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Brandon Fortunato’s journey to Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey

Photo courtesy Quinnipiac Athletics

By: Nick Cataldi

Growing up in the non-traditional hockey market of Long Island, NY, Brandon Fortunato was lucky to grow his game around great players and coaches. Playing with the Long Island Gulls and Long Island Royals he was able to play amongst others with the same Division I and professional aspirations as him.

At 16 years old, Fortunato won a National Championship playing for the Royals under the leadership of Pat Lafontaine.

“It was a really cool experience, we had a group of five to six players that all grew up together and all of us now are pretty successful players,” Fortunato said.

Fortunato decided to move to Ann Arbor, Michigan that same year to play for the United States National Development Program. In his two years playing for the USNTDP, he got to play with top-notch players such as Jack Eichel, Dylan Larkin, Sunny Milano, and Auston Matthews.

That team went on to win the gold medal at the U-18 World Championships in 2014.

“It was really amazing experience overall, just to be able to compete everyday with the 20 best kids in the country,” Fortunato said. “But the best part of the program is the relationships that you make with the guys. Those are lifelong friends.”

When it was time for Fortunato to think about college, him and his Long Island teammates had the goal of playing for an ECAC team.

“Me, Jeremy Bracco, and Adam Fox actually all had a dream of going to Harvard together,” Fortunato said.

But, that situation only worked out for one of them. Fox is now at Harvard, while Bracco is playing for the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League.

Fortunato ended up committing to play Division I hockey at another Boston school across the bridge to Comm Ave. He committed to Boston University and would not have ended up there if it was not for one person in particular.

“It’s actually a funny story when Harvard didn’t work out. I was actually living with Eichel and he was in my ear every night ‘you gotta come to BU, you gotta to come to BU,’” Fortunato said.

During Fortunato’s freshman year, Boston University won the Hockey East regular season and tournament championship, as well as the Beanpot.

Boston University and Fortunato made it all the way to the Frozen Four before falling in the National Championship Game to its conference rival Providence.

In his sophomore year, Fortunato got the opportunity to play in one of the most respected tournaments in hockey; the 2016 World Junior Championships. That year, the United Stated won the Bronze Medal.

“It was an unbelievable experience; you’re surrounded with the best of the best. It’s something I will never forget for the rest of my life,” Fortunato said.

Fortunato decided to transfer from Boston University after the World Junior Championships to a school that was a better fit for him athletically and personally.

“This summer things didn’t work out and I wanted to be in a spot that would be the best for me as a player,” Fortunato said.

Quinnipiac University became an option that Fortunato could not pass up.

“An hour and 20 minutes from my house, great players, and great coaches,” Fortunato said.

He had a tough decision whether to sit out the year or play juniors, as his junior rights were held by the Fargo Force of the USHL and he had a year of junior eligibility left.

But, he chose to come to Quinnipiac to train to become a stronger player.

“That was the biggest decision I had to make but, what it came down to was I realized that my biggest weakness is my lack of strength and I needed to put weight. Playing an 80 game schedule in the USHL I wouldn’t be able to put on as much weight as I were to sit out the year and just train,” Fortunato said.

Kevin Duane, a Quinnipiac forward who also transferred to Quinnipiac from Boston University has been a huge help to Fortunato.

“Before I came here I was talking to Duane and he was just saying how much he loves it here, and obviously a guy like him can relate to me because he was in my shoes,” Fortunato said.

Fortunato has also made a great connection with the strength and conditioning coach, Brijesh Patel and admires his commitment to making all the athletes feel like they have a support system.

“It’s not about the lifting and the weights it’s about the relationships he has with each guy. You can always come in and talk to him if you are having a bad day,” Fortunato said.

As an offensive-minded defenseman who has the ability to quarterback the power play, Fortunato will be a key edition in the 2017-2018 season.

“I’m a defenseman who obviously likes to be offensive and make plays with the puck,” Fortunato said. “But, I’m also a kid who will do anything to win a hockey game.”

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