Hockey's Joe Rooney Discusses Frozen Four
April 4, 2006
Junior forward Joe Rooney of the ice hockey team has played in each of BC's 40 contests this season, tallying five goals and 13 assists. Rooney, a Canton, Mass. resident, notched two short-handed goals and two assists in the Eagles' 5-0 shutout over Boston University in the Northeast Regional final on Saturday, March 25. BC (25-12-3) faces North Dakota (29-15-1) in the Frozen Four on Thursday, April 6, at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wis. Game time is 3 p.m. (EST on espn2).
Q: Looking back, give us your view of how the season has gone to this point ... the team started strongly, then struggled a bit, but has since rebounded to advance to the Frozen Four.
A: Well, early on we had to gel because of all the young guys. It takes a while for a team to get together like that. Brian [Boyle] and I think of ourselves as upperclassmen. The seniors need our help because there are only three of them and there are 10 freshmen. So, we've got to keep those kids in line and get them together. We lost our first game, but I thought we played pretty well for a team that just got together and half the team being new. We knew that we would go through a slide at some point. Looking back on it, we're happy it happened when it did. Now, we're pretty hot, and we're bringing a good team into the Frozen Four.
Q: Talk about the team's youth. There must be some "growing pains" for the freshmen and for the returning players.
A: Starting with the sophomores - they have to think of themselves as veterans because, again, there are 10 freshmen on the team. They stepped it up bigtime - Mike Brennan, especially, because it's only him and Peter [Harrold] who are the only veteran defensemen out there. He has to be a leader back there. I think that [Dan] Bertram, [Pat] Gannon and Joe Adams have stepped up. Bertram has been playing really well. He's been playing his role. He uses some speed, and we need him to be strong in the corners. The freshmen have stepped up nicely. It's been awesome playing with Benn Ferriero. He's got something like 16 goals, which is awesome for a freshman. [Nathan] Gerbe and Brock [Bradford] have been playing great up front. Our freshmen defensemen are essential for us. We need them to play well in order to do well. They've done a nice job, and they're on top of their game right now.
Q: Obviously, you enjoyed a productive two games in the Northeast Regional, scoring two goals and two assists. Before we discuss that, analyze your own performance this season - not a lot of points, but there are obviously many other aspects to look at.
A: Defensively, I think I've been playing a lot better than I did during my first two years here. My freshman year, I worked with Coach Cavanaugh a lot on wall play. I've been winning a lot of battles on the walls this year, and that's something that guys on the team need to do in order to be successful. We need to get the puck, especially in our own zone. With the young defense, they might throw the puck off the wall a little bit and you've got to get it out for them. Our team as a whole has been doing a good job of that, but I'm pretty happy with how I've been playing. Also, I feel like I might have gained a little speed even more so than what I had at the beginning. I've been trying to use my speed and set up Benn [Ferriero] because he's one of the top scorers on our team. Once I got together with Benn and Bertram, I think that's helped my game bigtime. Those guys are great to play with. I feel like the season has been going pretty well for me - like you said, not a lot of points, but I'll live with it as long as we're winning.
Q: And, how about the Northeast Regional and the game against Boston University? What happened and how did that make you feel?
A: It made me feel very, very good. It's a load off. A lot of my teammates helped me out, especially Chris [Collins]. He came up to me because of last year and what he was going through. And he broke through in the NCAA Tournament. He was all over me all day. Whether I'd see him at pre-game skate or pre-game meal, he would tell me, `Hey, you're going to do it tonight. You're going to break out.' And I'd laugh it off and say, `Yeah, whatever. Hopefully.' Once I did it, it felt really good to help the team out. His reaction after the game - I think he was happier than I was. That's the type of teammate he is. Those are the type of teammates that I have - they're great.
Q: What do you see as your role on the team?
A: Like I said before, I think that I've got to be a leader to the younger guys. As a whole, I think that we've done a good job of that. Even the guys who are sophomores have led, and some of the freshmen are becoming leaders. But, I think that I've just got to go out and work hard. I've been trying to work as hard as I can in practice and in the weight room. In games, I just try and focus on each and every shift and have our line win each shift. That's what all four lines need to do, and hopefully we can win two more games that way.
