Tri-City Storm forward Brandon Duhaime has endured quite the journey to get to the Clark Cup Final. After beginning the season with the Chicago Steel in Yekaterinburg, RUS at the Junior Club World Cup, Duhaime now finds himself 5,591 miles west in Kearney, NE with a chance to hoist the Clark Cup over his head as a champion.
Duhaime declared himself a leader with Chicago early on in the season despite a lack of prior USHL experience, scoring five goals in five games while in Russia. He would go on to score 32 points in 39 games during the USHL regular season, becoming a late addition to NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings.
However, the Steel struggled in a very tightly contested Eastern Conference and Duhaime was identified by the Tri-City front office as the last missing piece for a championship run. Duhaime added another 10 points with the Storm prior to Clark Cup Playoffs.
“It’s a little bit difficult leaving what you were comfortable with before but making the transition to Tri-City was a lot easier than I thought,” said Duhaime. “The coaching staff filled me in pretty quickly, and the players made me feel right at home. Thinking about the postseason and seeing what we had in the locker room excited me that much more. It was just really exciting.”
It’s hard to tell if Duhaime or the coaching staff was more excited for the deadline acquisition. What Tri-City got was a player who didn’t quit on defense, could play a major role on the penalty kill and possessed a scoring touch. That kind of two-way ability has already proven to be huge for a Tri-City squad that has frustrated Dubuque’s offense through the first two games this series and has disrupted a power play unit that was converting at a 30.3% rate prior to Clark Cup Final.
In 10 Clark Cup Playoffs games the Parkland, FL native has seven points, including a highlight reel short handed goal that put Tri-City up 3-2 in the decisive Game 5 of the Western Conference Final.
“I saw a little bit of area to skate, took it, tried to make a play, and I guess it paid off,” said Duhaime. When asked if he purposely put the puck between the defender’s legs Duhaime laughed, “That was the plan and I was lucky enough for it to pop through there.”
Despite not beginning the season with the Storm, Duhaime has found an instant connection with his current team and wants nothing short of a Clark Cup championship for Tri-City. He is well aware of what this team has gone through, and has plenty of fight left now just one win away from the team’s first title.
“The guys last year, you really want to play for them,” said Duhaime. “They came up a little short in the Conference Final (last season). You really want to play for the guys who are going off to school. They have their last games in junior hockey, so you have a little extra motivation for them and the coaching staff as well.”
Tri-City will host Dubuque in the Clark Cup Final this weekend up 2-0 with home games Friday, and Saturday if necessary. Games start at 7:05 pm (CT), and will be broadcast live on ushl.fasthockey.com in HD.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 14th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2015-16. A record 37 players were chosen in the 2015 NHL Draft and more than 375 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.