TRURO – Dana Fraser’s season ended much sooner than he would have hoped.
His UPEI Panthers poured 34 shots on goal against the fifth-ranked Saint Mary’s Huskies that night, as Fraser watched from the stands. Booted from the game five minutes in, the Panthers’ elder statesman would have to sit and watch his team bail out of the playoffs in the first round.
“Obviously we went out a lot earlier than we’d planned,” Fraser said. “As a team, we didn’t do all the things we wanted to do last year.”
Now living back in Truro, Fraser is using the loss to fuel a bigger flame for himself. With a degree in hand, the 24-year-old Tatamagouche native and former Bearcat has his sights set on turning pro.
Fraser has been fielding offers lately from teams in the East Coast Hockey League – a mid-level professional league based out of the United States.
Professional hockey is often a long shot for players like Fraser, who play junior A rather than major junior. Still, Fraser always kept the goal in mind.
“I knew anything was possible,” he said of his junior days in Truro. “Obviously everybody wants to go to the NHL. It is kind of a long shot, but you still have those ambitions.”
After junior ended, those same ambitions led him down a path he never imagined taking – the academic life. Fraser, a dean’s list student at UPEI, was named an Academic All-Canadian in his final season. The award is given to athletes who maintain an average above 80 per cent in their studies while playing varsity sports.
“For anyone who knew me before, they know it’s a big accomplishment,” he said. “I went to school to play hockey, before I realized how important school actually was.”
Fraser’s learning in the classroom carried well beyond the walls of MacDougall Hall, the business building where he spent hours each day.
“What I learned through school taught me a lot about work ethic, in the classroom, on the ice or in life.”
It was a far cry from the junior lifestyle, he said.
“When you play junior, you’re not really doing much besides lazing around and playing hockey,” said Fraser. “When you go the school route, you kind of realize all the other real world things that come with it.”
Fraser hopes to follow the path of several of his former Panther teammates into the pro leagues, with the example of one former teammate in particular.
“Jared Gomes was a guy I played with a couple years ago who made the jump into the Coast, and before long he was in the AHL. I look at that and think, ‘Well, what if it was me?’”
Fraser is spending the summer getting in shape while his agent searches for options. He’s fielded offers so far, but is considering his options carefully before making a decision.
He has a lot of people to thank for his success, especially parents and former coaches.
“Shawn (Evans, Bearcats coach) was a huge help, along with the rest of the staff here and at UPEI.
“And my parents as well – I wouldn’t have been able to do it without their help.”