Brian Kramer Named Valairco Heating and Cooling Highlander Athlete of the Week
BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ — Brian Kramer remembers sitting in the crowd watching his two older brothers skate for the Gov. Livingston/New Providence hockey team as well as battling them in street hockey in the family’s driveway.
The youngest Kramer brother obviously soaked up those memories and knowledge; and combined them with his ever-improving hockey skills to begin fashioning a bright career now on the ice for the Highlanders.
“I definitely remember watching them play every game when they were playing at GL,” Kramer recalled. “ They (Danny and Kyle) taught me so much about high school hockey. We are a competitive family and I remember playing driveway hockey all the time with them and watching Danny help Gov. Livingston win the Kelly Cup (2017). I soaked it all up.”
Now in his sophomore season, Brian Kramer has emerged in his own right and blossomed into one of the state’s top public school centers.
In helping steer Gov. Livingston to a 10-1 record Kramer has registered a team-leading 28 assists to go with 15 goals for a team-high 43 points. The Highlanders earned the top-seed a bye in the opening round of the Msgr. Kelly Cup and will play host to fifth-seed Montclair Kimberley Academy on Monday at Warinanco Rink at 8:35.
The winner advances into the championship game slated for Thursday at Codey Arena in West Orange.
His totals and spirited play for the Highlanders earned him the Most Valuable Player award last week in the Kelly Division as well as a First Team honoree.
Kramer’s sophomore campaign - he finished with 21 points in five conference games - has not been a surprise, especially growing up in a strong hockey background and after his impressive play as a freshman last season.
“ I think this season has been an incredible one for him, he had already established himself last year, but he’s really stepped it up this season," said senior Drew Skotarczak. "Entirely deserving of the conference MVP for on ice play but even off the ice he’s had a major impact on the team as a whole. He makes everyone around him better, and he’s a huge reason this team is where it is right now.”
“He’s been pretty productive,” said Gov. Livingston coach Michael Criscitello. “But last year he was only a freshman skating mostly with two seniors, so then you might wonder was that freshman season a fluke or was it legit? I think he’s answered that question pretty well.
“I can remember him coming to those games and watching his older brothers play, and it’s crazy how fast time passes, but Brian’s going far beyond what we expected. I think he learned a lot during those years watching his brothers play. He sat back and watched what they did, and I think it drove him to want to succeed at this level.”
He sure has thus far.
Again, Kramer points to his brothers in helping him develop the transition from youth club hockey to the high school level.
“They always mentored me, especially Danny,” Brian noted. “He told me what it was like from club high school and what to expect. He had a great career in high school, so he was always a model for me. We had a hard- working team last year, and this season has just been so much fun. We’re all really grateful just to get the chance to play every game.”
Last season Kramer finished with 34 points on 21 goals and 13 assists.
“I think if we’d had a full season this year he would have had a shot at 100 points,” said Criscitello. “He’s scored 43 points in 11 games, so I think he could have reached or gotten close to 100 in a full season.”
Kramer’s scoring touch has been balanced as well, with nine coming at even strength; one each on a power play as well as short-handed; and three game-winning tallies.
Even more noticeable now has been his position as the pivot on the team’s top line with junior Matt Darata and freshman Brady Silverman.
Silverman has 20 goals and 13 assists while Darata has seven goals to go with 18 helpers.
As the unit’s center, Kramer has enjoyed the rapid development of the three — the Brady Bunch Line, which came together at the team’s initial practice before the season commenced.
“Coach Criscitello just put the three of us together that first practice and just said he wanted to try it out,” said the 5-7, 145-pound Kramer. “I skated a little bit with Matt (Darata) last year, but then he got hurt, and I’d never played with Brady before. But we had so much chemistry right from the start. They’re both very skilled players, and we just seem to know where each other is going to be on the ice. Everyone does their part, and it’s been so much fun.
“I think I see the ice well but Brady and Matt and the rest of the team have helped me so much. They get open and they score. They’ve had some beautiful goals this season, and at the end of the day the most important thing is it’s always a total team effort.”
Kramer, who wears number 29 to honor his favorite player, Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche, admits last season was difficult at times as a freshman, so he worked diligently on his strength and improved his ability to protect the puck. But the one asset he always had has endured, and that’s his speed.
“I like to play at a high pace,” said Kramer, who began skating at age six. “I have good vision on the ice, but I’ve always been pretty fast, and you learn early that you can beat people with speed.”
Indeed, it’s always better to get somewhere first, especially on the ice. And first is the goal that the Highlanders have pointed to prior to the season opening, particularly this winter with the cancelation of the NJSIAA state tournament due to the pandemic.
“Yes, for us it was the Kelly Cup or bust from Day One,” said Kramer. “We felt we had the team to win it and that was our goal from the start. We still have work to do and just stay on track and play within our game, but I’m enjoying every second of it, and I’m very lucky.
“I never could have imagined this season a couple of months ago. We didn’t even know if we’d be able to play, so we are all just so grateful to be on the ice. Now we have to finish the job.”
Valairco Heating & Cooling is the proud sponsor of the Highlander Athlete of the Week. Kevin McHugh, Valairco Owner and President and Berkeley Heights resident, is an alumnus of Gov. Livingston High School.
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