of videos, a lot of stick tests. Halverson was called up to Syracuse on November 7, and three days later he played his first AHL game in nearly four years. The next night started at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and he made 26 saves in a 6-3 victory. His first AHL shutout, another 26 save effort, came Nov. 24 against Utica – the same night Vasilevskiy returned to action against Tampa Bay.

But Halverson made an impression, enough to earn him a two-year AHL contract with the Crunch. Nevertheless, with Vasilevskiy and healthy, Matt Tomkins headed down to Syracuse and Halverson returned to Orlando. He made a few trips back to Syracuse, but when Tomkins was called back by Tampa Bay in early April, Halverson found himself named the Crunch’s head coach. Joel Bouchard as Syracuse battles for the North Division title below.

There was a 3-1 win at Laval on April 5. He scored a point for the Crunch with 28 stops at home against Toronto on April 12. A flawless appearance the following night, he scored another point for the Crunch in the finals loss. The Marlies. On April 19 in Utica, his assist work (19 saves) helped the Crunch rally to win 4-3.

Overall, Halverson finished 7-3-3 with a 2.18 goals against average and a .913 save percentage in his 14 games with the Crunch. And when it was time for the Crunch to start their postseason against Rochester, Bouchard went with Halverson. Through seven playoff games, he has a 2.19 goals against average and a .916 save percentage.

With as much self-belief as Halverson has, he has also earned that belief from his teammates.

“He’s always working,” Go ahead Cole Koepke said. “You watch his video in these games. He has recorded voices that he practices and watches. He always wants to be better. He always wants to stay on the ice and take more shots.”

No matter what happens next, Halverson will keep pushing. Always stay. He still has NHL prospects.

If he returns to the NHL one day, he wants to earn his first start.

“I always knew,” said Halverson, “and the only thing that kept me alive was the dream and the knowledge that something was going to break.” I will be rewarded somehow. I have to keep working hard, and that has been my mindset all this time.

“If there is no light, you have to make your own.”

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