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Dumoulin a lifelong winner

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

After the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009, Brooks Orpik took it to Boston College as part of his day with the trophy.

Orpik had played three seasons in Chestnut Hill for the Eagles from 1998-01, winning an NCAA national championship in his final year with the team. Eight years later, after winning the Stanley Cup, he returned to campus for a charity event with the trophy.

During the day, Orpik's former college coach, Jerry York, and the current Boston College players got a chance to see the Stanley Cup during its time on campus. Brian Dumoulin, a freshman out of Biddeford, Maine, was one of those players.

"When Brooks was here, we were just starting class," York explained. "So Brian, as an incoming freshman, came and saw the trophy and had a picture with Brooks."

Dumoulin's mother Deb said that at the time, Brian couldn't stop talking about the experience, telling his mom that he wanted to have a day of his own with that trophy someday.

Fast forward eight years later, and not only did Brian's dream to win it come true - he's been able to win it twice, all before he turns 26 on Sept. 8. After becoming the first player from Maine to take the trophy there last summer, this summer he took it back to Boston College, becoming the first player since Orpik to do so.

"We just had the perfect day last year with everything for the state of Maine, Brian being the first one to win the Cup. He had big shoes to fill there," Deb said last week in the halls of Conte Forum, which hosts the Kelley Ice Rink.

"It's nice to be here this year and share it with his college, because we remember coming here when he was going to be a freshman before he started and seeing the Cup when Brooks Orpik brought it here. It really was like, 'I'm going to win that.'"

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To be honest, Deb never really had any doubt that Brian would accomplish what he said he was going to do.

At first, hockey was just a distraction, something to keep Brian and his older brother John busy. The two boys are 18 months apart, and when Brian was 3 years old and John was 4, both kids were incredibly active and were constantly fighting and squabbling with each other as siblings do. An exhausted Deb, looking for something - anything - that could tire them out, got an idea after testing out a pair of rollerblades when she was on a trip to California.

"When they first came out on the market, I tried it and I loved it," she said. "And so they both got a pair of rollerblades when they were 3 and 4 and started playing roller hockey in the driveway. That's how it all started."

Deb and her husband Pete, who grew up close to each other in northern Maine, said that no one in their families had ever played the sport before. So putting the boys in skates was somewhat of a Hail Mary. But it worked, because not only did it accomplish the short-term goal of tiring Brian out, it became his long-term love.

When he was young, there was a rink in Biddeford, so the Dumoulins were fortunate that he could just play there and not have to travel. But as Brian got older and got better, they had to travel to New Hampshire.

"There just weren't that many kids at that level, so basically you had to combine Maine and New Hampshire to get teams that could compete at the national level," Deb said.

Brian was able to stay in Maine for part of his high school career, skating for Biddeford High's varsity hockey team as a sophomore and junior. There, he helped the Tigers win two Class A state championships, piling up 107 points in 48 games over those two years. That's when his mother started to realize that Brian was the kind of player that just knew how to win.

"His high school team was really a great combination of kids and families, and they won the state championship two years in a row when he was there," she said.

That ability continued to show when Brian attended Boston College.

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Dumoulin said he always had an inkling he wanted to go to BC for a lot of different reasons, naming the education, the program, the tradition and York as the biggest ones.

"They just brought me in and they were one of the last teams to offer me a scholarship," Dumoulin said. "Obviously, I had to sit down and think about it because that's a big decision. I spent three years of my life there. It was a big decision for me and my family, but I'm very happy with my selection and very proud to represent Boston College."

Boston College is a private university with around 14-15,000 undergraduate students registering each year. While it's certainly not a big school by any means, its men's hockey program is one of the best in the country and a perennial powerhouse.

The Eagles have made 35 NCAA tournament appearances and have reached the Frozen Four a record 25 times. They have won five NCAA national championships, with the most recent two coming during Dumoulin's time there, the first in 2010 and the second in 2012.

It would be difficult for Dumoulin to ask for a better experience than the one he had at Boston College, both on and off the ice. His class, the class of 2013, formed a bond right from the beginning. There were eight of them who all lived together in the dorm their first couple of years, and a lot of them continued to find housing together during the summers. Dumoulin became particularly close with goaltender Parker Milner, who is his best friend and will be the best man at his wedding next August.    

