Just like in every other game St. Dominic Academy has played over the past three seasons, senior forward Brad Berube was on the bench Wednesday during the Saints’ season opener against Scarborough at Norway Savings Bank Arena.
This time, Berube wasn’t wearing a home white sweater like the rest of his team. The St. Dom’s captain instead donned a suit and tie and was limited to providing words of encouragement on the bench.
“Part of being a captain is getting the team going and boost the morale,” Berube said. “It’s kind of hard when you’re not out there and taking the hits with them. But you have to push through it and do what you can.”
It was the first time Berube could recall missing a hockey game, and his presence on the ice was missed.
“He’s a guy that’s been here for four years,” St. Dom’s coach Steve Ouelette said. “He’s been fortunate enough to play in two state championship games. He’s a guy who has a lot of experience and can say, ‘Hey guys we’ve been there and we’ve been through this.’ From that standpoint the team looks up to him. They respect him for what he has to say and what he does by proving himself every day. On the ice, he adds a whole new dimension for us with his speed and playmaking. It just gives us that extra depth.”
Berube was held out of the lineup due to a broken wrist he suffered earlier this fall at a tournament in New Hampshire. Berube said he was hit on the hand by an opponent’s stick during a game, bending his wrist back and causing a bone to break. The injury required surgery, during which a screw was placed in his wrist to allow the injury to heal properly, approximately an eight-week process.
Despite wearing both a brace and a cast on his arm, Berube was on the ice skating with his team when the Saints opened practice back in November. Berube said it wasn’t easy being one handed, but it allowed him to focus on areas he felt needed improvement.
“At the beginning it was tough, but I think it helped my stick handling,” Berube said. “I had to get my left hand stronger than it was. Hopefully I’ll come back stronger than I was before.”
Since then, the cast has been removed and his old brace has been replaced with one that allows movement in his wrist to let him shoot and stick handle.
With Berube participating in practice from the start, Ouellette isn’t worried about his captain’s conditioning. However, rediscovering that chemistry with his linemates may take more than just a game.
“He’s been skating for a while,” Ouellette said. “We’re fine with where he’s going to end up and how many minutes he’s going to play. It’s going to be more how familiar he is with his linemates because he really hasn’t played with these guys consistently. That will probably be the biggest challenge at this point trying to find some chemistry out on the ice.”
Berube returned to the lineup Saturday against Biddeford, his first game action since the injury. When he was sidelined, his leadership role on the ice fell to the three assistants — Caleb Labrie, Mitch Lorenz and Matt Chasse. But having him on the bench helped.
“I feel like we need to be the same every game, all the assistants, because Brad’s always there as a captain,” Lorenz said. “He’s there no matter what even if he’s not on the ice. The role is pretty much the same.”
Despite it being his first game of the year, Berube looked in midseason form against Biddeford and the chemistry with his linemates appeared fine. He tallied three assists, including on Lorenz’s game-tying goal with 4:19 remaining in regulation, and on Austin Roy’s game-winner five seconds into overtime.
Producing in big moments is what the Saints have come to expect from Berube over the years.
“He’s the guy that people look to,” Ouellette said. “He’s the guy when the team’s down he picks them up in some form whether it’s a good play on the ice or a conversation with another player on the bench. It’s earning the respect of other people and that’s what he brings.”
Berube’s first major hockey injury taught him a valuable lesson.
“Don’t take things for granted,” he said. “Go out and give it your hardest.”