Brian Strait is outnumbered.
That’s because the defenseman is the only player on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s current roster that attended Boston University, while five former Boston College Eagles and archrivals – Brian Dumoulin, Benn Ferriero, Brian Gibbons, Philip Samuelsson and Carl Sneep – are now his teammates.
Needless to say, it can sometimes be a little much for Strait.
“It’s like a reunion every day,” Sneep said, jokingly adding, “I think Straiter is getting a little annoyed by now.”
Especially because Sneep and the other former Eagles never miss a chance to give Strait a friendly reminder that right now, there’s more guys from their school than his in the Penguins organization.
“When the opportunity arises, yeah, of course,” Sneep grinned.
|L to R: Philip Samuelsson, Carl Sneep, Brian Gibbons, Brian Dumoulin, Benn Ferriero (Getty Images) |
“It’s crazy how many players from there are here, especially that I played with,” Samuelsson said. “They must like the Eagles. I think they do (laughs). Coach (Jerry) York has done a great job producing high-end players. I don’t know what the connection is exactly, but I love it.”
There certainly are connections, which is always the case in the hockey world. A few: Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma played four seasons under current Eagles head coach Jerry York at Bowling Green from 1988-92, player development coach Bill Guerin spent two seasons at Boston College from 1989-91 and Ryan Fitzgerald, son of Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald, will be attending the school this fall.
But mostly, it’s that Boston College’s hockey program is one of the most prestigious in the nation – arguably the best over the last few years – and it’s one that produces talented players that are the kind of young men any organization would like to have.
“It’s no secret that the program’s had a lot of success,” Sneep said. “You’re going to bring players who have had success at programs. They like the BC players here in the Pittsburgh organization and it’s good to have guys you’re familiar with.”
The Eagles have reached the NCAA Frozen Four 23 times, second most among all Division I programs. In the past seven years, Boston College has advanced to the Frozen Four five times and has won the national championship three times (2008, ’10, ’12).
The tradition is so rich, the education is first-rate and the caliber of players that have donned maroon and gold over the years have been elite. All of those factors are huge recruiting tools. But as the guys will tell you, the driving force behind the Eagles’ success is college hockey legend York and the way he runs the program.
“Coach York is great,” Gibbons said. “He’s such a good person away from the ice. He teaches you how to be a good person. On the ice, not only him but coach (Mike) Cavanaugh, coach (Greg) Brown – they’ve been coaching the college game for a while and had a lot of success. A lot of guys have gone on to have success in the pros, so you just kind of listen to them as much as you can and they’ll lead you in the right direction.”
These players were all part of championship-winning teams, and their bond is tight. While of course they become close with all of their new teammates, having played together before and having familiar faces around helped some of them become comfortable making the transition to the pros a lot quicker.
“Coming into a new organization, you’re obviously nervous,” Gibbons said. “You want to make a good impression. I think it helps when you know a few of the guys before you come in. Last year, I was lucky enough to know Carl Sneep was here and I came in with Phil Samuelsson too, so that helped. We kind of went through things together and leaned on each other, so that definitely helps.”
Entering this season, the older guys are looking to be there for rookie Dumoulin, who came to the Penguins in June from Carolina as part of the Jordan Staal trade, adjust to the culture of his new organization.
“I think it’s been helpful for young guys like Dumo,” Samuelsson said. “It’s his first year and I remember last year getting nervous. It’s a little bit easier when you know guys that have been here and are buddies from before. That makes it easier, for sure.”
In fact, Dumoulin may even move into the spare bedroom of the house Gibbons and Samuelsson are currently sharing – which reminds them a little bit of their old college life.
“It’s a frat house,” joked Samuelsson.
Hometown: Biddeford, Maine
Weight: 215 pounds
Boston College career: Played three seasons for the Eagles from 2009-12, winning two NCAA national championships (2010, '12). Was named Best Defensive Defenseman by Hockey East, an NCAA First-Team All-American and earned the Bob Monahan Award as the top defenseman in New England his sophomore and junior years. Twice named to the Frozen Four All-Tournament Team (2010, '12) and the Hockey East First-Team (2011, '12).
Hometown: Essex, MA
Weight: 185 pounds
Boston College career: Played four seasons for the Eagles from 2005-09, making three straight trips to the Frozen Four from 2006-08 and winning the 2008 NCAA national championship. Ferriero totaled 139 points (64G-75A) in 165 career games. He made back-to-back Hockey East All-Tournament Team honors in ’06-07 and ’07-08.
Hometown: Braintree, MA
Weight: 170 pounds
Boston College career: Played four seasons with Boston College from 2007-11. Twice won the NCAA Division I ice hockey title during his career (2008, '10). Played 160 career games with the Eagles, posting 56 goals, 108 assists and 164 points. Finished his senior campaign with 18 goals and 51 points in 39 games and was named All-Hockey East second team and Hockey East All-Tournament Team.
Hometown: Leksand, Sweden
Weight: 190 pounds
Boston College career: Played two seasons with the Eagles from 2009-11, winning the 2010 NCAA national championship with the team his freshman year. Did not miss a game in his Boston College career, dressing in 81 total contests and compiling 30 points (5G-25A).
Hometown: St. Louis Park, MN
Weight: 225 pounds
Boston College career: Played four seasons for the Eagles from 2006-10, winning two NCAA national championships (2008, '10) and advancing to the 2007 Frozen Four. Sneep appeared in 157 career contests for Boston College, totaling 74 points (27G-47A). Captured All-Conference honorable-mention accolades and All-Tournament team honors at the Hockey East Tournament his senior year.