HUMBOLDT — Two former Humboldt Broncos helped make history at their Wisconsin university.
Bryson Cecconi and Blaine Caton were part of the Marian University men’s hockey team that captured the Harris Cup – the trophy given out to the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs champion. The Fond du Lac, Wisc. school squad, which competes at the NCAA Division III level, had not claimed the cup since earning it back-to-back in 2001 and 2002.
“It was really neat to be a part of it and contribute to our success,” Cecconi said. “It was our first championship in 20 years, so the arena and the team were very excited. It was very emotional but also felt real good to accomplish something like that.”
The Sabres swept the championship series by beating the Milwaukee School of Engineering, 3-1 and 4-1. Marian University posted a 12-7 record during a season affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Sabres played only 19 contests compared to 28 a season ago and saw the NCAA Division III national championships cancelled for the second straight year.
“The COVID season really put a halt to a lot of our social gatherings that as players you play for,” Cecconi said. “The team bonding is my favourite part of playing hockey, so it was hard when that wasn’t a possibility. The fact that we did get to come to the arena each day and eventually play games was a weight lifted off my shoulders because I knew so many hockey players weren’t able to play.”
As a first-year player, he saw action in nine games. The 6-foot, 180-pound forward scored once.
“Bryson has been a great addition to our program and has provided our program a dual role. We use Bryson at both the wing and center position because of his skating ability, stick skills, and his conditioning level,” said Marian University head coach Zach Gaynor of Cecconi, who is pursuing a double major in elementary-middle education and special education, with a minor in mathematics.
Hailing from Powell River, B.C., Cecconi joined the Broncos for the 2018-2019 season as the team rebuilt following the devastating April 6, 2018 bus crash. He posted 27 points in 55 games that season while helping the Broncos back to the playoffs. The next season, as a 20-year-old, Cecconi had 25 points with 11 goals in 25 games before being traded to the Portage Terriers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. After three games, he was swapped to the MJHL’s Dauphin Kings to close out his junior career.
“I really enjoyed my time in Humboldt because of the support from the community,” said Cecconi, who billeted with Dean and Torie Beuker. “In the small town, I felt like a celebrity, which just speaks for all of the fans and people of Humboldt. I had great billets that supported me each day and really made Humboldt feel like home.”
From Vernon, B.C., Caton had a cup of java (four games, recording an assist) with the Broncos in 2015-16. They were one of three teams he played with that season. Caton finished out the campaign with the B.C. Hockey League’s Trail Smoke Eaters and played two more seasons there before heading to Marian University. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound forward, in his third Sabres season, had six goals and 12 points in 19 games. Gaynor said that the assistant captain is “the sheriff of our team.”
“Blaine has done a great job helping our centres on face-off techniques as well as taking a leadership role on our penalty kill,” the coach said. “Blaine brings a hybrid style of new age skill and hockey IQ, with a throwback commitment to the game.”
Gaynor played with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Nipawin Hawks in 2004-2005. He has often returned to the league for recruiting. This season’s championship squad included eight players who suited up in the SJHL.
“Having been exposed to such high-quality hockey, I realized the value of the SJHL and how impactful those players could be at the next level,” Gaynor said. “My experience recruiting SJHL players has proven very fruitful because the players that graduate from the SJHL arrive ready to play at the college level.”