BOSTON — If you heard that a Boston College Eagle netted a hat trick in the Beanpot, there’d be a few likely possibilities. Brian Gionta, Jeff Farkas or Blake Bellefeuille would be the obvious candidates. Or perhaps Mike Lephart, defenseman-turned-forward Marty Hughes or Jeff Giuliano. Maybe even a member of the highly-skilled BC defensive corps.
But rather far down on the list would be Krys Kolanos. Not for lack of talent. The freshman was highly recruited, choosing BC over the likes of Michigan State, North Dakota and Denver. It’s just that Kolanos struggled earlier this season and came into the Beanpot with only five goals.
A similar surprise was in store for Boston University fans in the nightcap. The Terrier goal-scoring this year has been led by Carl Corazzini, Tommi Degerman, Chris Heron, Brian Collins and defenseman Chris Dyment.
Instead, it was Jack Baker who recorded the hat trick. Baker has acted more as the setup man on his line, totaling 14 assists but only five goals.
Although Kolanos and Baker are from different backgrounds, not to mention different sides of the MBTA trolley tracks, they do share one common asset.
Boston College: Krys Kolanos
Expectations were high for the Calgary, Alberta, native and when he netted a hat trick in an exhibition game against Queens University, fans on Chestnut Hill were grinning broadly. Exhibitions may not count, but what an omen!
And when he scored a goal and assisted on another in the official season opener against Bowling Green, BC fans would have been forgiven if they anointed him then and there a member of the Hockey East All-Rookie Team. At worst.
But things haven’t gone that easily for the 18-year-old. He failed to score even a single goal in the next 17 games. It was a tough introduction to college hockey for a kid who had totaled 43 goals and 110 points in 58 games the previous year and had never encountered problems burying the puck.
“It was definitely the longest drought I’ve ever been in,” he said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine not being able to score for 17 games.”
“Nightmares!” he said. “I didn’t start questioning myself, but I was definitely thinking about it too much and just trying too hard.”
While struggling to find his scoring touch, he hit the weight room and went from 180 pounds to 195. Things began to come around in mid-January, when he scored four goals and added an assist in a four-game stretch.
The Beanpot, however, was foreign terrain. He hadn’t even known about the tournament until last year when BC began to recruit him. The closest thing to it in Alberta were the battles between his own Calgary Royals and the Calgary Canucks. Marginally similar to the Battle of Boston, that Alberta Junior Hockey League rivalry pitted the Royals from the south side of the city against the Canucks from the northeast.
“You’re pretty much one or the other,” he said. “You grow up with it.
“But it’s not even close to as big as this.”
The 4,000 fans for Royals vs. Canucks wasn’t exactly a preparation for the 17,728 at the FleetCenter. But his appetite had already been whetted last year.
“It was really one of the things I looked forward to coming here,” he said.
Kolanos then offered a king-sized understatement.
“It’s been a good start so far.”
Boston University: Jack Baker
There may not be many people as diametrically opposite as Kolanos and Baker. While Kolanos hails from Calgary and only found out about the tournament last year, Baker is a native of South Boston and has grown up with the Beanpot.
“To get my first hat trick in the FleetCenter was a big thrill,” he said. “Especially growing up watching this tournament every February and seeing guys from BU like Tony Amonte score big goals.”
Kolanos and Baker also differ sharply in demeanor. Kolanos isn’t yet comfortable in the media spotlight. Baker seems ready for his own talk show.
After finding out about Kolanos’ achievement, Baker said, “I was kind of happy [to get a hat trick myself] because, you know, you don’t want let a Canadian kid sneak away with all the glory in the Beanpot.”
If you ask him about the upcoming championship game with Boston College, he tosses a Molotov cocktail.
“We know that our goal is to get to the final game, but in past years it’s been a question of whether BC wants to get to the finals.”
Do you think that quote might wind up on the BC locker room wall?
Baker means no harm, of course. He even kidded Corazzini, his linemate, after the junior set up Baker’s second goal.
“He’s got 15 goals,” he said, “and I probably have about 14 of those assists, so it’s about time he paid me back.”
Baker dishes it out and knows that he’s going to take it plenty, too. Such as if he’d missed the open-netter with 16 seconds left that got him the hat trick.
“I saw the open net and had so many thoughts running through my head about missing and having my family and friends here,” he said. “I’d probably take a lot of crap for that after the game if I missed.
“So I just wanted to bear down and put it in.”
And that he did. Which, for a kid from South Boston, was a pretty good night.
“I got one goal last year in the Beanpot and it was the biggest thrill of my life,” he said. “To get three on the opening night to push us into the finals is all the more enjoyable.”