The Lone Star Brahmas got off to a slow start last year and finally started to turn things around in the December time frame. A key component to the change in direction was the trade that brought Chicago area native and goalie TJ Black to the team.
Black’s first game action in a Brahmas sweater came in late November and his first three decisions were all 3 – 1 losses. He picked up a point in a shootout loss in game four before taking back-to-back wins against the defending Robertson Cup National Champion Amarillo Bulls. “For me there wasn’t a lot of huge adjustments I had to make last year by coming in halfway through the season,” said Black. “The game was just a little faster with more highly skilled players. It took a few games to adjust to the speed, but after that I felt like the game started to really slow down for me.” TJ is a confident netminder and was sure he had the ability to play in the NAHL. “I think I really found my groove when I got my first wins in the sweep against Amarillo.”
Along the way TJ proved to be one of the better young goalies in the league finishing among league leaders in Wins, Shutouts, Goals Against Average and Save Percentage. Down the stretch he grabbed 13 of a possible 16 points in his last eight starts. He was honored as the Easton South Division Star of the Week once and Second Star Twice.
Black had been preparing for his opportunity for many years. “I knew I wanted to become a goalie after watching Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche win the 2001 Stanley Cup,” he explained. “I was around 5 years old and quickly started copying everything he did on the ice. I love all of the pressure being a goalie has to bring. It’s a lot of fun when you can either pump up the home crowd with a big save, or completely silence the other team’s fans for a whole game.” While he was a Roy fan and looked to the Hall of Famer as a model to build his game around, Black’s real inspiration came from within his own home. “Growing up my greatest hockey inspiration was my parents because they always supported me. My dad started playing when I started so he could help me learn the game. He was the one who drove me to those 6:00 in the morning Sunday practices. My parents continue to be my biggest fans and have always believed in me.”
Asked to describe his style of play, TJ used words such as quick, athletic and smart. “Being a smaller goalie, I have to be really fast and athletic to move around the net. It’s important to read the play, battle through screens and have great rebound control.” There have been other goaltenders such as Carey Price and Jonathan Quick who have influenced different components of his game because of their technique and athleticism. “The style I play is very technical so I need to be smart about how I want to make saves. For example, stay up on high shots and don’t give up any rebounds.”
Because of his smaller size teams tried to disrupt his play setting screens and putting a lot of bodies in front. Black had to adjust on the fly and learn to compensate for the heavy traffic. “I learned how to look through the player’s legs that is screening me instead of trying to look over his shoulder. I found this to be more beneficial because most shots that I’m screened on are going low and that way I’m already down on the ice.”
“There’s a vibe around the rink and locker room that this team is special and has the potential to do some amazing things this year.”
Black spent a lot of time this summer off the ice preparing for the coming season. “This offseason I tried to stay away from the rink until the end of July. Being away from the game helps me clear my head and get ready for a long season.” He spent three days a week working with a trainer developing more flexibility, endurance and foot speed in addition to a daily lifting program. Once it was time to hit the ice in late July, he headed north to Canada to work with his goalie coach. “My season starts once I go there, it’s all hockey after that. As a team, we need a strong start right from the get go, and I’ll be ready to help the team win.”
Black will be part of a formidable Chicago area contingent suiting up for the Brahmas this season. “Chicago is a great hockey hub and we’re lucky to have some of the great players from there. I played against Roman Uchyn growing up and he’s one of those players that you hate playing against but love to have on your team. Bud Madej has been on my team for the past six years, he’s always been my favorite defenseman because he’s one of those guys who goes into battle for you and will lead the charge. This will be my first year playing with Nick Ford but he will be a great fit on our team by carrying a crazy amount of skill.” He sees the new guys fitting in well in the locker room and on the ice just over a week into training camp. “The team is already a tight knit group. There’s a vibe around the rink and locker room that this team is special and has the potential to do some amazing things this year.”
“To get back into the playoffs, we have to give it everything we have.” Black recounted how every member of the team listed winning the Robertson Cup as one of their personal goals for the season. “This year’s team is determined. We will have to be the hardest working team every night and lay it all out on the line. We have to be ready and play tough Brahmas hockey for the whole season.” TJ has two other lofty goals for this season one is to earn league Goalie of the Year honors and receive and NCAA D-I scholarship.
More from Dallas Sports
- Re-grading the Dallas Cowboys 2017 draft: Looking back
- Dallas Cowboys defense is great but also has room for improvement
- FC Dallas products play major role in USMNT win over Honduras
- Mavs Gaming and WWP Honor Mental Health Month
- Texas Rangers: 3 biggest questions this offseason
“I owe a lot to coach Wildfong and Potter for trading for me last year and providing me the opportunity to play hockey for Lone Star. The team got off to a slow start, but we finished strong. We’re looking forward to starting strong and building off our successful second half. It’s easy to tell that we have a great group of players in camp this year. It’s exciting and we can’t wait to get going.”
2010/11Chicago Mission U16
2011/12Chicago Mission U18
2012/13Chicago Mission U18
2013/14Philadelphia Jr Flyers
2013/14Lone Star Brahmas