With the 2019-20 NAHL Season coming to an abrupt and unexpected end, the Austin Bruins are taking this time to thank the players whose junior careers wrapped up this season. TJ Chillot takes you through each of the 1999-born players who finished the season on the Austin roster and what they brought to the Bruins both on the ice and off. In addition, TJ looks ahead to see what’s on the horizon for these incredibly talented hockey players. #OnceABruinAlwaysABruin
Thank you, Corey Clifton!
2019-20 was Corey Clifton’s second year in junior hockey, but his first in the NAHL. In fact, he didn’t even begin 2019-20 in the NAHL, he kicked things off with the Trail Smoke Eaters of the BCHL. The Matawan, NJ, native had already committed to Quinnipiac University, a Division-I school which has siphoned out a handful of Cliftons over the years including Corey’s older brothers Tim & Connor, but following 19 games with the Smoke Eaters, Clifton arrived in Texas (and the NAHL) where he suited up for the Corpus Christi Ice Rays.
Clifton’s first game of his NAHL career came on the last day of the 2019 calendar year, a 4-1 Ice Rays loss to the Shreveport Mudbugs. In his second game, Clifton earned his first point and he scored his first NAHL goal only three games into his career.
After about a month of wearing the scarlett-and-black of the Ice Rays, 8 games in total, Corpus Christi made a swap with the Austin Bruins sending Clifton to Minnesota in exchange for other considerations.
It was on January 25, 2020 that Corey Clifton made his debut for the Austin Bruins, a road game against the Chippewa Steel. Clifton assimilated to the Bruins offense quickly, meshing with his teammates like he had been playing in Austin the entire season. In fact, his hockey IQ and ability to pick up the Bruins systems so quickly was one of his strongest traits. In fact, that adaptability was put to the ultimate test as Clifton’s first home game was Paint the Rink Pink, in front of a sold-out crowd, on pink ice, during the most electrically charged game of the season. It’s not easy to step into that kind of atmosphere as a new member of the team, let alone contribute by performing in post-game skit.
A little bit on the smaller side at 5-foot-9, Clifton played with speed and power above his measurements. He never shyed away from slicing between two defenders and crashed the boards with the best of them. Clifton registered his first point as a Bruin on March 6, 2020, what ended up being Austin’s second-to-last game of the season. His cross-slot feed helped another newcomer, Kyle Oleksiuk, score his first of two goals in the game.
I didn’t get to interact much with Corey over the few weeks he wore the black-and-gold, unfortunately. I had him scheduled to appear on the Austin Bruins Show but with the season being canceled, those plans were washed. That said, I did cross paths with him on a few occasions, and my immediate impression of him was how upbeat and mature he is. While shooting his intro video during his first week with the team, his humor was immediately evident in the few takes we did.
Corey wasn’t a Bruin for very long, but as the saying goes – Once A Bruin Always A Bruin. Good luck out east at Quinnipiac Corey, we’ll be watching!
13 Games Played, 0 Goals, 1 Assists, +2, 0 PIM