BostonBruins.com – Colton Hargrove’s freshman campaign at No. 6 Western Michigan (17-6-5, 13-4-3 CCHA) didn’t get off to the start he was hoping for. The 6-foot-2, 216-pound forward, who was drafted in the seventh round (205th overall) by the Bruins in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, was struggling to adjust to the college game, after two years as a member of the Fargo Force in the USHL.
He was unable to register a point through his first 12 games for the Bron- cos, but since January 4, – a span of 10 games – the Rockwall, Texas native has turned it on, scoring six goals and tacking on an assist over that time.
The 20-year-old was twice named the CCHA rookie of the week during that span, the first coming after he potted his first two collegiate goals during a series with Bemidji State the weekend of January 4-5.
The second rookie of the week honor came after Hargrove scored three goals during a weekend sweep of Michigan – the first time Western Michigan had accomplished that feat since 1986.
He scored the game-winning goal in a, 3-2, win over Michigan on Friday, January 25 and then matched his career high, with two goals, in a 5-1 victory over the Wolverines to cap the sweep.
“It was pretty rocky at the beginning of the season, stepping in from the USHL,” said Hargove, whose Broncos trail Miami (Ohio) by just a point in the CCHA standings. “It’s a lot faster, you’ve got to think quicker and make decisions quicker. All these guys are bigger, faster, and stronger, so you’ve got to push yourself in the weight room, on the ice, and off the ice.
“It’s been tough, but I think I’m starting to get the hang out of it, and I know the coaching staff has really helped me a lot with it.”
Hargrove credited the help of Broncos’ Head Coach Andy Murray and assistant Bob Caldwell as one of the main reasons for his season turning around.
“Coach Caldwell and Murray always tell me to just go to the net, good things happen,” he said. “Put the puck on net and I’ve been doing that extra, lately, in practice and it’s paying off for me in the games so far.”
Bruins’ Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney has noticed Hargrove’s improvement from the beginning of the season to now, and said it is a credit to the forward’s hard work and his ability to focus on details.
“Colton probably got off to a bit of a slow start at the beginning of the year, understanding where he fit in with [Western Michigan Head Coach] Andy Murray and the schematics and the expectations,” said Sweeney. “Andy’s a demanding guy, I played for him in the World Championships, and I talked to Colton about the attention to detail that he would have to pay particular attention to.”
“I think he’s improved in that area and he’s being rewarded. He’s got six goals now on the year and it is nice to see his hard work and, again, paying attention to details that I know Andy rewards his players for.”
One area that Hargrove is turning his focus to is his speed and physical game. Both the Bruins and his coaches at Western Michigan have been helping Hargrove to become the “power forward” he wants to be.
“I talked to [Bruins Director of Amateur Scouting] Scott Fitzgerald and [Assistant Director] Wayne Smith and Don Sweeney a few times, and they told me to work on my physical play and speed.
“I can always work on all the aspects of my game. The coaching staff con- sidered me as a power forward, so I think my main goal is to be physical in the corners and play that big power forward role that they want me to play, and my team here needs me to play.”
Sweeney agreed that Hargrove needs to continue to be physical and when he does, it will open up a lot more offensive opportunities for the winger and his linemates.
“I think that club is in his bag, so to speak,” said Sweeney, in regards to Hargrove’s physicality. “We talk about players having certain identities and Colton brings that to a team. When players like Colton drift away from that identity, I think it takes away from their overall effectiveness as a player.
“He’ll get more space as a result of his physicality and he’ll understand that he has more time to make his plays. I think it’s about having that mind set and commitment to go out and start every game, getting physically involved and move his feet. Goals and production will fall in line with that approach.”
Hargrove had the opportunity, last summer, to join the Bruins rookie devel- opment camp and was able to learn a lot about his game. He also realized that there are many other players in the B’s organization that are fighting it out for spots, too, and if he wants to beat them out, he has to work hard.
“There was a lot of good competition there; a lot of good players,” said Hargrove of the camp. “I learned that I’ve got to improve my game even more if I want to make it to that next level. I know there’s a lot of kids that are looking to improve their game to make that spot as well. You’ve just got to be better than them and work harder.”
All in all, Hargrove is “pumped” at the chance to be apart of the Boston Bruins organization and is hoping that, one day, he’ll be pulling the Spoked-B over his head.
“I was real excited, it was definitely a dream come true,” said Hargrove of his reaction to the call from the Bruins saying that he had been drafted by them. “It was definitely a good feeling. I know I’ve been working for it my whole life, and it’s a dream come true.
“[The Bruins] have a great organization and I was real pumped to get selected by them. Hopefully, when I’m done with my college career I can step in and play well with them.”