SHERIDAN — Barak Broad happened upon the sport of hockey rather serendipitously. As a youngster, Broad would accompany his father to Antelope Butte Mountain Recreation Area and find enjoyment in winter sports atop the mountain.

It wasn’t until Antelope Butte closed 15 years ago when Broad found the winter sport he grew passionate about a couple thousand feet below the peaks of the Bighorns.

“When Antelope Butte Ski Area closed we had nothing to do in the winter,” Broad said. “Me and my father took up hockey as a pastime, and I fell in love with it.”

Broad has taken this pastime everywhere he has traveled since.

It has helped him as a leader off the ice, gave him a means to see a new parts of the country and has guided him to Utah State University where he’ll play hockey for the next four years.

Broad, admittedly, wasn’t all that good on the ice at the beginning.

“I was honestly brutal at hockey for the first probably five or six years,” Broad said. “… I struggled skill wise and keeping up with everyone.”

It took Broad a few seasons, and plenty of off-the-ice practice, to catch up with some of his cohorts. For hours on end, Broad fired pucks from a shooting pad into a net at home along with attending any open ice or stick-and-puck games he could in an effort to improve.

The Sheridan native saw the fruits of his labor as he made Team Wyoming in the peewee age group. He worked his way up the ladder on Team Wyoming, gaining assistant captain and captain honors while he competed all over the United States.

When he came of age, Broad joined the Sheridan Hawks high school team and instantly made an impression on Head Coach Kirk Viren.

“He has a very fast motor,” Viren said. “He moves well on the ice and is a hard skater. He’s definitely ferocious and relentless in pursuing the puck all over the ice as a forechecker. He’s a guy, that when he’s going after it, he’s hard to play against, and you love to coach a guy like that.”

Broad’s leadership qualities remained strong as he was named assistant captain his sophomore and junior seasons with the Hawks before gaining the title of captain his senior year.

Broad isn’t the biggest hockey player by any means. He didn’t intimidate players in high school by his stature, but opponents soon found out that pound-for-pound he could physically compete with anyone.

“He’d take on guys that were 200-plus pounds, 6-foot-2, 6-3, and he battle them,” Viren said. “And he’d not only come out with the puck, but sometimes those other guys would be staring up at the celling after (Broad) put them down. He has a very, very strong base for a smaller hockey player.”

Broad wore his physicality as a badge of honor. He didn’t back down from any one no matter the circumstances.

“I used to be known around the state for being the smallest kid on the ice that would just hit the biggest players on the ice,” Broad said. “I wasn’t really much of a skill player; I was just hit people.”

Broad soon received notice about his skill, as well. After high school, he navigated his way to the NA3HL for the Wausau RiverWolves in Wisconsin.

As a rookie, Broad played in 40 games and scored eight points with one goal. He tallied another eight points last season before aging out of junior hockey in search of the next step.

Broad returned to Sheridan and talked with a couple different collegiate club hockey teams. He spoke with Arizona State and Arkansas prior to a visit at Utah State. The trip to Logan made Broad’s decision quite easy.

“I ending up going to Utah State, checked out some facilities and checked out the campus and skated for them,” Broad said. “I fell in love with it there.”

Broad still has all four years of eligibility and is eager to see for how long he can play hockey. He plans to major in civil engineering with a minor in business.

If one were to ask a five-year-old Broad that he’d attend college in Utah with hockey as his trade, he would not have believed them. Broad stumbled onto the sport as a way to fill time and hang out with his father, and it has blossomed into much more.