Bruneteau Brothers Battle
Trio Meets for the First Time
by Jillian Saftel/
BURLINGTON, Vt. Anyone who stuck around for the team handshake following the completion of the Vermont vs. Lake Superior State game in last week's Catamount Cup might have noticed that LSSU’s Matt Bruneteau spent a few extra seconds embracing two UVM players.
Upon further inspection, it’s easy to see why. The two UVM players Bruneteau embraced had something in common with the Lake State player — the name on the back of their jerseys. The players aren’t just old friends, they’re brothers.
Nick and Brett Bruneteau of UVM played against their brother Matt for the first time in their college careers on Dec. 30 at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
For Nick and Matt, the road to playing with their brothers in the Catamount Cup was fairly normal, for Brett it was a different story. But then again, Brett Bruneteau isn’t the average college hockey player.
After graduating from the University of North Dakota with a business degree in just two years, Brett was faced with a decision: stay at North Dakota — where he likely wouldn't see much ice time as a junior after skating in just four games as a sophomore — or make the move to a different school with the hope of playing more hockey. Because he had graduated from North Dakota, the eldest Bruneteau could play at another school without any NCAA penalties while pursuing his master’s degree.
With two of his brothers, Nick and Matt, both playing as freshmen at Division I hockey schools, Brett had more factoring into his decision than just academics and athletics.
"It was a very difficult decision and a very difficult situation. Ultimately, it came down to a few factors. I have a business undergrad, and I was looking to get my MBA. Lake Superior State didn't offer that graduate program, so, ultimately, that was the deciding factor. However, both clubs are very good hockey teams, and both have a strong tradition of success. So I was very happy to have both as options. Of course, having my brothers there was a big bonus,” Brett said.
UVM coach Kevin Sneddon said when Brett was looking at schools, he had a conversation with North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol regarding Brett’s opportunity to transfer to another institution without penalty and saw the potential for Brett to bring something to his younger team.
"We had a need for more veteran presence in our lineup with a lot of young guys. He's a great young man, and he's been a great addition. He's an unbelievable student, a very driven young man. It was just a good fit for us," Sneddon said. "There was a lot of communication with North Dakota. I think what impressed me most was that Brett spoke very highly of his experience at North Dakota. It just wasn't exactly what he wanted out of it. He wanted to play more and try to follow his dream of playing hockey at the next level."
After years of watching him play, both Nick and Matt knew what their older brother could bring to the table at their respective schools, and each tried to pull him in their school’s direction.
“When he was leaving, me and Nick were both trying to help him find a place. We knew he was a good player so obviously we both wanted him on our team to help us out,” Matt said. But it was Nick who would prove successful in the sibling competition to acquire Brett.
"I definitely wanted him to come here. I know [Matt] wanted him to go there, so it was a pretty funny deal. I was just happy to get [Brett] and add one,” Nick said. "He comes from a team [North Dakota] that's won before. He's brings an older presence that can help the guys mature a little bit, while adding some offense on the ice, too."
And add offense Brett has, adding two goals and six assists, tied for fourth in points among Vermont’s leading scorers.
With one brother playing for LSSU and two playing for UVM, there was no way all three were coming out of the game happy. Even with Brett’s added talent, UVM couldn’t come out on top, leaving both Brett and Nick wishing the result of the much anticipated sibling meeting had been different.
"It was a little bittersweet. It was fantastic to share the ice with [Matt] again and, of course, to play with Nick and have our parents here and so many fans here when we got our chance to play together. At the same time, it would have been very nice to get a win. I know he's [Matt] probably going to hold that over us for a very long time, so I can only hope we get another opportunity to play him in the future,” Brett said.
Matt said that with Christmas break prior to the tournament, there was no shortage of chirping among the competitive brothers. While all three brothers gave each other a hard time, Matt said he felt he had a little more at stake being the lone Bruneteau brother on his team.
“Before the game, [Matt] was telling me 'Don't even think about making those passes. We know you're not shooting,' so he knew a little bit of our tendencies, but it's fun to play against each other. I just wish it was a different result,” Nick said.
Sneddon said he almost forgot about the family meet up until he noticed how interesting it was to see Bruneteau on the backs of that many jerseys.
"It's a great family story, and it was kind of the sub plot to the evening. ... It had to be a proud moment for their family. You don't often see that in college hockey. Maybe two brothers, but not three," Sneddon said. "I don’t know where their allegiances were. Maybe they had half the Catamount jersey, half the Lake State jersey. I'm not sure, but it was certainly a good moment for their family."
As for playing at such a competitive level with his younger brother, Brett said it has had it’s ups and downs. The three Bruneteaus in college have a younger brother, Tyler, who currently plays for Wichita in the North American Hockey League (NAHL).
Brett said as the oldest, when it came to family play he always paired up with the youngest, while Nick and Matt played together. Because of this, Brett said he had literally never played with Nick prior to UVM.
“We're brothers, so we get into it now and then. We definitely didn't grow up without tearing apart our house and causing our mom a little grief," Brett said. "But it's been great. It's been really nice to play with him."
"I'm really looking forward to the next year and a half."