Getting Better With Age
Boston University Seniors Lead the Quest Back to Frozen Four
by Joseph Edwards/CHN Writer
Colin Wilson is a Hobey Baker candidate and a bona fide NHL prospect. Kieran Millan has more than solidified a tenuous goalie situation. Upwards of 20 NHL teams will come calling for Walter Brown Trophy award winner Matt Gilroy at the season's conclusion.
All in all, there's plenty of guys wearing the Boston University red-and-white that garner lots of attention.
There are three that are often overlooked, though. Seniors Chris Higgins, Jason Lawrence and Brandon Yip have been consistent, and often stellar four-year contributors to the Terriers, despite the fact they've played in the shadows of higher-profile players and situations over all four years. The trio has seen players like Chris Bourque, Pete MacArthur, David Van Der Gulik, Bryan Ewing, Brad Zancanaro, Sean Sullivan, and John Curry come and go, taking national headlines with them along the way.
They've had their own measure of success, however. All three have been integral parts of three Beanpot Championships ('06, '07, '09), two Hockey East regular-season titles — and two postseason ('06, '09) — as well as three NCAA tournament appearances ('06, '07, '09). This year, if the Terriers are going to snag their first NCAA Championship since 1995, Higgins, Lawrence, and Yip will be big cogs in the machine.
"Coming in, I knew I had to have a big year," Higgins says. "We all did, as far as the senior class goes. I have to be big offensively and defensively."
Leadership at both ends of the ice is one thing they all preach — and they've had a good set of teachers to show them the way.
"Our freshman year, [senior captains] Brad Zancanaro and David Van Der Gulik, their leadership in the locker room and on the ice was unbelievable," Lawrence says. "Throughout practice, the intensity they brought everyday was great. They were all big leaders, we've just been following their lead."
It's helped that the team's six seniors — Higgins, Lawrence, Yip, Steve Smoklinsky, and captains John McCarthy and Matt Gilroy — have been close knit since the their first season on campus.
"The senior class sat down before we started this season," Lawrence adds. "We've seen how leadership has paid off, and we're trying to do what they did."
"Right from day one, our senior class has been really close," Yip says. "We've really stepped up to achieve our goals."
That started in 2005-06, when Yip was on an all-freshman line with Higgins and Lawrence, and they teamed up for 74 points, and a bit of national attention for their strong all-around play despite their youth. But, as all good things do, the line came to an end sophomore year as Yip spend much of the season battling through injuries and his cohorts found themselves with different linemates.
"It's part of hockey," says Lawrence, who's back on a line with Higgins, centered by the sophomore, Wilson. "We're all really good friends, but we knew it would happen. It's good to be back on a line with Chris. Coach put us together in the first practice of the season, and we've been solid throughout. We have a great skill set and having them out there makes my job a lot easier."
All three have made it look easy this season, combining for 113 points. Lawrence's 21 goals (including 13 on the power play) equal his output for the past three seasons combined. Yip, finally healthy, has averaged just under a point-per-game on the season, with career highs across the board. Higgins, the team's third leading scorer, is having his best year yet, while setting a career mark in penalty minutes. All signs point to the threesome stepping it up, but they're OK with being just outside of the spotlight's reach.
"I've had my fair share of individual glory," laughs Higgins, who's freshman-year Beanpot goal against Harvard reached #2 on Sportcenter's top-10 plays, among his several career Hockey East weekly honors and the 2008 Hockey East's Len Ceglarski Sportsmanship Award. "But my main goal is to win a championship. Playing team first is how you win.This season, everyone has put the team before themselves. The individual stuff has taken a back seat."
Four years later, and they're all still playing on the same line.
"Even the guys who get recognized, we all have one common goal," Yip agrees.
It's no different with the third Musketeer, either.
"We all want to compete, we want to win, to get better," Lawrence says. "Obviously there's going to be guys that get lots of headlines, but we're playing for the team."
While that team is well known, as are some of the guys on it, it's the ones who aren't — seniors like Lawrence, Higgins, and Yip — that will bring the difference home to BU this season.