In a Nightmare Season On the Ice, AIC Teammates Make a Perfect Play When it Counts
by Matt Taylor/Staff Writer
All too often, it's the numbers people look at. Goals and assists. Wins and losses. Numbers which when applied to the American International College hockey team really aren't that good.
There's another number though that senior goaltender Matt Tourville and junior defenseman Chris Bolognino can take pride in. That is SIX, as in the number of lives they saved as they rushed into a burning building in downtown Springfield on the early morning of November 12th.
Tourville had been at Bolognino's apartment that Saturday night, but had fallen asleep. When he awoke at around 5 a.m., Bolognino offered to drive him home. They arrived at Tourville's apartment, and that's when Tourville noticed the apartment building across the street going up in flames.
"Our first instinct was to just run over there, we had to go try and wake them up. Chris called 911 as we went," the Yellow Jacket goaltender said. The flames were spreading fast in the pre-dawn sky. "We were both kind of surprised that no one was over there so we just tried to make sure everyone was up."
"We just wanted to get everyone out of the house because it was late, and we figured they were sleeping," added Bolognino.
The first floor of the double house was easy enough. A couple knocks on the door there and the four residents emerged, sleepy and shocked but appreciative.
The second floor proved much more challenging.
The blaze there was out of control, engulfing nearly all of the apartment as well as the stairway leading from it. That apartment housed an elderly woman and her son. The woman made it down, however her son remained in the apartment, unable to navigate the way to safety.
"When she came out, we asked if anyone else was in there and she said her son. We weren't sure if it was a young boy but it turned out he was older," Bolognino said.
The players knew then they had to go try and get him to safety. They rushed back in.
"It was very tough to breathe in there, it was smoky and it was hot and you really couldn't see once you got to the stairs," Tourville recounted. "It was definitely something I've never experienced before."
The pair, relying mostly on each other's screams as they entered the apartment, was able to locate him and get him outside before the building was completely engulfed. The damage to the building was estimated at over $200,000.
This however was a story that nearly went unnoticed. The players really thought nothing of it.
"The way I see it," Tourville said modestly, "was that anyone else would have done the same thing we did."
"It's been weird, and definitely a little different. It's been a crazy couple weeks," he said. "I don't really think it's that big of a deal, Matt and I were just in the right place at the right time. I'm just glad I was able to help them out."
The landlord saw things differently though, letting people know of the heroism that possibly saved his tenants' lives.
"He was fairly effusive over the fact that these guys had possibly saved their lives and it flourished from there," said AIC head coach Gary Wright. The story got mainstream coverage from local media, and really broke when AIC was in Colorado taking on Air Force.
"Our public information people really took it and ran with it," Wright said. "Obviously from my standpoint as a coach I think it's a wonderful thing and I'm particularly proud of their efforts. We try to make our athletes well-rounded individuals and this shows it."
According to the Springfield Republican the actions of the players won't go unrecognized either. The Fire Department there plans to nominate them for two awards — the Red Cross Hometown Heroes award and the Frank J. Murphy Medal of Valor.
As for the residents of the buildings, the players' quick thinking hasn't gone unappreciated by them either. Earlier this week, Tourville hosted the elderly woman and her son that they worked so hard to save.
"They came over the other night and gave us a hug and said thank you. It was silent but not really awkward, more appreciative then anything. It felt nice."
The heroism of two of their own hasn't been lost on their teammates either.
"I think their teammates had a lot of respect for what they did," Wright said. "They were also a little amused though, being college kids and seeing their faces a lot."
Tourville has appeared in two games this season, with a 0-1-0 record and a 6.75 GAA. Bolognino has an assist and 24 penalty minutes in 12 games for the Yellow Jackets, who are 0-12-0 (0-9-0 Atlantic Hockey).