April 13, 2005
This week's featured athlete is senior ice hockey defenseman Andrew Alberts, who currently plays in the American Hockey League (AHL) for the Providence Bruins, an affiliate of the Boston Bruins. In his 149 games at the Heights, the Eagles registered a 97-52 record. A native of Eden Prairie, Minn., Alberts leaves Boston College having led the hockey program to three Hockey East regular-season titles, one Hockey East Tournament title (2005) and one Beanpot crown (2004).
Q: Take a minute to look back at your four years at Boston College. Reflecting back on those years and the 149 games you played in, what does your time here mean to you?
A: You come in as a freshman, and you're not sure what to expect. You meet Jerry York, the coaching staff and all the seniors, and everyone welcomes you really well. They really let you fit right in with the program. Over the years, we had some great teams. My freshman year was rough. I think we were around .500, but the next three years we had three regular-season titles, the Beanpot championship and the conference tournament title. It's just something you work toward all season long, and to reach those goals says a lot for the program and says a lot for your teammates. The kids and the friends you meet over four years is something that you're going to always remember. It has been a special four years, and I'm sad to see it go. But, you've only got four years.
Q: Can you pick a couple of special moments or memories from your four years?
A: The biggest game that sticks out was the overtime win against Michigan in 2004 in the NCAA Regional. Ben Eaves' goal was a fantastic goal and a heroic effort by him. That was a great team, and this year we had a very different team. This year's team was very defensive, and we didn't have as many goal scorers. This year was a great year, but we fell a little bit short, again, in the regional final. To capture that regular-season title and the [Hockey East] tournament title was great. I never thought I would win one of those. We always seemed to get bad bounces in that tournament, whether it was my sophomore year against BU or last season where we lost to them again in the first round. This year, we had some injuries that we overcame and played simple hockey. It was a good experience and pretty exciting.
Q: Where do you feel the practice and training from Boston College's program has best prepared you to play at the next level?
A: The biggest thing is that the coach here treats you like professionals. He expects you to take everything upon yourself to get ready for games, whether that is workouts or practices. That is how it is down there. They expect you to practice and get mentally prepared and physically prepared. Coach York and our coaching staff do a great job at building that up over your four years. The teach you that you have to be accountable for yourself. That's the main thing with Providence. You go down there for games, and you don't have a team stretch or team workouts. It's all on your own and individual. You do what you have to do to get ready for the game.
Q: You've played in five games with the Providence Bruins. What have been the greatest adjustments you have had to make playing in the AHL? What are the biggest differences between college hockey and professional hockey?
A: The major changes I've seen are obviously the speed. It's a much more physical game. There are four lines that can go in, and they all have speed. The second major difference is puck movement. The puck moves fast. It's not always going to be a great play or a good play, but you have to make the simple plays down there and keep the puck out of your net. The physical play is a huge change. There is fighting and what not. They are always finishing their checks, whereas in college hockey some guys tail off. It's kind of a systems game down there. Everybody is where they are supposed to be. It's a controlled environment. In college, it is a little more free-wheeling. You don't have the red line, so you can have that long breakout pass. Beyond that, you play a few games and get your feet wet to get a feel for the game. I think I'm starting to fit in a little more out there. It's going well.
Q: What kind of greeting did you receive from your new teammates? How about from opposing players?
A: You're not really sure what to expect from your teammates. I'm a guy coming in with about 10 games left in the season, and they have had their team all year long. But they are good to me. They encourage me, and they're always helping me out on the ice, talking to me about different situations and plays to make. It's a great bunch of guys down there. There are a bunch of guys who played in the Hockey East and who played college hockey. They treated me well and have helped me to fit in right away. As for the opposing players, in my first game they were yapping at me the entire game. They knew it was my first game and that I had just come out of college. Everybody was trying to get under my skin and trying to get me to fight. I ended up throwing down and getting into a fight, but things went well for me. After that, they kind of leave you alone and realize that you play tough and that you are not going to back down.
