Dec. 9, 2009
NORTH DARTMOUTH, MA-One of the most prolific scorers at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth will lead his team into the Stephan Hetland Memorial Arena when T.J. Brown's Framingham State Rams visit UMass Dartmouth in a Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference game Thursday evening.
T.J. Brown, who played for the Corsairs between 1998 and 2002, is in his first season as head coach at Framingham State, Thursday's UMass Dartmouth opponent.
Brown, a winner of UMD's Seventh Player Award and a former New England Hockey Writers' first team All-Star, is tied for eighth place on the all-time scoring list with 76 goals and 79 assists for 155 points in 103 games, and his 76 career goals ties him for fourth place in that category.
"T.J. was a Blake Wheeler-like left wing who initiated contact with us when he was playing at Framingham High School," said UMass Dartmouth Head Coach John Rolli. "One of our assistant coaches went to see him, and within minutes of the start of the game, he left a defenseman standing at the blue line, deked the goalie and scored. I got a phone call saying that I should get up there right away. I went to the next game and was sold on him, and he became a prolific scorer for us."
Brown started his coaching career while at UMass Dartmouth, coaching a youth team before coaching a bantam team in Framingham following his graduation. Two years ago, he became an assistant coach at Framingham State, and was offered the head job when it opened prior to this season.
"The four years I spent down there were the best four years of my life," said Brown. "If you don't learn anything playing for Coach Rolli, shame on you. I learned a ton while I was down there, and that's one of the reasons I'm in coaching. I'm looking forward to going down there and coaching against the best."
Rolli remembers many highlights of Brown's career. "I remember one goal he scored at Lebanon Valley when someone sent a waist-high, aerial pass across and he batted it into the net," said Rolli. "He had tremendous hand-eye coordination."
Brown will be ready when his team hits the ice. "It's actually pretty exciting, but it's also pretty nerve-wracking coaching against someone like Coach Rolli," said Brown. "It gives you a proud feeling knowing you came from a school that has had so much success, and it will feel good walking into that rink where I played. I still see some of the guys I played with on a weekly basis, and some of my best friends are the players I skated with when I was down there."
Both teams moved from the Eastern College Athletic Conference Northeast to the MASCAC this season, and are two of seven state universities playing each other three times each season and building rivalries. "Last year, there weren't very many rivalries," said Brown. "You would run into the top teams, and they would be better than you were. This year, it seems like all the games are close and everyone has a chance to win every night. I like the format, where every night it's going to be a battle."
UMASS DARTMOUTH HOCKEY