RoadRunners goalie Bridges makes NCAA DI commitment
May 27, 2014
By Arch Ecker
After rewriting the RoadRunners franchise record book and leading the team to the Robertson Cup SemiFinals, goalie PJ Bridges has put the final stamp on his junior career by committing to play Division I hockey for Western Michigan beginning in the Fall of 2014.
His assault on the RoadRunner record books began with his very first start after joining the team in October, a 3-0 shutout on the road. It was the first of 10 shutouts he would post this season, tying an NAHL record and setting new marks for the franchise, both for a single season, and for a career.
Additionally, his goals against average (1.54) and save percentage (.940) were franchise records as well. He posted an impressive 26-5-3 record in the regular season, followed by a 7-4 mark in the playoffs. He was the defensive backbone of a team that allowed a stingy 2.03 goals per game, another franchise record.
His accomplishments earned him several accolades during the year, including Player of The Week honors, NAHL Brian’s Goalie of the Month (January 2014), NAHL Brian’s Goalie of the Year, All-NAHL team, and All-South Division Team. He was also selected to participate in the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in Troy, MI in February 2014.
Bridges discovered hockey at a young age. “My hockey journey began as a 4 year old kid who picked up a hockey stick and never looked back”, he recalled “I started playing inline hockey when I was 4 and moved to ice when I was 5.” He wasn’t always a goalie. “While rotating who would play goalie with the other players for a few years, I really found that my passion was being between those pipes. I started playing full time goalie when I was 8 and have loved every minute of the game ever since.”
It didn’t take long for the young netminder to get a taste of what his future would hold. “The first time I ever left home to go play hockey was when I was 12, playing for Honeybaked AAA”, he said. “We played in the Quebec tournament and lived with a host family for 2 weeks, so that was my first taste of what it was going to be like during juniors living away from home.”
His junior career took him places he hadn’t imagined. “I started out playing 2 years in the GOJHL for the Waterloo Siskins”, Bridges said of his junior hockey travels. “Then I had a brief stint with the Strathroy Rockets at the beginning of this year before moving down to Topeka to play for the RoadRunners to finish out my junior career.”
Joining the RoadRunners was a dream come true for Bridges, playing in his final year of junior hockey eligibility. ”My experience in Topeka was unbelievable. Everyone was so warm and welcoming, and I just felt at home right from the start. Playing in Topeka was truly an honor and I am proud to call myself a RoadRunner.”
For his head coach Scott Langer, Bridges arrival was a turning point in the season. “He’s a player we had been watching, and knew he was very capable. We were excited to bring him into the program, and he proved to be a leader immediately”, Langer stated. “His work ethic and character are as solid as any player we’ve had here, and that puts him in some very rare company.”
For Bridges, he has several great memories of his time in Topeka, but one stands out for him. “We had an unbelievable season, with some of the best teammates I've ever played with. My greatest memory as a RoadRunner was beating Amarillo to win the South Division Championship in the playoffs.”
Bridges will play for the Western Michigan Broncos, a member of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC). They play at Lawson Arena in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The attraction for Bridges to WMU was easy to see. “One of the things that attracted me to Western Michigan University was their coaching staff”, Bridges revealed. “Playing for (head coach) Andy Murray is a tremendous honor. He coached in the NHL for a number of years, so being able to play for a coach like him is truly an amazing opportunity.” He added, “I also loved their campus, hockey facilities, and on top of that, it’s only a 2 hour drive from my house (in Waterford, MI).” His educational path is planned out. “I would like to major in Business or Sports Administration, and they have a great business school.”
The 6’0”, 185 lb netminder is grateful for the support he’s had while in Topeka. “I would like to thank Scott Langer, Josh Kamrass, Steve Briere, the Stone family and the rest of the Topeka RoadRunners organization for giving me the opportunity to play for them, and for everything that they taught me while I was there that set me up for success to be able to take the next step in my hockey career.” He added, “My billet family was simply amazing, and of course the support from my own family along the way has helped make this all possible.”
Bridges becomes the sixth RoadRunner from this season’s roster to make Division I college plans, preceded by Drew Vogler and Shawn Brennan (Merrimack College), Tyler Poulsen and Cody Champagne (University of Alabama-Huntsville), and Jake Kamrass (UMass-Lowell). He becomes the fourth RoadRunner all-time to attend WMU, following Dennis Brown, Justin Kovacs, and Willem Nong-Lambert.