On a regular basis, young Nick Bernardo will actually jog to The Rinx in Hauppauge, N.Y.
He enjoys it, but he knows it’s not that much of a workout, being less than a mile from his house, also in Hauppauge.
“I’ve been with the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders since I started playing, when I was 6 or 7,” Bernardo added. “The rink is about a minute away from me.”
The ’03 defenseman plays for the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders 16U team, but in five years, he’ll be leaving Long Island for Providence, R.I., and more specifically, Brown University. Bernardo officially committed to Brown on Sunday, Sept. 9.
“I’m thrilled to be in the Ivy League,” said Bernardo. “I was speechless when they called. That is one of the highest Ivy league schools, which is great. I just need to work really hard now.”
Bernardo certainly makes the grade, academically. He stands with a grade point average “between 3.8 and 3.9.”
Hockey-wise, his hockey sense will take him far, potentially even farther than Brown someday.
“Nick is a skilled, puck-moving defenseman with good size,” said Bernardo’s head coach, Bob Thornton. “He has great vision and we look for him to continue his development at the U16 level due to the style we play.”
The Jr. Islanders is really a Bernardo family affair. His father Anthony is the Assistant General Manager for the P.A.L., and his brother - also named Anthony - is a member of the 18U Jr. Islanders.
Former Islander James Marcou, now an assistant coach for Brown, was a part of the process to bring Bernardo on board.
“James went to the Beantown Summer Tournament, and they just kept up with me,” said Nick. “They went to my games the first weekend of the USPHL season, and liked how I played."
Nick called Brown University and also worked with Thornton throughout the whole process. He gave his “yes” answer to the Bears rather sight unseen.
“I have not visited the school yet. I will visit in mid-October,” he added. “From the coaching staff - [head coach] Brenden Whittet, James and Jason Guerriero - I can tell that the school is great. Jason originally noticed me this summer at Harvard University’s hockey camp, he noticed my brother Anthony and I there.”
At 5-feet-9-inches and 156 pounds, Bernardo knows there’s still a lot of growing ahead of him, physically and in terms of his on-ice game.
“I’m really just working out more. I just need my strength to build up,” said Bernardo. “I’m getting my arm strength, leg strength, conditioning all in good, working order. On-ice, my vision is excellent, and I’m working on stickhandling and puck movement a lot this year.”
Bernardo was quick to thank the P.A.L. organization, as well as all of his coaches through the years, including skating coach Aleksey Nikiforov, his previous coach Tomas Skyba, and Thornton, for his development.
There could be as many as four seasons ahead before he enrolls at Brown, so there’s much more development ahead - and whether he can walk there or has to fly for games - Nick Bernardo will do everything he can to be the best college player he can be.