ARDEN HILLS, Minn. – There aren’t many corners of the country that North Iowa Bulls forward Brett Morich hasn’t seen. The forward hails from the Phoenix area but grew up in Chicago, and has played junior hockey in northern Michigan, Utah and New York as well as the Midwest. He would end up playing junior hockey games in no fewer than 14 states, plus the province of Ontario.
This season, though, Morich saw one chapter end in Mason City while a new chapter prepares to begin just two hours to the north.
His junior career started within sight of Canada, with the Soo Eagles of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. After a 17-point season, his journey in the North American Hockey League began just a couple hours from his original stomping grounds, as a member of the Springfield Jr. Blues. After 10 games and one assist, he landed in Jamestown, New York with the Rebels. That first NAHL goal finally came on January 11, 2020, closing out a 6-1 win that also saw Morich in a spirited first-period scrap with Johnstown’s Reed Stark.
Then, COVID hit.
The 2019-20 season ended in mid-March, and when the dust settled, both of Morich’s old teams would end up sitting out the 2020-21 season. COVID-related restrictions on gatherings in New York and Illinois continued into the fall of 2020, making it unfeasible for teams to play without crowds in the stands. Fortunately, an opportunity opened up in Utah, allowing him to stay on the ice in the coming season.
“Utah was a state that was really uninhibited in terms of COVID restrictions,” said Morich. “We got to play a ton of games, and the hockey was super competitive, and obviously, I was not the only person displaced due to COVID. There were a lot of really good players who came down to play on the team with me, so that was an awesome year.”
After posting 37 points in his only season in the Beehive State, it was back to New York and back to the NAHL in 2021-22 as the Rebels and junior hockey returned to a state of normalcy. When Morich returned to Jamestown, he returned to the same coaching staff, but a new-look roster – head coach Joe Coombs remained, but had built a team that included only two players from the 2019-20 season.
“That was an opportunity to completely rebuild a new culture,” said Morich. “Going back to Jamestown was fun – I had an unbelievable billet family out there – I actually brought them a dog. They’re people I’ll have a relationship with the rest of my life.”
Morich would score seven goals and notch four assists during the 2021-22 campaign – oddly enough, every point was scored in a game involving North Iowa. His only point in a Rebels uniform this past season came in the second game of the NAHL Showcase, an assist in a 4-1 victory, Jamestown’s first of the season and the Bulls’ only loss at the Showcase.
As March turned to April, he made his college decision, and he was able to announce a commitment to Bethel University in early May as work on the final admissions and financial aid paperwork wrapped up. He was one of several North Iowa players who closed out the season with a commitment locked in, and one of three 2001-born Bulls who would go into the final weeks of their junior careers without a college decision weighing on their minds.
“Everyone has their biggest stressors, and as a last-year junior hockey player, that tops it all,” said Morich. “Whether it’s family life or problems outside of hockey, and when we get to the rink we all do our best to shed those problems and only focus on hockey. Everyone’s future is probably the thing that stresses them out the most. To be able to have that sorted out for now is a humongous weight lifted off my shoulders. I’m beyond excited to go up there (to Bethel) – the coaching staff are unbelievable people. They’re people who, the things that I value that are important to me, they align with their values. I’ll still be close to Mason City, to come see all of my friends down here and my awesome billet family.”