Bailey Bram says her first three years at Mercyhurst were fantastic, filled with new experiences and some of the best seasons in school history.
As a freshman, when she was College Hockey America’s Rookie of the Year, Bram helped the Lakers reach the NCAA championship game. As a sophomore, when she was one of 10 Patty Kazmaier Award finalists, her team reached the Frozen Four. And as a junior, Mercyhurst again won the CHA title and went to the NCAA Tournament.
Yet as good as those first three years were, Bram says this season she’s having more fun than ever.
Playing on the same line with her sister Shelby, a freshman, has been a kick, and taking more of a leadership role as a senior has been gratifying.
“This year has been my favorite year,” Bram said. “I think just because there’s so many people telling us we can’t do it [after the graduation of some exceptional players]. … Just proving everybody wrong. This year we have the best team atmosphere I’ve ever been a part of. Everybody’s here for the same reason, and everyone has a common goal and it’s so easy and fun.”
Mercyhurst this season is 18-5-1 and ranked seventh in the nation. Though Bram admits there have been some blips — there were two consecutive losses in October and a recent home loss to Robert Morris that broke a 28-game conference-winning streak — she believes this team is growing.
[Bram cov] Bram is certainly doing her part.
The 5-foot-7 forward from Ste. Anne, Manitoba, is off to her best start statistically, ranking No. 5 in the nation with 54 points (21 goals, 33 assists) and No. 1 in points per game (2.45). Bram is also tied for the national lead in power-play goals (10).
Previously, her best season came in 2009-10, when she finished fourth in the nation with 56 points (29 goals, 27 assists). She had 42 last season and 35 as a freshman.
She said her numbers are up this year in part because her role has changed with the departure of former teammates such as Meghan Agosta, the all-time leading scorer in women’s college hockey; Vicki Bendus, who won the Kazmaier Award in 2010; and Jesse Scanzano.
“In past years we’ve always had Agosta, Bendus, Scanzano, and it was always them, and a lot of pressure was put on them to get the points,” Bram said. “In different situations they would get put out, and now it’s my senior year and with them gone the roles have turned and that’s me now. I think a lot of the girls rely on me.”
In addition to scoring, Bram takes pride in doing the other things — forechecking, playing defense, knowing how to use her speed. Playing with and against some of the top players in the country, she says, has improved her hockey intelligence.
“I used to kind of just chase the puck around wherever it went, but now I’m playing a lot smarter,” she said.
Yet Bram remains her own worst critic. Often, she’ll speak about getting frustrated with her play, needing to stay away from “bad habits” or getting too down on herself because of mistakes.
“Since I was young I just hate failure, I hate losing, I hate anything like that,” she said. “I’m such a competitor that when I know I have better in me it just kind of rattles me [to make a mistake].”
Bailey says playing with her sister this year has helped, because Shelby can quickly set her straight. Now when she gets down about an error, she’ll use it as “fuel to get better.”
“She’ll grab me and say, ‘Bales, let’s go. You’ve got better in you. Don’t get down.’ So I think we feed off each other,” Bailey said.
This season, Bailey loves the energy the younger players have brought and the opportunity to play on a team with Shelby for the first time. In a game against Lindenwood in October, the sisters both had goals in the same game for the first time; then each scored twice the following day.
Bailey and Shelby grew up in a die-hard hockey family, with their father, Bill, coaching them in youth leagues. He built a rink in the back yard, and “every single night” the five kids would be on the ice playing 3-on-3 (with their father filling in) or 2-on-2. Even today, Bailey and Shelby talk often with their dad, who can still pinpoint the things they need to work on.
Bailey says he instilled in her a work ethic, the need to focus on “defense first” and to be in shape. From the time she was 7 she was on a workout program.
Now, playing with Shelby, Bailey is getting a chance to not only help Mercyhurst get back to the Frozen Four again, but aid her younger sister and teammates.
“We just pump each other up,” she says of Shelby. “We pick each other up and get the best out of each other.”