Brendan Furry (26) moves the puck for St. Francis during a 2016 state hockey semifinal against Cleveland St. Ignatius. The former Knight standout has earned a scholarship to play at Division I Niagara. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Winning a state championship became the impetus for the rise in the hockey career of young Brendan Furry.
Confidence grew for the forward when he began to produce at a regular clip for the St. Francis de Sales team that won the state title in 2015 when he was a junior. Furry also dedicated himself in the weight room after another productive year as senior for the Knights.
Now Furry’s career has progressed through the junior hockey ranks and reached its peak in August when he earned a scholarship to play college hockey at Division I Niagara University.
“I guess you could say I’m a late bloomer,” Furry said. “It took me some time to develop. It all started with St. Francis winning the state title. That is when I started to gel. I started scoring more and getting more points.”
Now 19, the North Toledoan also has become physically stronger. The 2016 St. Francis graduate was about 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds in high school.
“Now I’m 6-foot and 205 pounds and it’s all muscle,” Furry said.
As a junior Furry produced 14 goals and 51 points for a Knights team that went 32-5-1 and captured the school’s second championship in five years. Then as a senior, he racked up 99 points in 38 games with 46 goals for a St. Francis team that established a state record for goals scored in a season with 336. Although the Knights (36-2-0) lost in a state semifinal, Furry earned All-Ohio second-team honors.
Furry credited St. Francis coach Chris Varga for helping him take that next step.
“The coaches there showed me how to be a leader. They made me an assistant captain as a senior,” he said. “They pushed me and developed me into a better player and person.”
Furry said he thought his next step would be playing for the club team at Bowling Green State University. But he said his parents, Kelly and Linda, encouraged him to attempt to play at a higher level.
“My mom and dad said, ‘We will give you one year to go out and prove yourself,’ “ Furry said. “That is when I got into the weight room. I started training in the offseason, working hard on my game.”
Furry played one season for the Belle Tire U18 team in Michigan. He led the team, a Tier I, elite midget major team, in scoring with 28 points, including 10 goals, in 38 games. Furry then was offered a spot on the roster of the Amarillo Bulls, a team in the North American Hockey League based in Texas.
“I had seven good games down there,” said Furry, who had two goals and an assist.
Amarillo head coach Matt Nichols then left the team to become an assistant at Niagara.
“We had a really good relationship. He invited me to visit Niagara,” Furry said. “I really loved it there. It’s a small, private, Catholic school. It reminded me of St. Francis, and those were the best four years of my life. It’s also been my dream to play college hockey. So I could not pass up the offer.”
Furry said his confidence also grew mentally and physically working out at Elite Athletes Only, a Sylvania-based training center.
“That’s where it all started rolling for me,” Furry said. “I got addicted to the weight room. I started getting bigger and stronger. That’s when it hit me that hockey was my job.”
Dan Jones, the founder and owner of EAO, said Furry has an intense desire to improve.
“He has an internal drive to succeed,” Jones said. “He has built a noticeable confidence. He has gained 15 pounds and is comfortable with uncomfortable.”
Jones, who also is the Toledo Walleye’s strength and conditioning coach, said Furry has been working with pro players.
“He has been training with other top hockey players and with [Walleye captain] Alden Hirschfeld,” Jones said. “He has committed to the process. He’s all in.”
Furry said Jones boosted his game.
“He’s made me stronger and faster. He’s turned me into a monster,” Furry said.
Although Furry has committed to play at Niagara, he has opted to play one more season of major junior hockey. Furry left Tuesday to join the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League. Furry said he hopes one more year competing in the country’s top junior league will pay dividends. He will play at Niagara starting in 2018-19.
Furry, who started skating when he was 3 at Tam-O-Shanter in Sylvania, began playing competitively at age 5. He credited many coaches along the way, including Nick Parillo, Dennis Roudebush, and Mike Mankowski, for his development.
“It’s a great feeling to know all your hard work has paid off,” Furry said. “To know that a college program trusts you and wants you to represent them is a real accomplishment.”