NA3HL, North Iowa alum Gravelle signs pro contract
During the 2015-16 season that saw North Iowa Bulls star Brett Gravelle set the North American Tier 3 Hockey League’s (NA3HL) single-season goals record, he racked up eight hat tricks. The last of those came in the Silver Cup national title game, his last game as a Bull before heading off to St. Thomas University in Minnesota.
As much as Gravelle knows about hat tricks, he’ll fit in perfectly in his first stop as a pro hockey player, after signing Tuesday with the Danbury Hat Tricks of the Federal Prospects Hockey League. He joins a group of 10 North Iowa alumni who suited up as professionals last season, including a pair of teammates in Austin Jackson and Jack Stang. Jackson, Kyle Gonzalez and Tim Santopoalo all played in the FPHL during the 2019-20 season, with Jackson and Gonzalez wearing the Hat Tricks’ black-and-orange at some point during the year.
“I’m just excited to have a chance to play this season with everything that is going on,” said Gravelle. “The previous team I signed with, Quad City in the [Southern Professional Hockey League], canceled their season because of the pandemic, so I’m grateful just to have a chance to play hockey this season. Hopefully this is just the first step in my career as a pro and I’m thankful for the opportunity that Danbury has provided me.”
The Forest Lake, Minnesota native spent his entire college career lighting up the scoreboard as well, notching 113 points over a 102-game career and leading the Tommies in scoring each of his four seasons in Minneapolis. He served as an alternate captain during his junior season and as a team captain last season as a senior alongside former Bull Johnny Panvica. His team-best 28 points landed him a first-team all-Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference nod for the third straight season, and he became the first Tommie since 2008 to surpass 100 points in a career.
Gravelle played 17 games in the North American Hockey League with the Minnesota Wilderness and the Austin Bruins, but he made his biggest impact as a member of the Bulls, winning back-to-back national championships in 2015 and 2016. He scored 160 points in 79 regular-season games, ranking third all-time on the North Iowa career leaderboard, and his 38 career postseason points ranks atop the Bulls’ leaderboard in that category. His 99 points during the 2015-16 season led the NA3HL, and his 57 goals was briefly an NA3HL record.
“Brett’s one of the best players to ever play for the Bulls, and probably in this league” said North Iowa associate head coach Mark Hicks. “Ever since he was here, I always thought he was a high-quality player and had pro abilities. It’s no surprise that he’s there, and he’ll probably succeed there as well.”
The FPHL season is tentatively scheduled to begin on December 18 with eight teams and a 46-game regular season. The SPHL is down to just five teams for the upcoming season, with a 42-game schedule and a start date of December 26. Both leagues were planning to ice 10 teams for the upcoming season prior to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve been fortunate to see Brett climb the through the junior ranks and advance to college hockey,” said Danbury head coach Anthony Bohn, who coached in the NA3HL for the Topeka and Atlanta Capitals during Gravelle’s junior career. “He’s a player with the right mindset along with the unique ability to provide scoring at every level he has played at. But more importantly for our organization, he’s just as good of a person as he his as a player. That excites us even more.”