BOSTON--The last time Alexander Kerfoot was in Boston, it was the culmination of four years of hard work away from the rink.
That day was May 25 as he graduated from nearby Harvard University in Cambridge, earning a degree from what is renowned as one of the best colleges in the world.
"It's a pretty special experience," Kerfoot said. "That was one of the goals and why I chose Harvard. It wasn't just about the hockey, it was getting a degree and an education that they provided. I couldn't have asked for anything more than what I got in my four years."
On the ice, Kerfoot helped Harvard's resurgence as a hockey program. He co-captained the team during his senior season to a Beanpot championship and a berth in the NCAA Frozen Four.
The Harvard grad returned to the city with his Colorado Avalanche teammates on Saturday night following their afternoon game at the New Jersey Devils. The Avs arrived in Boston at a decent time, allowing Kerfoot a chance to rush back to his alma mater to watch the end of the team's scrimmage against Windsor and see his brother Colton, a sophomore on the squad.
"I caught the third period of that and then saw some of the guys," said Kerfoot, a now NHL rookie. "It brought back a lot of memories being back on campus and being back in Boston."
While Kerfoot's homecoming was on Saturday, teammates Matt Nieto and Colin Wilson received theirs on Sunday as the Avs practiced at Agganis Arena on the campus of Boston University. Both Nieto and Wilson played for the Terriers before turning pro.
"It's awesome. This was a huge part of me being in the NHL, so to come back here is always special," Nieto said of returning to the school where he wore the iconic red and white uniform from 2010 to 2013.
Wilson dressed for the Terriers for two seasons and went on to win Hockey East's rookie of year award in 2008 before helping the school to a national championship in 2009. It was the Terriers' fifth and most recent NCAA title.
"It was awesome. What a way to end it," Wilson said. "To play your last game in a BU uniform and winning it. It was special moment and a special group we had here."
Wilson came to Boston after spending two years at USA Hockey's National Team Development Program. He cited the school's hockey history, which also now includes 13 conference titles and 22 Frozen Four appearances, as a reason why he picked it for his higher education.
"They had a good track record of putting people into the NHL, and they also had a track record of winning a lot of championships," Wilson said. "And it happened to be a really good school, so it was a great combination."
Wilson is no stranger to Agganis Arena, as he returns to Boston every summer to train
"It feels like a home," Wilson said of BU. "It is certainly a base for me to develop. You can't ask for anything else. I have a lot of memories. It means a lot to me."
The quirky arena with the team's bench and penalty box on the same side of the ice is sacred for players like Wilson and Nieto. For opponents that frequented BU, such as Kerfoot's Harvard club, it was enemy territory. The Terriers often stood in their way for the Beanpot, the annual tournament at TD Garden that featured Boston's four area college hockey teams.
"It's a little bit different coming down here," Kerfoot said while removing his equipment in the Terriers men's hockey locker room following the Avs practice. "We played a couple games here, but coming down and being in their locker room at the rink for practice is a little different."
There hasn't been too much ribbing between the now teammates about their schools' rivalry with one another, other than some good-natured teasing here and there.
"I think we probably won more Beanpots," said Wilson, noting Boston University's 30 championships in the tournament.
Harvard won its 11th Beanpot last year as Kerfoot helped the Crimson defeat the Terriers 6-3 in the final. It was Harvard's first tournament title since 1993.
"That was huge for us. You can't really explain the importance of a Beanpot to anyone who doesn't go to one of those four schools or who is not from Boston," Kerfoot said. "I didn't understand it before I got here. It is just a pretty special experience to play in that tournament, and how much it means for everyone in the city and all the alumni from all those schools.
"People joke about it, but we made it to the Frozen Four last year and I think people around Boston might remember our Beanpot win a little bit more."
Despite the heated rivalry between Boston University, Boston College, Harvard and Northeastern, there is also a great deal of respect for one another.
The mutual admiration is part of the hockey culture, and its why teams often shake hands after playoff games.
"They both loved their experience at BU. I liked my time at Harvard," Kerfoot said of Nieto and Wilson. "They're really good guys, and they haven't given me too hard of a time right now."
Nieto did concede one area of the rivalry to Kerfoot.
"At the end of the day, he's the one laughing," Nieto said. "He's got the degree from Harvard."