By Warren Kozireski —
Brandon Tabakin decided at 23 years old to change everything, so he departed Yale after four seasons (one cancelled due to the pandemic) and transferred to the other coast with Arizona State.
And that decision is paying off on the ice. As of this writing, he stood second in the nation in plus/minus at +18 over 19 games. In fact, he has been at least a plus player in every game this season.
“I had a great experience at Yale and met some of my best friends that I’m going to talk to the rest of my life, but in terms of hockey and school I just wanted a complete changeup in terms of the league and where I was,” Tabakin said after game one of the Adirondack Winter Invitational in Lake Placid.
“ASU was really appealing to me with the new rink, and I really bought into what coach (Greg) Powers had to say and the group that was coming back I knew we had a lot of potential, so all in all I just wanted something new and it’s been really good so far.
“I’m doing the right things and playing with really good players who put the puck in the net. I just try to play my game and really don’t worry about stats too much; just wins.”
Good in that Arizona State was ranked 13th in the nation as of the poll just prior to the holiday break and were seeded 16ht in the NCAA tournament deciding Pairwise, which puts them on the bubble.
Despite being on the smaller side for a defenseman at 5’10” and 175 lb., he uses superior skating to his advantage and winning seems to find Tabakin wherever his hockey career has taken him. Two-time Atlantic Youth Hockey League Champion (AYHL) and Tier-1 Elite League Regular Season Champion and League Champion (2015) with the North Jersey Avalanche, 2016 Four-Nations Tournament Gold Medalist with USNTDP and a Clark Cup championship in 2018-19 in one of his three season with Sioux Falls.
“No secret, I just think play the right way and, if all of us have the same goal, we’re going to have positive results. Growing up power skating was always the big thing I would work on and was something I really bought in and understood that to be successful in this game in this age that you have to be a good skater. I’m not the biggest guy, so I need to be elusive and try to use it to my advantage.
“The gold medal is a little bit different because I was actually a call-up for that USA team. It was still an unbelievable experience, but it wasn’t my true team; I was just really happy to be there for the ride honestly and contribute in any way they asked me too. Clark Cup was really cool. It’s a really long season in the USHL and we actually beat Chicago, which was the team that traded me, so that was pretty nice.
“But that’s four or five years ago now, so it’s time to win something else I think.”
The final half of Tabakin’s collegiate career is underway, and he would like to pursue hockey at the next level but has a Mathematics degree to fall back on.
“I’d like to play pro depending on the situation obviously, but if not maybe have a quarter-life crisis and figure it out from there. Here I’m doing a certificate called digital audience strategy which is kind of like marketing, but I just wanted to try something new for school. With math I can do maybe accounting or finance. My brother works in finance in New York City, so I talk to him a lot about his career and what he does and (I) might be able to do something similar to that.”
(Photos provided by Arizona State Men’s Hockey Dept.)