Rookie forward Bryan Brutlag's first professional goal was the game-winner in the Gwinnett Gladiators' home opener this season and he's been a steady contributor since. The 22-year-old Minnesotan is coming off a four-year college career where he helped re-establish Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as a national tournament contender.
In this installment of "Getting to Know ...", Brutlag talks to staff writer Christine Troyke about a variety of topics, including his second job, moving from defense to forward and his difficulty growing a mustache.
CT: You guy have been taking a lot of long road trips here lately. What do you do to pass the time?
BB: I think I spend most of my time watching movies when we're hanging out on the bus. It's just our second home.
And I kind of have a job back home that I work on every once in a while.
CT: What's that?
BB: It's an engineering job. I studied engineering in school, so yeah, I do some 3-D modeling stuff. That takes up most of my time.
CT: (Goalie and fellow Minnesotan) Jeff Jakaitis is one of your roommates. Who is your other roommate?
BB: Tyler Helfrich.
CT: You guys went to college together?
BB: We were in the same class.
CT: Were you guys roommates there?
BB: I never actually lived with him, but I roomed on the road with him every weekend.
CT: So you knew what you were in for?
BB: Yeah. I'm used to his habits.
CT: Is there a predominant cook for your apartment?
BB: We eat out a lot. Jakaitis is probably the healthiest eater out of all of us. He takes the time to make meals every once in a while. But it's a lot of Chipotle, a lot of dine-in.
CT: Is the cleaning divided evenly?
BB: I think we just pick up after ourselves. You'd be surprised at how clean our apartment is actually. The kitchen gets a little bit of a mess, but other than that.
CT: How did you decide on RPI?
BB: I was going into my senior year and the coach, Seth Appert, saw me play at the National Development Program's summer thing. I went out and visited that summer and fell in love with the school. Loved the coaching staff. He offered something no other school could really offer and that's a chance to completely turn a program around. I think that's what we kind of did, me and the rest of the guys in my class.
CT: You kind of need to know what you want to do before you get to RPI, don't you? Because it's got a limited curriculum in terms of most colleges?
BB: It's a technical university. There's really two tracks most people take, management or engineering. You can go architecture or human sciences, too.
CT: Was that going to be a focus for you regardless of what college you chose?
BB: To be honest, I was looking at architecture when I first got there, but that's too much with hockey. My dad is an engineer and I've always loved building things, so it was kind of a no-brainer.
CT: Was the RPI hockey program one that had been good and fell on tougher times?
BB: It's won two national championships and before we got there, it was a little bit of a struggling program. It was a .500 team most years. But last year we actually ended up making the national tournament for the first time in 15 or 20 years. So it was nice to be a part of that.CT: Tell me about your hometown.
BB: I'm from Lakeville, Minn., and actually not to far from Jakaitis (who grew up in Rochester, Minn.). About 45 minutes. It's a suburb of Minneapolis, about 25 minutes away. I actually went to a private school called the Academy of Holy Angels, which is about 15 minutes away, closer to Minneapolis. But yeah, suburban town.
CT: Growing up in Minnesota, you get a chance that not a lot of other people in the country do and that's that you didn't have to leave home to continue your hockey career. Most guys who make the pros left home around 16 or 17 to play junior. High school hockey in Minnesota is such that you don't have to do that. Did you feel lucky?
BB: I count my blessings every day for that. I got to play with some of my best friends growing up. I got to play in front of my family every night. I got to play in front of my friends, people I got to school with. I met my girlfriend there. It was awesome.
I hear other stories about what other guys are doing and they say they loved it, too. It's just a different way of doing things.
CT: You didn't ever play against Jakaitis did you? He's a little bit older.
BB: There's a funny story actually. He was playing in the sectional championship down in Rochester. I was probably 14 years old and he was in net playing against my hometown team. I went and watched the game.
We were just talking in our living room one day and I said, "I may have seen you play." He was like, 'Yep, I was definitelys at that game.' It was six overtimes and he made like 60 saves. It was awesome.
CT: RPI is in a fairly small community. Since you had been living at home, was that good for you in terms of making that transition to college and living on your own?
BB: Definitely. It was a very tight-knit community. The guys were the first people I met and they're like brothers to me. I still talk to most of them on a weekly basis. There are boosters and people who support the program that have us over for dinner, people in the program that were kind of like second parents to me. So it was an easy transition.
CT: Did you play any other sports growing up?
BB: I played soccer. I was actually a pretty good player. I don't know if that's very modest, but I was a captain my senior year and I loved playing. We did all right.
CT: Does it make you pretty good at the pregame round-robin (of players warming up with a soccer ball)?
BB: Yes. I'm usually one of the top guys.
CT: Did you have any thoughts about coming to the Atlanta area before you got here this season?
BB: My dad works for Delta. He's based up in Minneapolis, but it's kind of nice he gets to come down here a couple times a month for work and I get to see him. It's one of the perks of being here. I like this area. It's a lot better than anywhere I've been before.
CT: Did you play defense all through college?
BB: I did.
CT: Who switched you to forward?
BB: My coach (at RPI). They were kind of missing something on the forward side of things, getting in on the forecheck and stuff. I'm kind of one of the guys that just works hard so the coach moved me up to try and help with that.
That was the middle of my junior year. So I've been a forward for two years now.
CT: There's a little more glory in it.
BB: Yeah and it's less stressful, that's for sure.
CT: Do you have a favorite postgame meal?
BB: I definitely do dessert. Don't tell Wrobo (head coach John Wroblewski). I'll get some pasta to feed my body, but a little dessert to feed my mind.CT: You put in all that hard work.
BB: Yeah. I deserve it. (smiling)
CT: What's the biggest rivalry game you've been a part of?
BB: In high school we had a little bit of a rivalry with the next top team. I think we played Hail Mary a couple times, who is always ranked. We had some great games with them, but I think the biggest rivalry I've ever been a part of was in college, playing Union. It's a cross-town rival. They actually played (Tuesday) night. It didn't go so well for the Engineers (a 5-1 loss).
But we had so many games, I think four out of the last six, were decided by one goal. It was just awesome to play in.
CT: So for Movember (the team is growing mustaches this month in support of men's cancer research) ...
BB: (Laughing) I'm trying.
CT: Who has the best at this point?
BB: I really like Will (Colbert)'s. He's got a great mustache and he's got a beard coming in. Then (Cody) Brookwell has a great one. He's just had it since he's been here, though, I think. It's kind of a part of him.
CT: Who is the worst?
BB: Probably me. Or (Colin) Vock has a pretty bad one. He's another blond guy that's just kind of scraggly. Joey Haddad's is pretty bad, too. It's kind of creepy.