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Stanley Cup Final

Acciari playing hometown hero for Bruins in Cup Final

Rhode Island native relishing role on fourth line against Blues

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Senior Director of Editorial

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari has thought about the special moments he is experiencing for much of his life.

The Boston Bruins forward has been a fan of the team for as long as he has known about hockey.

"For me, growing up a Rhode Island guy, a local guy, I always wanted Boston to win," Acciari said. "It's special to me to be a part of this right now and I don't want to miss this chance."

 

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'This,' of course, is the 2019 Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues.

His impact on the series has already been felt; in a 4-2 victory in Game 1 on Monday, he assisted on the winning goal by center Sean Kuraly and led the Bruins with six hits. In a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 2 on Wednesday, his line, with Kuraly and Joakim Nordstrom, scored the goal that put Boston ahead 2-1 at 10:17 of the first when the Bruins forechecking forced a turnover and allowed Kuraly to feed Nordstrom for a quick shot from the slot. Acciari also had three hits and drew a slashing penalty in the third period.

The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1 heading into Game 3 at Enterprise Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

Acciari vividly remembers the last time the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, when they defeated the Vancouver Canucks in seven games.

Game 7 was on the road and Acciari was at a friend's house, sitting with a gang of buddies in the driveway, watching the game, projected onto a sheet.

"I was celebrating with my friends and it felt like we were in Vancouver with the team," said Acciari, who has three points (one goal, two assists) in 14 games of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. "To have a chance to win it with some of the guys that won it in 2011 is really cool and I am very fortunate to be with these guys."

One big reason for that is Acciari has never played more than three hours from his hometown of Johnston, Rhode Island.

He won a state championship with Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick, Rhode Island, and then finished his high school career at Kent School in Kent, Connecticut, before joining Providence College, where he was captain of the 2015 NCAA title team. He moved down the street to play for Providence of the American Hockey League after signing a free agent contract with the Bruins on June 3, 2015.

After two seasons in the AHL, he moved full-time to the Bruins for the 2017-18 season and has cemented himself as a fixture on the do-it-all fourth line. He had 14 points (six goals, eight assists) and was second among Boston forwards with 221 hits in 72 games this season, behind Chris Wagner (247 in 76 games).

Brian Boucher is another Rhode Islander who made it to the NHL, but his hockey travels took him to four different countries after he left Woonsocket to play junior hockey. The closest the former goalie ever played to home during his pro career was Philadelphia, a five-hour car ride away. Boucher is part of the crew calling the Final for NBC and understands the uniqueness of Acciari's situation.

"He's pretty fortunate, to be honest," Boucher said. "Especially as you climb the ranks of hockey, it is going to take you away from home and the comforts of home. I'm sure it is a dream come true for him, but it also comes with some pressures of playing in front of family and friends and not being able to get away from it.

"He's in it all the time, he turns on the local news and it is Boston this and Boston that, even in Rhode Island, because it is an extended Boston sports town."

Video: STL@BOS, Gm1: Kuraly puts Bruins ahead in 3rd

For those who have crossed hockey paths with Acciari, his place with the Bruins doesn't come as a surprise.

"He's a really good teammate and good character person," Boston general manager Don Sweeney said. "Can't have enough of those guys. Not guys that can necessarily play up in the lineup but [he] accepts where he does play and does it well."

That has been Acciari's road map to hockey success from Day One.

"You would take 1,000 of him," said Jim Creamer, his coach at Bishop Hendricken. "I knew that from the minute I had him. He did things on the ice, even at that level, that nobody else wanted to do -- block shots, make and take hits and play through injuries. He had an incredible pain threshold even then.

"I knew Noel would be successful, but I couldn't imagine that he would be playing for the Stanley Cup."

Nate Leaman, the Providence College coach, inherited Acciari, then a freshman, when he took over for Tim Army for the 2011-12 season.

His first impression of Acciari, who was 5-foot-10 and playing a few pounds under his current weight of 205 pounds?

"He could hit like a truck," Leaman said. "I had never coached a guy like that before. He could change a game with one of his hits.

"You have an amazing trust with him when he is on ice because he is smart away from the puck and he'll do anything for the team."

Acciari has never abandoned that ethos; he's hard on the forecheck, blocks shots and has added penalty-killing duties to his resume. It's the only way he knows how to play and he hope it pays off with another Stanley Cup celebration in his hometown.

This time he wouldn't be watching it, as he was in 2011, but living it instead.

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