Atypical path to D-I for Dornbrock
OXFORD, Ohio – A season before joining the Miami hockey team, Scott Dornbrock considered quitting the sport he loves.
After spending one year with Minot of the NAHL, he was told prior to 2013-14 that he would be playing in the USHL, the primary feeder league to the NCAA.
But when the defenseman inquired about living arrangements, he was informed he had not made the team since its allotment of 20-year-olds was used up.
That meant accepting returning to Minot as an overager.
“It was kind of an uneasy situation when I called and asked for housing information when they said, yeah sorry, you’re not coming here,” Dornbrock said. “When I made that phone call I was kind of heartbroken, and I didn’t know if I wanted to keep doing it just because I felt like I’d worked so hard to get back into the USHL.”
The NAHL is a slightly lower-level league than the USHL and doesn’t see as many players join NCAA teams on scholarship.
Rather than sulk, Dornbrock returned to Minot where he was named assistant captain. He scored seven goals and notched 17 assists for 24 points, his best numbers to date in all three categories.
That season vaulted him to a starting job at Miami, and the senior has dressed for 132 games in his four seasons in Oxford, tallying 34 points including six goals.
“I didn’t have any problem going back to Minot, but in the end it really helped me realize that playing in the USHL wasn’t the only way you could move forward,” Dornbrock said. “Going back for my second year in Minot helped out a lot more than it would’ve if I went to the USHL.”
Dornbrock, from Harper Woods, Mich., on the northeast side of Detroit, started skating when he was three and playing organized hockey by five.
He tried baseball, basketball and golf – even freshman football for half a season – but decided to concentrate on hockey.
Unlike most Miamians who go the midgets-to-juniors route, Dornbrock played three seasons with his high school team, skating with former standout Andy Miele’s brother, Shawn Miele.
“It made me realize how much I wanted to play hockey after high school and after junior hockey,” Dornbrock said.
He was already weeks from his 18th birthday when he suited up for Omaha of the USHL. Dornbrock logged 35 games there, dishing for five assists and compiling a plus-13 rating.
“It was unbelievable,” Dornbrock said. “I stayed with a great family and it was like here – a small group of players – and there were three of us that went to high school together, so we were a really tight-knit group. It was just a very good experience.”
Dornbrock hoped to return, but his style didn’t mesh with the new coaches’ system, and he was one of the last players Omaha cut that preseason.
So he took a demotion to Topeka of the NAHL. Dornbrock played 12 games and picked up three assists there before being traded to Minot, where he added 11 more helpers.
“I would say that I definitely developed there,” Dornbrock said. “I got a lot of power play time and it just developed me offensively.”
Combined with his 7-17-24 line his overage season, Dornbrock finished his 91-game Minot career with seven goals, 28 assists, 35 points.
“I loved Minot, I try to go back almost every summer to visit the billet family that I lived with there,” Dornbrock said. “It was a great experience. Pretty cold, but I loved it up there. I would say that besides Omaha that was my favorite place that I’ve been.”
During that pivotal 2013-14 season, Dornbrock visited Oxford, and having been teammates with Shawn Miele, he talked to his brother Andy Miele, who was having photos taken on campus with his recently-won Hobey Baker trophy.
After that conversation, Dornbrock decided to commit to Miami, where he was roomed with fellow current senior Conor Lemirande.
The two had never met.
“Obviously through mutual friends we figured out who each other were,” Lemirande said. “And you get to know him really quick when you’re in the same dorm with him.”
The tandem has roomed together all four years at Miami.
“Scotty’s a good guy, he likes to have a lot of fun,” Lemirande said. “We’ve had a lot fun times.”
They also previously roomed with captain Louie Belpedio. Belpedio now resides across the hall from the duo.
“(Scott’s) probably the funniest kid I’ve ever met – he’s hilarious,” Belpedio said. “He’s a dummy, too – I mean that in a good way. I look at him and laugh, and that’s all I’ll say about that. He’s awesome. Another one of my best friends, and I spend of time – the three seniors, we have to stick together – and never a dull moment.”
Upon arriving in Oxford, Dornbrock was thrust into the lineup immediately. He played in 36 games as a freshman, notching two goals and earning six assists.
“He really took initiative coming in and said ‘I’m going to make the most of my opportunity’, and he really did, he grasped that,” Lemirande said. “Being that simple, puck-moving defenseman that we need him to be, and his presence on the ice when he’s at the top of his game is there. And we really rely on him to make those plays.”
While it took Dornbrock until his third season of juniors to score a goal, he found the net 10 games into his freshman campaign vs. Colorado College.
