The most tenured goaltender in the history of the Traverse City North Stars has a new address.
Brandon Stephenson, who logged 56 career games during his two-year stint in Traverse City, will now patrol the crease for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
“It’s a relief - a bit of a weight off my back,” said Stephenson, who went 20-21-10 with a trio of shutouts and a 3.24 goals-against average. “I’m grateful for the opportunity and hope to make the most of it.”
Stephenson, a Saline, Mich., native, blanked Mahoning Valley (1-0) and the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-17 squad (3-0) during a personal five-start win streak early in the season. He won seven of his first eight starts to open the 2008-09 season, and made a career-high 45 saves in the final game of the year at Marquette.
“Brandon came in two years ago as part of a group that really helped change the fortunes of the franchise,” explained North Stars head coach Anthony Palumbo. “He helped stabilize the goaltending situation. He’s technically sound, and he’s a very competitive kid. Those are things that will serve him well at the next level. We’re very happy for him.”
Eau-Claire, tagged with the quizzical ‘Blugold’ nickname - an ostensible nod to the school colors - finished 13-13-1 overall last year, competing in both the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) and Northern Collegiate Hockey Association. Stephenson plans to major in Business Marketing at the 10,346-student public university, which is located 92 miles east of Minneapolis.
“It’s pretty exciting, heading off into the college experience and getting the chance to play college hockey,” said Stephenson, who has amassed a 3.3 GPA. “Of course, I’m especially to my parents for helping me get to this point, all the sacrifices and effort that goes into playing junior hockey.
“I hope to come in and get my feet wet next year - not really sure how much they’ll expect from me, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Prior to joining the North Stars, Stephenson was a two-time all-state performer at Saline High (2004, 2005), backstopping the school to its first-ever state finals berth in 2006. He went 53-7-0 with 11 shutouts and a .945 save percentage in his prep career.
The following season, Stephenson started 19 games for the Victory Honda Midget Major program in 2006-07, going 12-6-1 with a 2.00 goals-against average. He also owns the first shutout in North Stars history - a 4-0 win at Team USA on Feb. 27, 2008.