April 9, 2009 PRINT Bookmark and Share

McKenzie Finds Fate Can Be Cruel

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

Drew McKenzie dives to try to break up a play, but the puck wound up deflecting off his stick and in, tying the game, at the time, 4-4. (photo: Josh Gibney)

Drew McKenzie dives to try to break up a play, but the puck wound up deflecting off his stick and in, tying the game, at the time, 4-4. (photo: Josh Gibney)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fate can be cruel, as Vermont freshman Drew McKenzie found out.

McKenzie is one of those great stories that crop up every season. He battled his way back from mono, and despite fatigue, contributed mightily to Vermont's defense on its NCAA run. A native of New Canaan, Conn., he won an East Regional in Bridgeport in his home state, to advance to the Frozen Four.

Then, in the most important game he's ever played in, he was having the best game he ever played. McKenzie had an assist on an early goal, made a spectacular play to prevent BU star Colin Wilson from scoring, and finally, added the first goal of his college career to give his team a 4-3 lead midway through the third period.

And then fate twisted itself.

McKenzie and Dan Larson — the hero, fittingly enough, of the East Regional final, when he scored the winning OT goal — both converged on the same BU player, Jason Lawrence, during a 2-on-2. Lawrence then squeezed past both of them, and passed to Chris Higgins. Higgins' shot was stopped by Madore, but by that time, McKenzie was trying to dive back into the play. The puck wound up going off his stick and in, tying the game 4-4.

"It was a regular 2-on-2 and there was miscommunication and the guy got in all alone, and I tried to make a diving play and I kind of swung at it, and it ended up going off Madore's pad and off my stick and into the goal," McKenzie said.

"Obviously scoring my first goal this season went from being a high point to, you know, letting one go on my stick. Obviously I'm disappointed, but there's nothing I can do about it now. If I could take back that goal, I would. But it happens. I can't do anything."

His coach was a freshman defenseman when Harvard won a national title in 1989. And though his team won, he remembers taking a penalty in the third period of the NCAA championship game, and having to sweat that out. So he knows about mistakes.

"It's part of the game. It's a game of mistakes," Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said. "We made our share of mistakes tonight. We wouldn't be in the situation without him having the poise to put that puck in the net in the first place on the power play.

"It's a learning experience. He's a freshman. He's going to be a tremendous player for us. We love him. ... He'll be able to put that away pretty quickly. He's a mentally tough young man, and he's had such a great season for us. I mean, there's a guy who came back from mono the second half of the season. He was down and out for quite a while and built himself back up to be one of our better defensemen."

It's unfortunate, but one day McKenzie will give himself a break. Because everything else was special, including that play on Colin Wilson.

"I just remember somehow there was a guy pretty much all alone in front of the net, and I just went to the net in case there was a rebound far side," McKenzie said. "And luckily there was a rebound and it came to me, and I was there or else Wilson probably would've tapped it in."

McKenzie said he will work this summer on regaining full strength.

"I really haven't been lifting since I had the mono. It's just too much fatigue. Other than the last two overtime games, where coach yanked me in the second overtime, I've felt fine," McKenzie said. "I'm definitely going to work out this summer hard to get back to where I was before the mono. ... I think it's mostly strength, but a lot of strength is with cardio.

"It's been a battle, but I'm proud of myself for getting back."

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