West Xtra: Blackhawk senior forward finally healthy and scoring stats show it

HOCKEY

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Since he was young, Blackhawk's Daren Braudis said he has felt pain in his elbow.

That pain became even worse this past baseball season, so Braudis decided to have surgery in the summer to remove a mass in that sore elbow.

Now, this senior forward is healthier than he's ever been and showing it on the ice.

Braudis is second in the PIHL Open Division with 16 goals and 27 points, helping Blackhawk to a 5-1 record early in the season.

"I'm not in pain anymore," Braudis said. "That's the big thing. It's not a distraction anymore."

After the surgery, Braudis didn't start practicing until September and admitted that he was rusty and that it took awhile for him to get back in playing shape.

Then in the first game of the season, he was held scoreless in the Cougars' only loss, a 4-2 setback against Morgantown.

But since then, he has been on an absolute tear. In the past five games, Braudis has scored at least six points four times, scored four goals three different times and netted a hat trick in one other game.

"The credit goes to my teammates," Braudis said. "They create chances and I end up with the puck in front of the net."

Braudis enjoys playing in front of the net and doing the dirty work for the team, using his 6-foot, 195-pound frame to muscle his way through his opponents.

"He is built like a hockey player," Blackhawk coach Matt Stuber said. "He's a big kid and has a lot of speed and a lot of power."

Braudis was the team's leading scorer last season with 26 goals and 11 assists on a team that went 6-12-2 and lost in the first round of the Nailers Cup playoffs, the postseason tournament for teams that play in the Open Division.

But, in addition to Braudis, the team returned its next three top scorers in Josh McCuean, Nicholas Gray and Kyle Schaefer. The four players have combined for 34 of the team's 41 goals this season.

Although the players are the same, the coach is new. Matt Stuber returns to high school hockey after coaching with the Junior Penguins the past five seasons. He was Beaver's head coach before that. Braudis said Stuber is a big reason for the team's early success.

"We play more of a system now," Braudis said. "We click better now and we're more disciplined. He expects a lot out of us and we work our [tails] off every time we are out there."

hsother


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