Buffalo’s Jake Braccini (right) registered 78 goals, 62 assists, 140 points in 45 games playing for the Bison Bantam AA boys’ hockey team. Braccini is one of five finalists selected for Bantam Player of the Year. (Submitted photo)
Shortly after suffering a 7-4 loss last Feb. 11 at Eden Prairie, Buffalo freshman Jake Braccini received some good news.
His father, Bryan Braccini – head coach of the Buffalo Bantam AA team, gave him the news that he was one of five finalists for the 2017 Youth Hockey Hub Bantam Player of the Year.
“I think it’s pretty cool to have someone from our town be named one of the finalists,” Jake Braccini said.
Buffalo Bantam AA finished 24-20-1 overall, but failed to qualify for this year’s state tournament, despite cracking the state’s top-10 poll in early February, and defeating six teams throughout the season that were ranked in the top-10.
Jake, and his twin brother Tyler Braccini, along with Devin Huebner made up one of the state’s top scoring lines. Tyler centered the line and finished with 42 goals, 75 assists, 117 points, and was a plus-57. Huebner (40-27—67) played right wing and was a plus-32. Jake played left wing and put up career-best numbers of 78-62—140 and was a plus-70.
“It’s really neat for Buffalo to get recognized,” Bryan Braccini said. “Jake is a lot of fun to coach and works really hard. None of this would happen, though, if not for his teammates.”
Jake credits his father for a lot of his success, particularly his skating ability.
“My dad is big on skating, which Tyler and I work a lot on,” Jake said.
Braccini looks to join some elite company if his name is picked from five finalists. Other candidates include: White Bear Lake’s Owen Gallatin, Grand Forks Aviators’ Jackson Kunz, Elk River’s Zach Michaelis, and Stillwater’s Noah Tussey.
Youth Hockey Hub’s Tony Scott will present the award, which has previously been won by Moorhead’s Ethan Frisch in 2016, Grand Rapids’ Gavin Hain in 2015, Eden Prairie’s Casey Mittelstadt in 2014, and Edina’s Ryan Zuhlsdorf in the inaugural year of 2013.
Frisch and Hain are commits to the University of North Dakota. Mittelstadt was this year’s Mr. Hockey Award winner and University of Minnesota commit. Zuhlsdorf is currently a freshman for the Gophers and 5th round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Knowing the elite company to come out of the previous four years, Braccini knows being a top-5 finalist will strengthen his goal of someday playing Division-I hockey.
“This is a good opportunity for me as a player,” Jake said. “Even if I don’t win the award, it will make me push that much harder.”
The winner should be announced sometime in April.
Like so many top prospects, Braccini is getting offers to play elsewhere. But he says his immediate goal is to join the Bison varsity squad next year.
“It’s important to me to play with my buddies and my hometown team.”
Jake and his twin brother, Tyler,