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Castle Pines native, LHA, Thunderbirds alum Branish uses EHL as pathway to NCAA D-II Franklin Pierce


TJ Branish, a two-year defenseman for the EHL’s New Jersey 87’s, has committed to NCAA Division II Franklin Pierce University for the upcoming 2023-24 season.

The native of Castle Pines spent the past two seasons with the 87’s and over the course of 89 career regular-season and playoff games in the EHL, Branish compiled 27 points on five goals and 22 assists.

“He is what we are at the 87’s. He’s a champion, he’ll always have that as he goes to Franklin Pierce,” said 87’s head coach and general manager Adam Houli. “We fell short this past year, and it really affected him because he wanted to be able to get back to the Frozen Finals and try to do it again, and you could see it on him when we lost, and that’s who he is and that’s what he meant to our program. He felt it, he really lived it, you hear it all the time, he was what we call the 87 way.”

As Houli mentioned, Branish was beyond proud of the title he helped his team win back in the 2021-22 season. Despite getting knocked out prior to the Frozen Finals this past year, Branish still made the trip to Providence, R.I., this time in support of his brother Tyler as New Jersey won the 2022-23 title in the Eastern Hockey League Premier this past March.

“My two years with the 87’s were crucial in my development,” said Branish. “Coach Houli has a lot of experience moving guys to the next level and to be able to play for him was a great experience, and I grew not only as a hockey player but as a person. The energy around the rink was awesome and to be a part of two winning seasons and a championship run really prepared me on how to compete every day and to never be satisfied. It meant even more to be back in Providence this past March, watching my brother create his own history with the EHLP team.”

Houli went on to talk more about Branish, and just how impactful his presence was on the program.

“It’ll be sad that he won’t be on the ice with us next season, but we’re super happy he’s playing college hockey,” said Houli. “He’ll forever be a part of this program and we’re excited for him, but he’s a guy we’ve really enjoyed having in our program for two years, and he can leave saying he’s a champion, and that’s something special.”

Branish is excited for his commitment and commented on what it means to join the Ravens in the fall.

“It feels amazing to commit,” said Branish. “I’ve worked to achieve something like this for years, so it’s a great feeling. All the hard work and sacrifices made not just by myself, but by my family, coaches, and mentors, paid off and I’m so grateful to everyone who’s helped get to me to where I am today. I’m very excited to be able to get a chance to play at a great program like FPU and compete in the NE-10 conference.”

During his youth hockey days, Branish skated for the Littleton Hawks and Colorado Thunderbirds.

Photo/Dan Hickling/Hickling Images

— EHL/EHLP Staff

(August 7, 2023)

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