Jan. 25, 2005
This week's featured athlete is sophomore men's ice hockey center Brian Boyle. In three of the team's last four games, he has registered a power-play goal. Boyle, who hails from Hingham, Mass., was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the first round (26th overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
Q: The ice hockey team has gone unbeaten in its last 11 games - a streak that began with an early-December tie against Providence, included nine straight wins and continued with last Monday night's 2-2 tie with New Hampshire. What has been the key to the team's recent successes?
A: I think it definitely starts with the coaching staff and how they address whatever we need to work on. Specifically, the power plays have improved a great deal. The penalty kill is just unbelievable. Coach York is not satisfied. He says we can get better, and we know we can get better. He said our defense is one of the top in the nation, but he thinks we can get better at team defense as well. That's going to be a key point of our team. It starts with the coaches, and then everyone buys into the system. People are getting hurt, and guys are filling in and doing really well. We're such a tight-knit group that can play with anyone.
Q: Are there any specific areas in which you believe the team still needs to improve?
A: Taking it from the coach's viewpoint, we can definitely improve on everything. I think, specifically, we have a bunch of shots that we have to start burying a little more. We have so many quality chances because we are a highly-skilled team. If we can just put it all together and find the back of the net, we are going to be one scary team. I think we definitely all have it in us to bury the puck, but for a little while there it was not happening for us at all. We can still be really dominant offensively, too.
Q: The team kicks off action in the annual Beanpot on Feb. 7 with a showdown against Boston University. You've already faced BU three times this season - losing the first game and then winning the next two. Given what you know about the Terriers, what kind of game do you expect?
A: It's going to be a battle. They are going to come at us with everything. They are going to give us a few sticks after the whistle. They are going to be hacking, playing hard and finishing every check. That's the type of team they are. Every time we go in there, it's going to be a war. If you're not ready for it after your first shift, you are rudely awakened. It's going to be a great time. Last year was an unbelievable battle. We outshot them, but their goalie played great. We hung in there, didn't give them an inch and took it into overtime. It's going to take everything we've got to get to the final round.
Q: Do you sense any greater urgency or pride amongst fans at the FleetCenter during the Beanpot? Is there a special excitement in the locker room?
A: When I was a fan, I definitely think so. All growing up, I was a BC fan. The whole atmosphere, watching the four teams play, was unbelievable. I don't even know how to explain it. It was just so much fun to go in there. I would go with my dad and my brothers, and it was just a special day. It's just a special time of year. People say that it's special, but that's tough to put your finger on to describe. It's really just an amazing time.
Q: Is there an opponent or a game that you put a circle around at the beginning of the season and can't wait to face off against?
A: It's definitely BU for me, personally. We have just a huge rivalry against them. We have a separate part in our locker room called "The Dog Pound." Every time we beat them, we put a puck up there. It's a great rivalry, especially with their successes this year. Even last year they played us hard even though they didn't have as much success as they usually have. Playing BU in the Beanpot was something that I could look way forward to after I decided to come here. It's definitely a huge thing.
Q: You have a chance to get to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in as many seasons. What will it take to not only reach the tournament, but also get back to the Frozen Four and have the chance to win it all?
A: I think it's just us playing our game - tight, defensively, with unbelievable goaltending. All the games down the stretch get to become really close games, and that is where our defense will take over. Our offensive skills are improving all the time, and that will just give us the edge to come away with wins there. We have to play disciplined and stay out of the penalty box. It's just going to be us playing our game, and we will get there.
Q: Talk about your role on the team. Are there any areas in which you're asked to and able to contribute that maybe you couldn't have done as a freshman?
A: I think I've contributed more consistently this year with power plays. Last year, I would contribute a little bit here and there. But on every power play I wasn't helping out as much as I could. So, I saw a little bit of time but was later taken off. But this year I really understood how hard you have to work to make the whole five-man unit work with a man-up advantage. I think I've helped a little bit with that. Also, my game has improved physically. Faceoffs are big too. Coaches have asked me in key situations to take some faceoffs. It's something I work hard at, and it's a one-on-one battle. That's some of the stuff that Coach Cavanaugh and Coach York have told me from last year that I should work on. Stuff like that which they make clear to me is really great to me because that way I work on it and make a great improvement.
Q: You seem to have developed into a force on the power play. You've scored a team-high seven power-play goals this season. What do you try to do on the power play, i.e. what has been the key to your success.
A: Coach Brown has made it pretty simple. You go to areas that are open and find lanes. You have to know where people are before you get the puck and make plays. With me, I've been put on the flank, on the side down by the post where I can see the play happen in front of me. Ryan [Shannon] and Patrick [Eaves] are so skilled that they can wheel around, and I can read off them and find an opening. They can find me with a pass, and I just bury one home. It's been a work in progress, definitely, on the power play. I struggled early but now it's really coming together because we work on it so much. Guys pitch in with suggestions here and there for where we are going to be. Everyone has so much fun with it. Those guys really carry the load and then dish it off to me if I can get open.
Q: For those who don't know much about you, tell us a little about your family.
A: I come from a huge Irish, Catholic family. It is huge. I'm one of 13 kids, and I'm the seventh one. Every one of my siblings has their own thing. My oldest sister is a doctor, and she has four kids. My brother under her is autistic, and he competes in the Special Olympics and come homes with three or four gold medals under his neck every summer. He's unbelievable. I have another sister who has five kids. My brother was an all-American diver. Another brother is a teacher at Catholic Memorial teaching religion. I've got little brothers and sisters who are involved in sports and an older sister who is in college up at St. Anselm's. She and my mom just took care of the house while I was with my father playing sports and stuff. They are the best. My parents are saints. I'm the luckiest kid in the world.
Q: Can you reflect back on the day the LA Kings selected you in the first round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft? Talk about how special that day was to you, especially with so many family members in attendance.
A: It was one of the most special days I've had. Hearing my name called was great. Hearing the roar from wherever the 30 family members were and the eight or nine sitting in the row with me was great. It was great to just go down the line and hug everyone. They were so happy for me, which was a great feeling. There was just a lot of attention that I got, which was just unbelievable. Seeing all their faces so happy once we went downstairs, at the Gaylord Center was just something that I'll never forget.
Q: Being so tall, many might have expected you to pursue a basketball career. Instead, you've developed into a major college hockey player. What initially drew you to the game of hockey?
A: My brothers played it. My father played it. He just put me on the ice when I was two. I skated, and I could do it. I just couldn't get enough of it. My parents had highlight tapes of Bruin games and a "Reach for the Stars" tape which was a Bruins' season highlight film that I used to watch like every day when I was four or five years old. I had it memorized, and I knew everything that was going to happen. I knew everyone's stats from that year. The whole sport was just unbelievable. I played other sports, too. I loved competing, and I was a really competitive kid. But, there was just something about hockey that I couldn't get enough of. I would go home and tape my stick and untape it and retape it again.