Thursday, December 8, 2011

Captain Connolly collects 100th career point in BU win

By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff

DURHAM, N.H. -- When a hockey player imagines scoring the 100th point of his career at any level, he probably envisions the point coming on a skillful goal or a great pass to pick up an assist. But when Boston University men’s hockey senior captain Chris Connolly scored his 100th point as a Terrier Thursday night, the point was not quite a highlight-reel play that a player might imagine.

The assist came on senior forward Corey Trivino’s game-winning goal 7:51 into the second period of BU’s 2-1 win over the University of New Hampshire. The Terriers were fighting for possession of the puck down low when a shot glanced off the side of the net and bounced off the boards toward Connolly. The senior attempted to get his stick on it, but he inadvertently deflected the puck to sophomore forward Sahir Gill near the dot instead. Gill drew UNH goaltender Casey DeSmith out of his net before getting the puck to Trivino, who fired it into an empty net to put the Terriers up 2-1.

“It’s not how I would have drawn it up,” Connolly said of the assist. “Obviously I maybe would have wanted to get a goal or something like that, but that’s okay. Corey’s been hot, and it’s nice to see him put another one in there.”

Connolly’s 100th point is a special milestone for a player who came to Boston University one year after he thought his hockey career was over. Back in 2007, Connolly had fielded a few less-than-enticing offers from D-III colleges and figured he would give D-I college hockey one last shot by trying out for the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League. For Connolly, it was either make the team or move one with life after hockey.

Connolly not only made the team that year; he grew into one of the Lancers best players, putting up 55 points in 59 games while helping the Lancers to a Clark Cup title.

The Terriers noticed Connolly while he was with the Lancers and brought him to Commonwealth Avenue as one of the less-heralded players on a highly talented 2008-09 squad. Connolly made his mark immediately at BU and scored the first goal of the 2009 NCAA championship game, which the Terriers went on to win.

Connolly has steadily put up close to 30 points in each of his three previous seasons as a Terrier while serving as a leader for the team as a co-captain in 2010-11 and the sole captain of the 2011-12 squad.

But Connolly’s success on the score sheet was not the only unexpected aspect of his BU career. The fact that Connolly decided to play in Boston at all was unusual for a Duluth, Minn., native, as players from Minnesota typically stay in the area to play their college hockey. Connolly even turned down a last-minute offer from hometown University of Minnesota-Duluth, which is where his younger brother, University of Duluth captain Jack Connolly now plays as a senior captain. Jack is more of a scorer than Chris, as he has collected 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists) through 16 games with the defending national champion Bulldogs. Jack reached the century mark in points last season and now has 162 points in his career with the Bulldogs.

But although almost 1500 miles now separate the brothers, the younger brother still had his older brother in mind as Chris approached the milestone.

“He knew that milestone was a possibility this year,” BU’s Connolly said. “He texted me before the game and said good luck on it and good luck for the game. I’m happy for him and I know he’s happy for me.”

Connolly has yet to score a goal this season but has 11 assists in 14 games. Despite what Connolly called a strange assist on Thursday for No. 100, BU coach Jack Parker said that like usual, Connolly was a central part of the Terriers win.

“I’d love to see him get a goal but he’s getting points and he’s really giving us a lot of energy and a lot of heart,” Parker said. “Our team kind of played off their captain tonight I thought.”

The milestone means Connolly is the 78th player in team history to reach 100 points in a career. Connolly said he never expected to reach the century mark with BU; he just wanted to help out the team in any way he could. To etch a place for himself in the BU hockey history books is icing on the cake for his Terrier career.

“Obviously it’s an honor to be on that list,” Connolly said. “When I first came here, I never thought I’d do anything like that. So just to be able to have the opportunity to so much to this team in my four years here has been a blessing to me. I just thank the coaching staff for giving me the opportunities to be successful.”

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