UMass Boston (NEHC) recently received a commitment from 3.25-star prospect Zack Bross from the Minot Minotauros of the NAHL. The 6’0”, 195-lb. ’96 born forward hails from Weldon Spring, Missouri and is a veteran grab for the Beacons and coach Peter Belisle. Bross is a mature, strong and smart player with a high compete level who can also mix in plenty of elusiveness and offensive punch to his game.
“He is physically strong and his game is balanced,” said Neutral Zone scout Brian Murphy. “He has good net front presence and wins battles. He is mature, and as the season moved along, he developed more of an ability to create with the puck on his stick. A 1996-born player who improved in his last year of junior with his best hockey still in front of him. He should do well at UMass Boston, who will be very good next season.”
Bross had 15-25-40 for Minot in 58 games played during the 2016-2017 season, and 12-19-31 in 60 games played the season before. Bross was a 2017 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament selection, where he received an “A” grading from Neutral Zone scouts for his performance. Prior to his two years in the NAHL, Bross skated for the Nipawin Hawks of the SJHL and the St. Louis Amateur Blues U18. Neutral Zone recently connected with Bross to find out a little more about the progression of his hockey career and his decision to attend UMass Boston this fall.
How did you get your start in hockey? At what age did you begin playing and what were some of the first teams you played for?
I started by playing floor hockey at age 4, inline at 5, and then started ice hockey at age 6. When I got into ice hockey my home club was St. Peters, then I moved on to Chesterfield. I started playing for the AAA Blues when I was 9.
Did you have any notable early influences in terms of your hockey career? Any people, coaches, idols etc. that either helped you get started or inspired you?
I’ve had many good coaches and influences through the years. Al MacInnis was my first AAA coach. Rocco Grimaldi was also an inspiration for me when I was younger and people told me I was too small to play.
How did your career transition from youth hockey to junior hockey?
I played two years of Midget Major AAA which prepared me for the physical play of Junior Hockey. I spent my last year of youth eligibility playing junior hockey in the SJHL.
How did you end up going to the Nipawin Hawks of the SJHL, and later the Minot Minotauros of the NAHL? What were those experiences like and how have they helped prepare you for college hockey?
I always dreamed of playing in Canada. A friend of mine, Joe O’Brien, was playing for the Nipawin Hawks of the SJHL. He recommended me to his coach, Doug Johnson. Coach Johnson gave me the opportunity to play and pushed my physical game to a new level. The people of Nipawin were amazing. The town embraces the team and players, and the support was incredible. We also had a great captain in Garret Lockeridge who taught me a lot about leadership. After a year in Saskatchewan I was looking for an opportunity in the U.S. The Minot Minotauros took me in the NAHL draft and I spent my last two years of junior there. Coach Murray gave me the opportunity to take more of an offensive and leadership role. Ultimately, my time in junior hockey has allowed me to develop a 200-foot game for college.
You recently committed to UMass Boston of the NEHC. What factored into your decision? Was this a recent development, or had you been talking to them for a while?
I’ve been talking with Coach Belisle for some time. I had been hoping for the right D1 opportunity to materialize while doing my research on D3 schools that expressed interest. I think it is important to go where you are wanted and I’m really excited to be playing for Coach Belisle and UMB.
What was your college search / recruiting process like and what advice might you have for other players similar to yourself going through that process?
My advice would be to keep your options open. Don’t get set on only one outcome being the right fit for you.
What are you looking forward to most with your move east to attend UMB?
I’m excited to be moving to a big city in the northeast area and playing college hockey.
How are you preparing for the upcoming season in terms of on or off-ice training?
Coach provided an offseason workout plan and I’ve been working on my strength and cardio.
What type of player do you consider yourself to be and what are some of your strengths? What are some weaknesses you hope to improve on?
I have a strong 200′ game and enjoy being physical. I think defense first but that’s sometimes best done with puck possession in the offensive zone. I’m focusing on improving my skating and stride.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from playing hockey so far that you’ll be able to use wherever you go in life?
“Don’t suck at what you do.” Nigel Dube, my assistant coach, had this printed on the door of our locker room last year and it was a point he always made to us. He was a bus driver, coach, maintenance man, and many more things and he knew that we were all more than just junior hockey players. He would tell us all the time that junior hockey would be the best job we would ever have, but whatever we ended up doing in life we should give it the best we have to offer.
Photo Credit: Minot Minotauros