Atlanta Junior Knights forward Brendan Ferguson has committed to Milwaukee School of Engineering! MSOE is a great academic school with a well-recognized NCAA D3 hockey program. “We are very proud of Brendan. This proves that a kid from Suwanee, Georgia can make it by working hard and believing in the process!” declared Pat Ferguson, Brendan’s dad.
For Brendan, it’s been a long road growing up in Georgia playing hockey. He began playing with the Ice Bandit Youth Hockey program, where he was known as a physical player, racking up lots of penalty minutes. He then entered the Atlanta Knights Junior program, playing under Coach Kevin St Jacques and Coach Ralph Barahona. Brendan quickly learned a valuable lesson his first year of Junior play. “In the first game of the year Brendan took a bad penalty, right in front of the bench! When he came out of the penalty box I sat him”, said Coach Kevin. “It's always hard to sit kids but I wanted to send a message to the whole team that unnecessary penalties weren’t going to be tolerated. It didn't matter who took them.”
Pat states Brendan learned early in his Junior career that taking unproductive penalties would result in being benched. That single moment changed his game for the next 4 years! Brendan continued to work on his game and development, having a productive year by leading his team in scoring and helping his USP3 team go all the way to Boston for the league championship.
During the off-season Brendan trained extremely hard on and off the ice, hoping to make the next level; the Knights Elite team. “Playing for Coach Ralph and Coach Kevin at the Elite level was definitely a goal of mine” said Brendan. "A player should always want the next level.” Brendan played on the Knights Elite team in his sophomore year. He put up good numbers and was named the hardest working player of the year. Brendan attributes his success that year to a disciplined offseason training regimen. Then, during the year end interviews, Brendan and his family met with the coaching staff and discussed Brendan’s future. “It was a big day for us as a family” said Pat. "We sat down with both Coach Kevin and Coach Ralph and after listening to they had to say, we collectively agreed it was time for Brendan to take the next step to the USPHL Premier level.” Reflecting back on that day Coach Kevin states, “I remember sitting there listening as Ralph talked to the Junior Flyers Head Coach, Jared Beach, giving him feedback on Brendan. I was thinking to myself, ‘This is why we coach. It’s all about moving kids to the next level.’ As rewarding as it was, it left a big hole on our Elite team. It’s difficult to replace that kind of work ethic and leadership!”
With the backing of the Atlanta coaches, Brendan headed up to play with the Philadelphia Junior Flyers. “I was nervous, but ready! The game at that level is faster and more skilled” said Brendan. “I had a decent year with seven goals and eight assists in 41 games.” The following year the league created the NCDC level (changed names from Premier to NCDC) and the Flyers organization was not part of the new league. With this change, Brendan was drafted by the PAL Islanders and Coach Dan Marshall of the NCDC; Brendan’s final year of Junior Hockey. It was a tough start for Brendan. While he was one of the team’s leading penalty killers, he didn’t register a single point in the first 15 games. After being released by PAL, Brendan made a phone call to a familiar voice, Coach Kevin St Jacques. “He was down in the dumps, unsure of what to do and I could tell his confidence had taken a hit. I told him ‘Come home and play for my Premier team. I always have a spot for you’ but, being the hardworking kid he is, Brendan wanted to stick it out in the NCDC.” Kevin was not surprised. “It’s in his character to fight through, but I told him he should keep in touch and call me if he needed anything, I would always be here!” A few days later Brendan was picked up by Syracuse’s NCDC team and played three games before Syracuse released him as well. “It was a tough day for our son, being away from home and getting released is never easy; let alone twice in one week!” said Pat.
Coach Kevin finally convinced Brendan to come back to Atlanta and finish the year with his Premier team. A little discouraged and his pride hurt, Brendan came home. As if he never left, Brendan put his gear on and went to work. He had a great Florida showcase in December opening the doors for several NCAA Division III schools to approach him. “After the showcase you could see the glow back on Brendan’s face again! “It was nice to see a kid who's worked so hard and put the time in, on and off the ice, to be rewarded” said Coach Kevin. A true athlete who had experienced so much a month earlier, persevering into a player with several NCAA school options!
“None of this would have been possible if Brendan and Coach Kevin didn't have the relationship they do” said Pat Ferguson. “As parents we put our trust in what the coaches told us way back in his first and second year of Juniors and now here we are! We are so proud of our son who has just committed to a great school. Thank you to Coach Kevin and the Atlanta Knights program for making it possible, GO KNIGHTS! A fitting end as Brendan will start and finish his Junior career as a Knight!”
The Atlanta Junior Knights wish Brendan great success
on and off the ice at MSOE!