Athlete of the Week: Bartlett’s Bradley Beals stands out for sticking around
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Prep hockey star Bradley Beals folded on playing for his Tier I comp hockey program, Team Alaska, and pushed all of his chips in on Bartlett High School.
The Alaska School Activities Association, the governing body for high school sports in the state, prohibits hockey players in grades 10-12 on a high school hockey team from competing on a non-school team beginning from the first game of the season until the school’s final game is played.
Beals, lined up to play for 18U Team Alaska AAA, was faced with this decision ahead of his senior season and elected to skate with his high school team rather than his comp team, which has spent the winter competing in out-of-state tournaments in front of junior hockey and collegiate scouts.
“It was a tough decision, but kind of the right one to make for me, since my parents had gone to Bartlett and Dad played for the high school hockey team,” Beals said ahead of practice. “So for them to see me play with the little brother, that was the most fun and this was more fun than a comp team at the time.”
As the lone senior, Beals is the leader of the Golden Bears.
“He basically is a mentor to all the kids in the locker room, you know, on the buses and just in general,” Bartlett hockey head coach Mike Vandenbos said. “All of the kids look up to him, you know, he’s an inspiration to the team.”
However, he hasn’t mentored anyone longer than his freshman brother, Dylan, as they finally get to share the ice together for the first time as teammates.
“When I started hockey, I didn’t really like it a lot, I would just cry the whole time,” Dylan recalled. “But having my older brother as inspiration ... he helped me to keep going and to be where I am right now.”
It is those moments that make it worth it for Beals, despite knowing what he left on the table and what situation he was heading into.
“There’s not many kids in this city I think that would give up a Tier I program to come play for a team like Bartlett that has got low numbers, we don’t win very many games, if we win any,” Vandenbos said.
The Golden Bears haven’t won a Cook Inlet Conference game in four years, though they were able to win an exhibition against Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School earlier this season.
“For Bartlett hockey, it was huge,” Beals said of the victory. “With the past four years, the administration hadn’t seen a win ... but for them to see that win for the first time in the past four years, although it didn’t count like I said, it was huge for the team.”
Carrying a heavy load for Barlett would be an understatement. Beals has scored or assisted on 17 of the team’s 20 goals this year, including a league-high of 12 goals. The 6-foot-1 senior has skated in every minute of every game so far this season, having not taken a shift off, which Beals sees as an opportunity for conditioning.
“I would imagine he’s probably in better shape than any player in the league right now,” Vandenbos said with a laugh. “... Over the three years, I’ve never heard him complain once. There are nights where we get beat up pretty bad — we got beat almost 20-0, 20-1 by Service and still you know, when we get off the ice, there is no complaints. ... He tells everyone they did a good job, they’re putting their effort in and ... that’s hard to do after you have had a hard night at the rink.”
As a Division I hopeful, Beals knew the impact his decision may have on his future.
“It is almost like the make-or-break years of your life, or hockey career. And I took a risk on it, playing high school hockey, but I feel that I still have enough time left to make that development and still get my name noticed by either juniors or scouts out there,” he said.
“We have kind of emphasized that you have got to be a Tier I player to get to the next level,” Vandenbos added. “And I think he’s going to the next level, regardless whether he is on that team or not.”
Beals and Bartlett will skate through the end of January before he can rejoin his comp hockey team.
“I am having a lot more fun with my decision and I do not regret a thing,” he said.
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