Deer Lakes goalie Nick Braun bursts onto scene in WPIAL title game

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Thursday, November 12, 2020 | 6:55 PM


Over the past two years, Deer Lakes sophomore goalkeeper Nick Braun has had a strong defense in front of him, led by senior captain Colton Spence.

Together, the Lancers have 19 shutouts and have allowed only 28 goals in the two-year span — with only seven of those coming this season.

When the Lancers have needed him most, Braun has stepped up in a major way. His next chance to shine on a big stage comes Saturday, when Deer Lakes (15-1) hosts District 9 champion Karns City in the PIAA quarterfinals at noon.

“He’s pulled us out of so many games where we’ve needed him,” Deer Lakes coach Dan Yates said. “He’s made some big saves against the better teams, and that’s all you can ask for from your goalkeeper.”

Last Thursday, Braun came through again to keep his team in line to capture the first WPIAL title in school history.

First, Shady Side Academy’s Sam Farner stepped to the penalty spot just 11 minutes into the game after Joey Anania was taken down in the penalty box by Spence. Braun had faced Farner earlier in the year in a similar situation, and he felt like he knew where Farner was going to go.

“He took a penalty kick against me in the regular season and he picked the same spot, so I knew that was his spot,” Braun said. “I hoped that he wouldn’t change it up, so I went there and he didn’t change it up.”

The save kept Deer Lakes in the game. As the game trickled into overtime, then double overtime and then a shootout, Braun stepped up again, saving two penalty kicks and a retake to secure the title for Deer Lakes.

Because Braun has stepped up on several occasions in the last two years, Yates wasn’t surprised when he saved Farner’s penalty kick in regulation. The three saves in the shootout, however, impressed even his coach.

“To save three penalties — well, two penalties and a retake — in a WPIAL final, with 500 people watching you and countless amount of people watching the stream, that to me, that was insane,” Yates said.

When Yates took over the program last season, he saw Braun in practice and knew he was his starter, whether he was a freshman or not.

With a solid group of defenders in front of him, Braun slowly built up his confidence and made big saves when he needed to. He joined a club team, where he earned minutes to improve. He worked with senior captain Michael Sullivan throughout the summer as the fate of the season was up in the air.

Slowly but surely, Braun improved and gained the confidence of his coaches and teammates. Last Thursday was somewhat of a coming-out party for Braun.

“We just have to keep him grounded, and we have to keep his feet on the ground because he likes to get ahead of himself sometimes,” Yates said with a laugh as Braun stood nearby.

“But he’s a good kid. He’s done fantastic. Last year, I had confidence in him, and this year, I don’t even have to worry about him because I know he’s going to stand up, and there are no qualms about what he’s going to be because I know he’s going to pull out some big saves.”

After a performance like the WPIAL title game, Braun said he feels more comfortable knowing he can step up when his team needs him most.

“I know I have a great team in front of me where I don’t have to stop as many shots because I have them there,” Braun said. “But when I do need to step up, I know I can pull through and help the team out.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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