Q: How did you feel when you stepped on the ice for your first game? Were nerves a factor?
A: The first three or four days before my first game, I was dealing with all the negotiations of whether or not I was going to go, whether or not I would play or how much time I would play. I don't think I ate or drank anything for three days. I was just so nervous to go down there and meet all the new guys and new coaches in a new situation. Once you get on the ice, you stop thinking about all that stuff and just play. The worst part is before the games when you are sitting there, and your stomach is in knots. It was a situation that I hadn't felt since my first practice here at BC. It was a different feeling to have.
Q: What has it been like to jump into a season that ends in nearly two weeks, on a team comprised of many guys with whom you have never played?
A: That was a very difficult thing to get used to right away. You go down there and every system is new - every forecheck, every defensive zone, every neutral zone, the power play, the penalty kill, everything is new. So, I spent some time with the coaches going over a lot of video before the first couple of games. We were just going over different scenarios and what other players on other teams like to do. You look for who are the kill guys and who are the tough guys and how to protect yourself and get some body checks. They did a pretty good job helping me out, as did my teammates when it came to pointing out situations. It was a major change, but slowly I'm beginning to realize how they want me to play and how things work on the ice.
Q: Have you seen any familiar faces on opposing teams?
A: I played against Ryan Murphy last Sunday, and he plays for Manchester. It was kind of different seeing somebody who you played with for four years on the other side of the line. But it was a good game, and we ended up winning, 2-1. So, I was pretty happy with that.
Q: You've received two fighting penalties. Can you tell me about each fight - what instigated each fight and how you felt you did?
A: The first fight was in my first game, like I said. The whole opposing team was trying to get under my skin all night. One of their players came right off the face-off and challenged me. You can't back down or show any weakness. You just have to do what you have to do. We ended up dropping the gloves, and I thought I did pretty well. My teammates were all excited, and my coaches were all excited that I got that first fight under my belt. I thought it went pretty well. After the fight, everybody stopped yapping at me and trying to stick me. The second fight was last Sunday, where I was chasing down one of their offensive defensemen. In the AHL, it's an unwritten rule on a team where if one of your skilled guys is getting hit or whacked or somebody lays a pretty good hit on them, you have to go back them up. I put a pretty good hit on one of their skilled defensemen, and one of their guys stepped in and grabbed me right away. This was one of their more physical guys who was a little bigger than me, so it was a bit intimidating at first. Once the gloves dropped, you just go out there and do what you've got to do. You don't even think. You just try to protect yourself and throw some punches in there. It's interesting because I haven't fought since juniors, which was four years ago. So, it's tough to get the hang of it, but once you get in there and get going, instincts just take over.
Q: As you prepare to graduate in May, can you explain how you've been able to handle playing professional hockey while still keeping up with your academic workload here at Boston College?
A: My schedule works out so that I only have classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I also have a night class on Thursday. We usually have Mondays off in Providence, so that works out fine with classes. With no classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I head down there for practices in the mornings. I end up missing Wednesday's practice, and I have classes on Fridays. They gave me the leeway to do whatever I need to do. When finals come around, I'll need to take tests and turn in my papers. As for commuting down there and taking classes here, it has worked out pretty well. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I spend my time down there, and then I have games on the weekends.
Q: What are you plans for the summer - what will you do to relax and how will you prepare for next season? Will you stay in the Boston area or head home to Minnesota?
A: I'd like to go back to Minnesota, but I kind of need to see what [the Boston Bruins] want me to do. I need to see if they want me to stay out here to work out. I am definitely going to take a couple of weeks off after our season finishes. We start the playoff run next week, so I have at least two or three more weeks of hockey here. After that, I would like to relax for a couple of weeks, graduate, go home, play some golf, get on the boat, and get on the lake.
Photo courtesy of Ron Marcotte/Providence Bruins.