Hockey matchup between American International and St. Cloud State special to Christian brothers
MOORHEAD, Minn. — Bryant and Jordy Christian began their hockey careers playing against one another on the pond behind their house in Moorhead. Their dad, Ed Christian, who played hockey for the University of North Dakota in the early '80s, installed flood lights on the back of the house because the two boys would not stop playing after the sunset.
Bryant remembers his older brother generally running the show on the pond.
"My brother and I have always been close, the entire family is," Bryant said. "He definitely was the one telling me what to do on the pond. I just remember the countless hours spent out there."
Jordy said his parents picked the house because of the pond in the backyard. His earliest memories were of playing with his dad and Bryant.
"That was hockey in its purest form, playing with your buddies, your brother, your family," Jordy said. "We still shovel the pond and my nephew was just out there. That pond has been in my family ever since we moved to Moorhead.
"We used to go from practice to the pond almost daily. I had a lot of good battles with Bryant on that pond and they didn't always end with smiles when were done."
Both are out of hockey now, as Bryant, 25, graduated from American International College last spring and Jordy, 30, graduated from St. Cloud State in 2012. They both played college hockey after their high school careers at Moorhead.
The two will be back at the rink Friday, as AIC will take on St. Cloud State, the No. 1-ranked team in the nation, in the first round of the NCAA Division I men's hockey tournament's West Regional at Scheels Arena. Not purposely, but the two will be sitting separately in the crowd.
"That's probably for the best," Bryant said.
Bryant had been following since December because he figured St. Cloud State would be the top seed and whatever team came out of the Atlantic Hockey Conference would get the 16 seed. He figured if the University of North Dakota didn't make the tournament, the Huskies would be in Fargo.
Bryant and Jordy were watching the selection show at a friend's house when they saw the matchup become official.
"We kind of knew it, but to finally see it on the screen was surreal," Bryant said. "We just looked at each other and laughed. Neither of us thought we'd ever see the day where our two alma maters would play each other in the NCAA tournament."
Jordy bought tickets awhile ago based on the fact there was a good chance St. Cloud State was going to be in Fargo. Bryant was originally going to be included in those tickets, but Jordy said he doesn't want anyone sitting with him that isn't cheering for St. Cloud State. He even booted his mom from sitting with him because she won't commit to which team she will cheer for.
"We've got enough tickets for everyone who wants to go," Jordy said. "We have a lot of friends and family that are probably more excited than we are. As life goes on, you compete in different ways."
Bryant waited to buy tickets because it wasn't until AIC won the conference championship game in overtime that he knew the Yellow Jackets were even in the tournament. It was the first time the Yellow Jackets ever played in the conference championship and Friday will be the first time they ever play in an NCAA tournament game.
"I wish more than anything I was out there with my teammates and friends," Bryant said. "I've been fortunate enough to be busy with my career to not have to think about missing hockey too much."
Bryant is a financial analyst with Edward Jones in Moorhead and Jordy is a district manager at Federated Insurance in Fargo.
Bryant was a captain for AIC, skating his final shift of his final game on a broken leg in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament last season. After AIC won the conference tournament this season, AIC coach Eric Lang told reporters that Bryant's fingerprints were all over the AIC program. Lang went on to say Bryant skating his final shift on a broken leg was a big moment in the program's history.
Jokes aside, Jordy is proud of his younger brother, though he'll wait until after Friday to admit it.
"It's incredible to watch your younger brother have such an impact on a program," Jordy said. "It's just a tremendous group of people leading that program and Bryant is still connected to a lot of them. He worked for absolutely everything he's done in his playing career and seeing what he helped create is pretty cool. ... But I would never tell him any of this."