Q: With 10 days between your win over BU and your semifinal game against North Dakota, how have you balanced "staying sharp" and "getting rested/ready"?
A: We've talked about that as a team in the locker room. We were talking about distractions that could take us away from winning this championship. That was certainly one of them - how many days off we had. We just have to focus as a group each and every day. We've come to the rink to practice as hard as we could, because that's pretty much all you can do. You can't let down one day, because then it's going to hurt you bigtime when the game comes. I think that we've had strong practices each day. We've kept them somewhat short. We don't want to burn out, but we've stayed focused and stayed on each other to make sure that nobody is slacking off.
Q: What have the three captains - Harrold, Collins and Gionta - meant to this time - on the ice and in the locker room?
A: They've been great. I've had some great captains since I've started here and I think that I might say this every year, but Peter is one of the best that I have had, ever. He knows how to handle it, especially off the ice - to make sure that all the guys are together, and no one gets left out of any loop. He makes sure that we're not screwing around all the time in the locker room before practice. He knows the right time when you can have some fun and that there's a time where you have to work. He's been great. He goes out on the ice and shows it. He doesn't have to really say much. Chris is the same way - he leads by example. Hopefully he can get that Hobey [Baker Award] because he surely deserves it. He's great off the ice, too. He's an outgoing kid, and he'll be friends with anyone. He's a kid that kind of gets in battles in practice. But he'll be the first one to come up to you afterwards and be like, `Hey, I lost it a little bit, but it doesn't mean anything.' Gionta's a great guy, too. He's one of the hardest-working kids on the team. He gets a lot of bumps and bruises and lays his body around. You need kids like that who can lead by example. He's done a great job for us.
Q: The team has a very young defensive corps. Has this made the forwards a little more cognizant of their defensive roles?
A: I think at first, probably yes. But, the defense has been doing such a great job. And we've got [Cory] Schneider, so that's big. You want to play defense as hard as you can all the time, whether you've got four freshmen defensemen or six senior defensemen. Even if there is a little breakdown back there, we're pretty confident with those guys back there. We're confident that Schneider will make the save and that we'll get the puck right out. We concentrate hard on defense. That's one of our main focuses all year, and it has been for the last three years. We're a strong defensive team. Those guys have come around and played really well for us.
Q: Talk about Cory Schneider - how much has he meant to the team?
A: We feel like he's the best goalie in college hockey. When he's on his game, he's unbelievable. When he's off his game, he's still excellent. He's really focused right now. I think that last year we kind of broke down as a defensive unit against North Dakota, even against Mercyhurst in the first game. We allowed a lot of goals, and when we broke down this year, he was standing on his head. He's been at the very top of his game. I think that he will be this coming weekend, too. I'm not too worried about having him in the net.
Q: What do you know about North Dakota at this point?
A: We've been watching tape. Last year, they were all about having a physical presence. They tried to wear us down. This year, they're still a big team. They're still physical, but they have a lot of skill up front. They've got two of the top lines in college hockey, and we've been talking about how we're going to shut them down. All our lines can do it if we're playing the game like we can. I don't think they've got as much experience on defense. I think that they've also got about four freshmen on defense. So, we feel like we have to try as hard as we can to break them down. Basically, we've got to just play our game. We're worried about ourselves, not them.
Q: Do you have a history - teammates, rivals, etc. - with any of the other teams' players who will be in Milwaukee?
A: I know some of the guys. I played with [Drew] Stafford from North Dakota when we were on the under-17 team out in Slovakia. I haven't really talked to him since then, but we hung around a lot out there. I also know Bret Tyler and Billy Ryan from Maine from being a local and playing with them. I know some of the guys from Wisconsin like Jeff [Likens] and [Kyle] Klubertanz. I played with them over in Europe, too, but there aren't really any big rivalries or anything like that.
Q: What's the key for Boston College to be successful in Milwaukee?
A: We've got to use our speed, since we're a very fast team. We have to use our speed in all parts of the game - on the forecheck, in the neutral zone, in the transition game, getting the puck out of the zone. With our overall team speed, we can take it to them.
- interview conducted by senior Alex Timiraos