But he has established his niche as a shut-down defenseman who can carry the puck and rip a glass-shattering slap shot when necessary.
“He’s a shut-down defenseman, he skates really well too,” Belpedio said. “He’s smart, you can use him in all situations, honestly. He’s not looked to as a power play guy but he’s been on our power play a couple of times. He’s pretty versatile with the things he’s able to do, and I think if he keeps it up he’ll have a good rest of his career here at Miami and carry that into his pro career.”
Belpedio is also a physical blueliner, but he is listed at 6-0, 198 pounds, three inches shorter and 32 pounds lighter than Dornbrock.
“I think it’s different between he and I – he obviously can use his body a lot better than me – he’s a lot bigger than I am,” Belpedio said. “So I think I have to use my stick and use my skating and try to be as physical as possible to try and separate the guy from the puck. Where as Scott, if you have your head down he’s probably going to kill you. That’s awesome to have a guy like that on your team, especially because it creates energy.”
Dornbrock would score twice and pick up six assists his freshman campaign to accompany a plus-4 rating, That season, Miami finished second in the NCHC and won the conference championship.
“That was definitely one of the best teams I’ve ever been on,” Dornbrock said. “Obviously we had a lot of high-end guys that decided to come back, like (Austin) Czarnik, (Blake) Coleman, (Riley) Barber. You know, that was just a really fun experience and that was probably my favorite hockey moment so far.”
In his collegiate career, Dornbrock has missed just 10 games. He went 0-6-6 as a sophomore and tallied three goals and 10 assists his junior year – his best as a RedHawk offensively.
But his calling card is his physical style of defense. As a forward, Lemirande often matches up with the 6-feet-3, 230-pound blueliner in practice.
“I get to battle with him in practice a lot, and that’s a lot of fun – having another big guy battling in front of the net,” Lemirande said. “He’s hard to play against and that’s what makes it fun. You’re working to get better, he’s working to get better, so pushing each other is something that I’ll always remember about Scotty.”
He was second on Miami in blocked shots in both his freshman and sophomore years, rejecting a total of 88 those seasons, and he led the team in 2016-17 with 47.
And while Dornbrock plays a physical brand of hockey, he has kept his penalty minutes to a minimum. He was whistled for 37 PIM as a freshman but has just 49 the last three seasons combined.
“Being a bigger guy, refs always have their eye on you,” Lemirande said. “The game’s not stick lifting, big hits anymore, you’ve got to play simple, you’ve got to play smart and he’s real good at that – staying out of the box – which is crucial.”
Said Belpedio: “He’s really smart with that. I think the only time it really gets iffy is because he’s so big it looks worse than it actually is. But he’s not the type of kid that would try to hurt you in a dirty way. Obviously he wants to run you through the boards, but he’s clean about it, he’s smart about it, and he’s really good at it, so it’s something you’ve got to be aware of every time you’re on the ice with him.”
In his time with the RedHawks, Dornbrock has gotten much smarter about positioning, cutting down the angles at which opposing would-be offensive threats approach the net.
“He’s definitely smarter – I think that comes with the role he’s in – he’s definitely played a lot more as he’s progressed,” Belpedio said. “I think, just from that experience he’s grown a ton – I guess you could say that about anyone as you get older, I guess – but Scott’s done a really nice job with it.”
Through 26 games this season, Dornbrock has a goal and six helpers, giving him a line of 6-28-34 in his four years at Miami. He has 170 blocks.
After hanging up the skates, Dornbrock said he’d like to coach or follow his restaurant-owning uncle’s path and become an entrepreneur.
Another possibility is consulting. Specifically, said he would like to help former hockey players find career paths after retirement from the game.
Dornbrock will graduate in May with a degree in sports leadership and a minor in management – he has a 3.0 grade-point average – and he has made life-long friends at Miami.
“He’ll be standing up at my wedding, that’s for sure,” Lemirande said.
On the ice, he has logged over 130 games played including an NCHC championship game and NCAA Tournament contest.
All that less than five years after nearly giving the game up.
“It’s been amazing – it’s the best experience that I’ve ever had in my life,” Dornbrock said. “Being able to have so many close teammates, I haven’t had that anywhere else where I’ve stayed in contact with pretty much every single one of my teammates. Being able to pick up the phone and call a teammate and (pick up) right where you left off.”
Later this week we feature the career of F Conor Lemirande.
Posted on February 20, 2018, in 2017-18, features, Uncategorized and tagged 2017-18 miami redhawks, Conor Lemirande, Louie Belpedio, miami redhawks features, Scott Dornbrock. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.