Bagnato defends net for Pine-Richland
Growing up in a hockey family, Brendon Bagnato was immersed in the sport from birth. His dad, Mike, was a hockey coach, and his older brothers played since they were young.
But Mike Bagnato actually tried to talk his youngest son out of one aspect of the game his son loved.
“I knew at a young age Brendon wanted to play goalie,” Mike said. “I tried to dissuade him.”
Mike knew the rigors of the position, but when Brendon was about 6 years old, Mike saw his older boys shooting tennis balls at Brendon outside their house.
“Brendon was standing out there with a mask, stick, blocker and a glove …” Mike said. “He just likes playing in the net, and he has come a long way.”
The trial by fire from his older brothers prepared him some, but it was a call up to the varsity squad as a sophomore that really put the game in perspective.
“We put him in a tough spot (three years ago),” Mike said. “We knew we were rebuilding, and we had to feed him to the wolves.”
That trial by fire continued in varsity practice as Julian Rizza, J.R. Willard and company pressed the young goalie in an effort to get him battle-tested.
“I knew I would have to get used to it and just go out and do the best I could,” Brendon said. “I have come a long way since then. I had (another goalie) Chase Takacs there with me last year, and now I feel like I am in a leadership role and I can run the defense. I am more vocal on the ice and in the locker room.”
The early struggles helped build Brendon's skills and subsequently his confidence. Now, as a senior, he keeps the team in games.
“Everybody lets in bad goals, but Brendon does not let it get to him in general,” Mike said. “He has a very good demeanor.”
Although he has grown, Brendon still has to make sure to remember the simple lessons he learned.
In a game earlier this season against Bishop Canevin, Brendon and the Rams had a 1-0 lead. The Crusaders tied the score at 1-1, then with three minutes left in regulation, Brendon gave up the game-winning goal.
“That was tough … a helpless feeling because the game was out of my hands then,” he said. “But, you have to clear your mind and start over.”
The goalie put that game behind him and moved on to lead the Rams to some wins. The big thing, according to Brendon, is the fact the team is rolling two or three good lines each game. The fact the team does not run on one line alone gives him the ability to play his game.
Brendon has played for his father for much of his career, and although some kids don't flourish under a parent's coaching, Brendon said the situation has made them closer.
“I am pretty used to how he does things since I have played under him most of the way,” Brendon said. “He actually came to me before taking the job at Pine-Richland and asked me if I would be OK with it.”
Brendon took away any apprehension his father may have had, and now the two of them are hoping to help their team get back to the Penguins Cup finals.
When the season here concludes, Brendon said he plans to play college hockey at the club level.
Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.