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February 20, 2006 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Cats' Man Named Brady

Leisenring Returns From Injury to Lead Vermont in First Season of Hockey East Play

by Matthew Conyers/CHN Correspondent

BURLINGTON, Vt. — For as long as Brady Leisenring can remember he was
always watching the Vermont Catamounts. It was his family's little ritual. Call it Weekend's at Gutterson.

However, somewhere along the line, Leisenring stopped being content with just watching. No, he wanted something more. He yearned for the satisfaction only an athlete can know. So, what did Leisenring do? Oh, he just made it his mission to wear the Catamount green.

His parents should have seen it coming. Heck, for most of his adolescent days, Brady was a fixture at UVM hockey camps. But that wasn't the tell-tale sign was it? No. See Brady grew up watching Vermont in their glory days with Catamount legends like Tim Thomas, John Leclair, Martin St. Louis and Ian Boyce, to name a few, coming through the turnstiles. The soft-spoken Leisenring was experiencing college hockey history first hand and as a native of
Stowe, Vt., nonetheless.

Now though, more than six years removed from those days, it is Leisenring's turn to return the Catamounts back to the promised land.

"I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to come here after growing up and seeing Martin St. Louis, Tim Thomas play," said Leisenring, who is currently spearheading the Catamount attack in his fifth and
final year with the team. "What we are trying to do this year is get that atmosphere back, that is what our mission is this year. And I think we have been doing that."

Vermont's ascendence back to prominence has been almost as swift as its decline. From Frozen Four, to hazing scandal five years later, and five years after, now in the Hockey East and playing like a program to be reckoned with again.

In their first season in Hockey East, the Catamounts have not only turned a few heads but sparked the attention of the national polls. For much of the season, Vermont has been ranked in the top ten in both national polls.

Leisenring, a three-time assistant captain, believes the Catamounts' play this season is no hoax. At the end of last year's final postseason run in the ECAC, according to Leisenring, Vermont made a commitment to come out and take
Hockey East by storm.

"We had 75 percent of our guys here all summer working out with our strength and conditioning coach," said Leisenring. "We made that sacrifice a while ago to try and make a statement in Hockey East. We were real excited to be in the league, so obviously we wanted to be as prepared as possible."

Finishing in third place in the ECAC after a raucous tournament run, the Catamounts felt poised to take on the big dogs in Boston, Orono and Durham.

"I think it was the way team finished last year down the stretch in the ECAC that made us hungry for this year," said Leisenring. "We took the positives and the motivation from that and carried it on to this season."

As the Hockey East regular season winds to an end the Catamounts are shoe-ins for a quarterfinal match up in the league's postseason tournament. To be exact, Vermont resides in sixth place with a record of 18-10-4 and 10-9-4 in league action, four points away from UNH and Providence, who are tied for fourth place.

"I think you're going to see a great finish out of our team this season," said Leisenring. "We're going to battle it out to the finish."

Being able to watch Vermont legends like Thomas and Boyce has sparked Leisenring throughout his entire career including this season. In fact, Leisenring wears No. 11 in honor of Boyce, who made a mark for the Catamounts in 1989.

"Ian Boyce was my favorite player growing up," said Leisenring. "When I was in elementary school he took the time to talk me and encourage me when I went down to the locker room. He was such a positive influence and I wanted to be like him.

"When you're a kid you idolize certain people just as an athlete but how they are off the ice and I had that opportunity with him. That was just a huge statement to me and my family."

So far, Brady has done everything on and off the ice to prove he is worthy of wearing Boyce's number. Emerging as one of the best all-around players in the country, Leisenring has registered 46 goals and 59 assists over the span of five years with Vermont. And after missing last season because of an injury, he returned to become the 39th player to record more than 100 points at Vermont.

"I feel very fortunate to play for my home state," said Leisenring.

"Any time you get a chance to play in front of your friends and family that's a great opportunity."

That's not to say it's been easy for the 5-foot-11 forward. During what was supposed to be his final season last year, Leisenring went down with an injury. After playing in a mere six games in 2004-2005, Leisenring
applied for a medical hardship waiver and a received a fifth year of eligibility from the NCAA.

"Everything is a learning experience," said Leisenring. "You try to take what you can out of it. You got to take the good with the bad. I was unlucky and lucky at the same time. I thought I was going to get out of college without losing my hair, but it's starting to go."

Leisenring believes having to sit out wasn't all bad.

"To be able to sit last year and take a break and learn and observe hockey from a different perspective, while trying to stay positive, really was important," said Leisenring. "You have to take advantage of what you can."

Leisenring came to Burlington after playing with the US National program, where he was a captain of the under-17 team. While there he had 20 and 19 assists in 48 games. His travels don't end their. In his teenage years, he attended both Cardigan Mountain School in New Hampshire and Huron High School in Michigan.

"I had an opportunity to play out in Michigan with a lot of great players that are now doing so well at all levels," said Leisenring. "The chance to play with great players but also great people is a great opportunity."

And what about the prefect end to this Brady Leisenring story?

Well according to the man himself, that's simple: A trip to the NCAA tournament. It would be the first since the Tim Thomas days.

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