Over a year ago, he took a hit that sidelined him for six months. Since then it’s been a struggle to force himself into the lineup. And when he has dressed, it’s been as a fourth-liner getting limited minutes.
So when Northeastern stunned Boston University with a goal just 1:11 into the Beanpot opener, Steve Greeley wasn’t exactly the odds-on favorite to respond just 45 seconds later. He hadn’t scored a goal this year, having dressed for just seven of the Terriers’ 23 games, and would log limited ice time, probably only 10 or so shifts by game’s end.
But the senior made the most of his opportunity, taking a feed from Ryan Whitney on a three-on-two and putting the puck past Northeastern’s Keni Gibson. It was a major key to BU’s 5-2 win.
“It was a huge goal for a lot of reasons,” coach Jack Parker said. “The fact that they jumped out, 1-0, but we came right back and scored. The fact that Steve gets a goal in his senior year Beanpot is absolutely fabulous for me personally and for him obviously.
“But I think his teammates really liked that, too. He’s one of the most well-liked kids we’ve had here.”
No doubt part of that comes from the respect Greeley has earned recovering from the concussion suffered in a collision with teammate Mike Bussoli in a practice.
“I don’t speak to him anymore,” Greeley joked, but the seriousness of the injury was no laughing matter. Many a hockey career has been cut short in such a manner. And the six-month layoff has hampered the senior’s ability to contribute.
“I got hit last year on Jan. 11 and I was out a full six months,” he said. “You can skate as much as you want, but it’s tough to get playing back to a Division I level when you miss six months.”
Which made the big Beanpot goal even sweeter.
“I’ve kind of been in and out of the lineup this year, but everyone wants to play in the Beanpot,” he said. “So in my senior year, going out and trying to help the team as much as I can, to get a goal is just a great feeling.”
It was poetic justice that the goal came with an assist to long-time friend Ryan Whitney, who carried the puck into the zone on the three-on-two before dishing off to Greeley. The two grew up together in Scituate, Mass., and also attended Thayer Academy together.
“I played with Ryan since we were about 10 years old,” Greeley said. “He was one of my best friends. We were always together. His father was always talking about seeing us score in the Beanpot together so it was pretty funny to do it.”
It’s a friendship that has continued through the two players’ BU days. They continue to offer each other encouragement and feedback on their performances.
“He’s the first kid who will come to me after a game and ask me how he played,” Greeley said. “I go to him [and ask], ‘What did I do wrong?’ After practice I’ll feed him one-timers. We’re pretty close.
Which prompted Greeley to challenge his friend before the Beanpot opener. “I told him before the game, ‘Be the best player out there. Be the best man on the ice.’ Because that’s what he can do for us.”
Whitney lived up to the challenge, playing what Parker termed “one of the best games of the year” all the way through to scoring an empty-netter to ice the game.
As for Greeley, he won’t often get the headlines of his first-round NHL draft pick friend, but will make his presence felt nonetheless.
“We’re 5-2-1 when I’m in the lineup,” Greeley said. “Not that I’m out there scoring all the goals, but hopefully I’m one of the emotional and vocal seniors trying to be an energy guy.”