"I've known Brian since freshman year of college, so that's coming up on nine years now," Milner said before adding with a laugh, "It's hard to believe, I don't even want to say that, actually. But it's been a while."

After they met with Orpik and saw the Cup up close in the fall of 2009, the following spring, Dumoulin and Milner helped the Eagles win a trophy of their own - Boston College's first NCAA title since Orpik did it in 2001. They did it again two years later in 2012.

"The first one, just coming in freshman year and doing that right off the bat, was awesome," Milner said. "It makes you want to win it again. And I think the second one was maybe even better, especially for me, because I think we all played a bigger role on that team. And we could see that a couple guys might be leaving, and the rest of us only had one more year, so we could really appreciate it and enjoy it even more."

After winning two state championships in high school, to play such a big role on two more championship teams at the college level was huge for Dumoulin. He feels like the experience he gained in that regard in Boston College was crucial into helping him do the same at the highest level of hockey.

"I think that's one of the reasons I wanted to bring it here, is because I won two national championships here and I was on a great team and the coaching staff was tremendous," he said. "Just being able to learn how to win here and then also for that to eventually help me win the Stanley Cup, it's pretty special and it's cool to be back in this building."

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Dumoulin decided to leave Boston College on a high note, turning professional following that second championship his junior year, in the spring of 2012. He returned to Boston to his apartment he shared with Milner, preparing to turn pro that fall with the Carolina Hurricanes, the team that had drafted him in the second round (51st overall) of the 2009 NHL Draft.

Before the 2012 NHL Draft, which took place in Pittsburgh that summer, Dumoulin had gone down to Raleigh to meet with management. Deb remembers calling him and asking if they should watch the draft like they had done the previous couple of summers since Brian had been selected, and he told her no, since he didn't think he would be going anywhere after signing a three-year, entry-level contract with the Hurricanes. He himself wasn't even planning to watch the draft.

So that evening on June 22, Deb was sitting at a friend's house, just hanging out and having a beer, when she got a frantic call from her son. "He said, 'Mom! I just got traded to the Penguins!'" Deb said.

The Penguins had acquired Dumoulin, forward Brandon Sutter and a first-round pick (8th overall) from Carolina in exchange for Jordan Staal. And while Deb was stunned by the news, Milner, being from Mount Lebanon, was ecstatic.

"That was really cool for me," said Milner, who was born on Sep. 6, 1990 (exactly a year before Dumoulin). "I went to a Stanley Cup Final game when I was 18 months old. I grew up a Penguins fan and so to watch your best friend win two Stanley Cups with the team you grew up watching, is just really surreal."

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It did take Brian a while to get to Pittsburgh and compete for those Stanley Cups. Instead of joining the Carolina organization like he had originally been planning after he left school, he went to Pittsburgh and played for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton during the 2012-13 season. And he had a career year, registering six goals and 24 points in 73 games.

Though he did see time at the NHL level over the next two seasons, Dumoulin spent the majority of his time in the AHL, growing and developing his game before making the jump to Pittsburgh full-time in 2015-16.

"I think he definitely did his time in the minors and credit to the Penguins for giving him that time and letting him develop and giving him a real chance once he got up there," Milner said. "I'm really proud of him. The role that he takes on the team and how mature he is, it's really impressive."

Talk to anybody that knows Brian, and nobody had any doubt that he would be able to accomplish what he has. That's because he had proven at every level he could help teams win.

"He has a certain aura that he brings to teams, which you can't deny. He helps teams win championships," York said. "Just that extra gear when games are very, very important. Athletes in all sports have it, the top athletes. You just shift gears so you think you're getting the very best out of them and then an important game comes in college or in the pros and he just plays more minutes, more quality minutes, and he's a game changer."

However, that doesn't make it any less exciting or surreal.

"It's unbelievable. It's just unbelievable," Deb said. "To have two high school championships, two national championships in college and then two Stanley Cups - I knew he was going to win another one. We knew it, because it was just like, that's what he does. But a 3-peat? I'm hoping, but we'll see.

"I really always feel like I'm talking about somebody else's kid. You still can't believe that he's just a regular kid that just made his way here. Dreams really do come true."

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