Hockey runs in the Faustyn family, as does love and faith. And it all came together when a big decision loomed over Casen Faustyn's life.
Okemos High School hockey player Casen Faustyn faced one of the most significant decisions of his life when he was 16. The defenseman had to choose between staying in Michigan to compete at the high school level or move away and play in the juniors.
Most athletes tend to face a linear path of advancement, but hockey is unique, presenting young teens with a challenging decision.
Casen, the Lansing State Journal's 2020 Hockey Player of the Year, elected to pursue life his way. He prioritized his parents Scott and Penny, and older brothers Jake and Logan, by choosing to play high school hockey and then committing to Hope College.
His choice of collegiate hockey, a Division III destination not known for high-level competition, was born from the heart. It's the same place Penny attended, Jake graduated from, and where the middle brother Logan will be Casen's teammate for two years.
"It's hard to say what I really could have done with my career because I chose the high school route," said Casen, who is now a senior and the Chieftains team captain. "My sophomore year, I had a decision to play Triple-A or high school … but I really wanted to focus on school. It made the balance between school and hockey a lot easier, not as time-consuming. And I really wanted to play with my brother.
"From the experiences that both of my brothers had playing at Okemos, it just really sounded like it was so much fun, which is what it came down to, and I'm really glad I made that decision."
The tradition of playing hockey didn't start with their family; however, it did lead each of the Faustyn boys to captain the Okemos squad while providing everlasting memories.
A close family member, former University of Michigan hockey player Joe Goodsir, got the boys into the sport. Goodsir's son, Adam, is a current junior forward for Michigan State University.
"I've known Casen since he's been born, so we've spent a lot of time together over the years," said Goodsir. "My son and Jake, the Faustyn's oldest boy, are really close. When Adam was playing hockey, I got Jake playing hockey; then Logan followed suit, and obviously, Casen did also. So it was Uncle Joe introducing them to the sport of hockey."
He saw something in each of the brothers on the ice but felt Casen was naturally gifted.
"Skating is so important in hockey, and he's always had an incredible stride ever since he's been little," Goodsir said. "It's just been a beautiful knee-bent, effortless type stride … He's worked really hard emulating my son because Adam would spend hours upon hours in the garage shooting; Casen did a lot of that … he's become a special hockey player."
Goodsir understands the sacrifices that come with playing Triple-A hockey, having done it himself and been through it with his son. Casen has seen the journey too, by watching Adam's path in hockey.
"…For example, Adam, he moved to Texas for two years as a junior in high school," Casen said. "He had to drop everything and kind of start fresh. I knew that wasn't for me. It made the decision a little bit easier, but everything I had going on here in Okemos – I didn't want to just leave it."
Goodsir also understands Casen's choice to turn down opportunities to play Division I hockey, despite his talent, for Hope College.
"Only one percent of the kids that play amateur hockey end up making it to Division I hockey, and Casen had that type of ability," said Goodsir.
The Faustyn brothers' journey started when their parents moved to Okemos and built a house on a pond, a perfect spot for unlimited ice time during the long winter months.
"It was natural for us to make a rink for the kids as they learned how to skate. We got a lot of free ice time out there," Scott said. "I'd be out there after every snow storm plowing a rink for them and putting lights up at night."
The pond is where they learned to love and play the game of hockey, but as each year passed, little by little, something began to change.
"He'd [Casen] always be the little one out there, and then we were playing this past winter, and I was like, 'Crap, man … I'm no longer the big dog out here,'" said Jake.
Casen stands 5-foot-9 and is known as an offensive-minded defenseman. He also stands out for his maturity, unrelenting drive to improve, and leading by example. His motor never turns off - hours before puck drop, he can be found in the weight room doing some light sets prior to suiting up.
This level of ambition and motivation isn't new.
It started 15 years ago.
"The first time I thought Casen might have a talent in skating, he was really young; I wanna say three years old," Scott said. "We had a big rink, almost a regulation size rink with the lights up; his brothers and some others were out there skating, and he was just learning how to skate."
Scott remembered a cold winter's night when his two eldest boys went inside because of low temperatures.
But not Casen.
"He refused to come inside, and he just picked up the stride and figured it out real quick … I wanted to get inside so bad, but I couldn't say no to him," Scott said. "And that was the first time I saw a spark in his eye, like this might be something he wants to pursue like his brothers, and sure enough, he did."
Those were the happy days when the growing boys were all still together. These days the house is quieter, with Casen being the last to leave the nest.
Jake, now 24, is no longer staying at his parents, and Logan, 20, is anxiously awaiting his brother's arrival on Hope's campus.
"I got to play one year in high school with him; just had an absolute blast playing with him," said Logan. "I been trying to recruit him hard the past couple of years, so I was super happy."
The opportunity to play another four years of hockey is merely a bonus for Casen. He does not plan to pursue hockey beyond his time at Hope, instead, focusing on his future career in engineering.
He is ready for the next step, and he knows he has chosen the path less traveled.