Justin Brandt has been a staple of the Tufts men’s hockey team for the past four years, leading his teammates to success in three competitive seasons. Hailing from the hockey mecca of Ann Arbor, Mich., the senior forward entered his collegiate career looking to simply have the opportunity to keep playing.
“When I first came in, it was more of going to a good school and doing well in school, and then playing a sport while I’m at it,” Brandt said.
He made an immediate impact on the team, being a starting player in just the third game of the 2018–19 season against Babson College. Brandt capitalized on the opportunity presented and scored his first ever collegiate goal early in the second period on a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle.
He appeared in 19 games for the Jumbos in the 2018–19 season, racking up eight points on three goals and five assists in a fruitful first-year campaign. The Jumbos came in eighth place in the NESCAC Championship that season, with an overall record of 6–16–3 and a conference record of 3–12–3.
During his sophomore year, Brandt truly stepped into more of a leadership role, becoming a potent offensive weapon for the Jumbos. He led the team in scoring, totaling 18 points on five goals as well as 13 assists. Those 18 points were good enough to rank him No. 14 in the NESCAC offensively, among other schools’ main powerhouse players.
Throughout his career, the emphasis in Brandt’s play has consistently been focused on assists rather than goals.
“[It’s just] getting it through your head that an assist is the same as a goal. If somebody else is scoring, it helps the team the same way,” Brandt said.
In addition to his on-the-ice prowess, Brandt earned NESCAC All-Academic Team Honors for his achievements in the classroom for the 2019–20 season.
Junior year looked drastically different for Brandt, as the season was canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Despite the changes, Brandt was unfazed by the effects of the virtual year and even spoke about some positive outcomes he learned from it.
“I think it honestly allowed the team to get a lot closer with a COVID year, but I don’t think it had as big of an effect as some might think on my career at Tufts,” Brandt said.
The year off allowed the Jumbos to hone in on their skills and return with renewed energy and vigor in their pursuit of a NESCAC Championship title.
In Brandt’s senior year, the team’s more skilled players were older, and that granted them an advantage heading into their competitions.
Brandt emphasized that he really wanted to leave it all on the ice heading into his final season.
“[It was my last season of playing competitive hockey, so I think missing out on that year has made us all realize how thankful we [all] are to be playing this game,” Brandt said.
The team battled hard, putting up a good fight in NESCAC play and winning some tough matchups against more hockey-focused programs like Wesleyan University on Jan. 21. When the Jumbos did lose, it was typically by a margin of one or two goals, demonstrating how far the team had come since Brandt’s first year.
The Jumbos secured a matchup against the Middlebury College Panthers at home in the first round of the NESCAC tournament. In a thorough performance, Tufts prevailed 4–1, including a hat trick from sophomore defender Andrew Gunlock supported by an assist from Brandt.
Brandt described the game as one of the most memorable of his Tufts career.
“It was one of the best if not the best game our team has played since I’ve been at Tufts,” Brandt said. “It was also my last game ever on our ice arena, and I think that will just always kind of live with me that it was the last win I’ll ever have in a Tufts jersey.”
Unfortunately, the win in the play-in round meant that the Tufts had to face top-seeded Colby College away from home in the NESCAC quarterfinals, presenting a difficult obstacle to overcome. Despite a display of good fight throughout the game, the Jumbos lost 5–1 to end their season. The team finished No. 8 in the NESCAC conference.
Individually, Brandt had another great year, ranking No. 11 in the NESCAC offensively and tenth in assists. He also led the conference in short-handed goals.
Brandt attributes some of his success to those who have helped him along the way, including former Tufts hockey teammate Anthony Farinacci as well as his support from home.
“My mom specifically is always pushing me and supporting me and really allowing me to even come to Tufts,” Brandt said.
Exiting his time at Tufts, Brandt hopes to leave behind a legacy to propel the hockey program in a positive direction.
“Just competing and wanting to win whether it’s in practice or in a game, I hope that those two things other people would have hopefully seen [from me] and can hopefully carry on as Tufts hockey continues,” Brandt said.
One thing is for certain: Justin Brandt’s mark on Tufts hockey and the name he has made for himself will not be forgotten.