By: Marisa Ingemi
Three former Boston University skaters have made their NHL debuts this season, with former, two-time captain Matt Grzelcyk being the latest to do so.
On Wednesday night in Pittsburgh with the Boston Bruins, Grzelcyk took the NHL ice for the first time, donning the number 48. Thursday night, however, was a homecoming for the Charlestown native, who made his Bruins debut on TD Garden ice; the same building in which his father, John, remains a member of the bull gang.
“I think I was more comfortable today,” said Grzelcyk. “I got to play in this building a couple of times in college. So, I think just playing in those big game scenarios kind of helped me.”
The former Terrier captain has had his share of moments at the Garden, with several Hockey East tournaments, a national championship game, and four Beanpots, including a win in his junior season. In his Beanpot victory, Grzelcyk scored the overtime game-winner for the Terriers to propel BU over Northeastern.
The 22 year old defenseman saw himself inserted into the Bruins lineup while Kevan Miller deals with flu like symptoms, and is trying to make the most of his chance. On Thursday night, he played just under ten and a half minutes and had one shot.
“I think just treat it like any other hockey game,” Grzelcyk said. “You see the gameplan before and you’re just trying to go out there and execute with the rest of the guys. I was just excited for puck drop.”
The young BU alum is still learning, however, as his defensive mistake allowed Kevin Bieksa to score a break away goal out of the penalty box. Grzelcyk was burnt by a Ryan Getzlaf pass, and he wasn’t able to catch up with Bieksa streaking out of the box.
“I have to recognize the guy is coming out of the box there,” said Grzelcyk. “At that point in the game, you can’t be too risky. I try to make plays all the time and I’ve just got to stay back there and man in there.”
Grzelcyk is one of three Terrier draft picks the Bruins have had in the past few years, as his defense partner last season, Charlie McAvoy, was the B’s first rounder in this year’s draft. Center and Terrier assistant captain Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson was a first rounder two years ago. Grzelcyk had been a third round selection in the 2012 draft.
There’s a lot for Grzelcyk to learn as he continues his journey to be an NHL defender, but for a Bruins team lacking a bit of spark, he’s hoping to add just that.
“I just have to move the puck up to the forwards as best I can,” Grzelcyk said. “Skate pucks out of trouble. Obviously, I’m kind of an undersized defenseman, but if I can use my legs and my hockey IQ to my advantage hopefully I can help the team.”