Kenai River Brown Bears goalie Gavin Enright sacrificed his senior year of high school to learn what it takes to be successful in the North American Hockey League.
Enright took that knowledge, improved where he needed to in the summer, then raised some eyebrows before committing to Division I Bemidji State University this week.
“He was a rookie last year,” Kenai River head coach Josh Petrich said of Enright, the son of Brady and Lindsay Enright of Farmington, Minnesota. “Him and his dad summed it up. He didn’t know what to expect in junior hockey. He didn’t know how tough it is on your body. He didn’t know how strong he needed to be. He had no clue.”
Enright, billet son of Steve and Lindsay Hallum of Kenai, finished 9-22-1-2 last season with a save percentage of .892 and goals-against average of 3.79. This season, playing for a much better team, he is 8-7-1-1 with numbers of .925 and 2.31. That transformation rapidly drew the attention of college scouts.
“Things started to heat up with him and he gained a lot of attention,” Petrich said. “A couple of schools wanted his money where his mouth was and wanted a decision, and Bemidji was the winner in the end.”
Last season was about more than hockey for Enright. He also was taking a full academic load online and was far away from his family.
“He handled it like a champion,” Petrich said. “I could tell he was frustrated because I know the kid, but he never let it show.”
Petrich said the difference in Enright this season is apparent from the time he calmly skates onto the ice after being announced before home games.
The coach added that days where players announce college commitments are the best part of his job.
“When he announced at practice, a couple of guys tackled him,” Petrich said. “It’s pretty special to be around as a coach when they take the next step in their hockey career, but more importantly in their academic career and in life.”
Four former or current Brown Bears players have now made Division I commitments this season — Chris Lipe, Cam McDonald, Markuss Komuls and Enright.
“It’s a great time to be a Brown Bear,” Petrich said. “We’ve got many other kids in talks. This isn’t going to be the last one. We’re excited about where the program’s going, not only on the ice but off the ice.”
Petrich is also excited about where Enright is going.
“They’re getting a very good goalie, but they’re also getting an unbelievable leader on and off the ice,” Petrich said.
Enright will be with Bemidji State in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, meaning he will play the University of Alaska Anchorage and University of Alaska Fairbanks. The Beavers were 16-14-8 last season. Tom Serratore is in his 18th season leading the program, which made the NCAA Frozen Four in 2009.