(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
The bond between brothers is one filled with unconditional love, even if that could sometimes consist of tough affection. For Brinson and Steenn Pasichnuk, brothers from Bonnyville, Alberta, Canada and separated by just two years, they bonded through hockey, which brought out the competitive nature from each of them.
Their sibling journey of unconditional love mixed in with ambitious drive has propelled them to a new pinnacle in the hockey career of each of them.
Now, they find themselves as two of the select few that are playing pivotal roles in ushering in a new tradition of Arizona State hockey.
Despite their relation, there are many clear differences between the two. Steenn, the older one, is 6-foot-5. Brinson is five inches shorter. The younger Pasichnuk is also a defenseman, yet plays with a more offensive-minded game. For Steenn, the opposite applies. It’s not all that hard to tell the two apart both on and off the ice, but that doesn’t really affect how the two maintain the relationship that they have.
For the brothers whose appearance differences don’t outweigh the assortment of other commonalities, the opportunity and privilege of playing together at the NCAA level is a dream come true for them.
“In juniors, that was our dream our whole lives, to play together in the Alberta junior league,” Brinson said. “Then we had the chance to play college together, there was no chance we could pass that up. He’s my best friend, so why not come to a school like this, to a program that is going to be so incredible.”
Growing up, the two spent a ton of time together, but were not often on the same team due to the fact that Steenn was older. They maintained their relationship by spending almost all their time off the ice together.
Their competitive nature even spilled out into a more playful way, which consisted of playing stick hockey at home as kids.
“We had more fights in that than any other brothers have had for sure,” Steenn said.
The two finally got the chance to play together for their hometown AJHL team, the Bonnyville Pontiacs. Both thrived, with Brinson exhibiting sheer dominance, posting 65 points in 52 games. Steenn put up competing video game numbers, 49 points in as many games.
As brothers, the recruiting process from that point on was a tricky one. Brinson had originally committed to play at the University of Vermont before a whirlwind of activity led the two together.
“After a while of thinking, he (Steenn) was talking to a few schools and we were thinking why don’t we go somewhere together,” Brinson said. “I called the University of Vermont and we talked. They didn’t have room for him so I decided to decommit there.
“A week or two later I called ASU and they said they had a spot for both of us, and then we pretty much committed after that first phone call with (head coach Greg) Powers because we knew this was going to be something special.”
From the Sun Devil perspective, Powers said that the process started with Steenn and led them to Brinson.
“We were looking for another big body up front,” he said. “Steenn was on our list of kids we were watching and getting ready to call, and then Brinson, who we loved, and everybody loved because of how good he is, decommitted from Vermont. As soon as he decommitted from Vermont, we made the call and put a package deal together, knowing that they wanted to play together real badly, and knowing that we wanted both of them.”
Powers was so enamored with both, but mentioned that he would have taken one without the other. When both elected to come to Tempe, it made it that much sweeter.
On the ice, it’s natural that each has specific tendencies that most other teammates don’t possess. It’s not only due to their time playing together, but the brotherly instincts inside of them.
“I guess the biggest tendency that we have is knowing where each other is out on the ice,” Steenn said.
Brinson also mentioned that they have a couple of plays that they run together that are unique to the two of them, which were learned in juniors.
Powers has noticed the chemistry between the two off the ice as well, even comparing their demeanors and playful attitudes to Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne from “Dumb and Dumber.”
“They’re great kids, they make our locker room so much better, and they make us better on the ice too, obviously. For freshmen, logging the minutes that they are logging, by the time those kids are upperclassmen, they are going to be really good.”
When asked to put into perspective what it meant for them to play on the same NCAA team together, each realizes that it’s the opportunity of a lifetime.
“Coming to a new team, nevertheless a new country, it’s something pretty scary,” Brinson said. “But when you have your best friend going along with you, that makes it a lot easier. He’s always there to help me push through it in Bonnyville, always be my best, so it’s pretty cool.”
Steenn also mentioned the convenience provided that extends to the entire immediate family.
“It’s great for our parents, because now when they come down they don’t have to fly to two different schools, they just have to fly to one, so it makes it much easier on the whole family.”
As their freshman year – the first of four more together – reaches its median point, for the elder Steenn, continuing to set a positive example for his younger brother remains of the utmost importance in invigorating their already strong relationship.
“Just preaching hard work to him,” he said. “Telling him that nothing is going to be handed to him. Even with the skill set that he has, he still is going to have to work as hard as can to get to the NHL. Just trying to show him some leadership from some who has been through that path.”