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November 30, 2012When Pat Mullane first stepped on the ice to face Boston University at Agganis Arena back on December 5, 2009, he was an out of shape freshman with questionable skating skills and only a vague idea of what the BC-BU rivalry was like. Now as captain of the number-one ranked team in the entire United States he skates like the wind, double shifts on power plays and penalty kills and finally, after 13 of these special games, admits that they are now more exciting than ever.
"When you get on the ice there is just such an intense passion and dislike for that other team," he says. "There is never a problem getting ready for these games even though I have some of my very best friends on that team. I grew up playing with Pat McGregor, who is a defenseman on 'that' team. We played on the same team since we were seven or eight. We train together in the summers. We play golf together in the summers. We played together at Avon Old Farms.
"But when we step foot on the ice there's always a lot of slashing and shoving. You would never know that we are that close. You could say that we put our friendship on hold during the school year."
The Pat Mullane who will put on the skates for his final two regular season games against Boston University this weekend (nine wins, four losses), is definitely a different Pat Mullane than the one who was barely more than a face-in-the-crowd when he first appeared At Boston College in 2009. His goal and assists totals for his first three years increased steadily from 8-20 to 8-22 to 10-29, but this season he has emerged a true star, centering the first line, putting six goals and nine assists on the board and being named Hockey East player-of-the-month for October, all with the season barely entering the middle third of the season. How did he get so good?
"Hard work," he says. "When I came here I was a little out of shape. I was also a terrible skater. But I worked at it. Coach (Greg) Brown is the best skater anytime he steps on the ice and he has worked regularly with me on my skating. I kind of like where I'm at now, but I am not satisfied. Every day I try to get better."
And, as he has gotten better, his two mates, Steven Whitney and legend-in-waiting Johnny Gaudreau have gotten better too, although Mullane says they all have a way to go before they will be satisfied with their play.
"I wouldn't say that we are where we want to be yet," Mullane explained modestly, following the lines 12 point effort over Dartmouth last Saturday. "We had a pretty good showing last Saturday, but before that we might have been a little snake-bitten. We haven't always capitalized on our chances. We all want to be more consistent. I wouldn't say we are a great line yet, but I think we are headed in the right direction."
Mullane says that his line has great chemistry.
"A lot of it starts with Johnny and Steve," he says. "They understand the game so well that it makes my job so easy. I try to take care of my defensive responsibilities. The less time we spend in the defensive zone, the more time we have for Johnny and Steve to be creative in the offensive zone.
"As soon as we get control of the puck any place above the faceoff circles we take off. We are all looking to score goals."
Captain Mullane describes his linemates willingly.
"Johnny is dynamic, he's special, there are so many adjectives you can use for him," he explains. "He thinks the game and processes what he sees faster than anyone I have ever played with or ever seen. You see him wait for a guy to come to him and then he just spins right off and suddenly he is in the clear by 15 feet. And, like Wayne Gretzky always said, Johnny finds those spaces on the ice not where the puck is, but where it is going to be."
As for Whitney, his roommate since freshman year, Mullane says "he is a hard worker and a very honest player. You never see him take a shift off. He likes to take care of his defensive responsibilies because he realizes that if we play solid D, he is going to get a chance to score. He has such a quick release of the puck that he is sure to score goals."
What if Pat Mullane were the coach of an opposing team? How would he shut down the Mullane line?
"Good question," he said. "Physical play is probably most important, but we can get physical too. Other teams will try to hit us and pin us and take us out of the play. Or the other team can try to keep us in our defensive zone and we would never get a chance to score. We do these same things against the other team's top lines. And, since we tend to key on a team's neutral zone turnovers, an opponent would try to limit those."
Of course Mullane talks with experience. He has been skating since he was 18 months old and he has been playing organized hockey since he was five. "My father died when I was eight, but he had been a big Cam Neely fan," Mullane, who grew up in Wallingford, Ct. said. "So that was my on-ice idol when I was a kid. Off the ice, my mother is my idol. She raised my sister and I on a limited income and she sent us both to boarding schools and then two of the top universities in the country (his sister was the two-time captain of the team at Colby College.) And, for some reason I told people back then that I wanted to play at BC. I don't know why."
The road to Boston College began early in his high school years when Mullane began making a name for himself at various USA hockey festivals. "Obviously there were a lot other players that we better than me back then," he says. "The first two schools to make offers to me back then were the local schools, Yale and Quinnipiac, right after I was a freshman. I got a form letter from BC after my sophomore year. I guess they sent the same letter and questionnaire to a couple hundred kids. But I took this letter as the be-all and end-all. I got aggressive and called coach Mike Cavanaugh and told him I wanted to visit BC.
"So I came in November and it was the BC-BU game that got called on account of fog. It wasn't until the next July that I got a letter from here. By that time I had offers from other Hockey East schools, but as soon as BC offered it was a done deal."
Four years later, Mullane describes his BC experience in glowing terms. "It has been a great experience here," he said. "If I could sign up for another four years I would."
Since re-enlisting at Boston College is not an option, Mullane is looking forward to the next step in his life and will realistically look at the professional hockey ranks and the business world. He has never been drafted by a pro team. "Hopefully I can reach my next goal, which is to play in the NHL. I'm looking forward to the pro lifestyle and maybe that will happen," he says.
If not, he is looking to the world of finance. "I think that ultimately I will be involved in finance. I did an internship this summer and I enjoyed it. Of course I would like to be the general manager of an NHL team some day, but there are only 30 of those jobs in the whole world. So, I would really just hope to have a job to make enough money to support my family. After that, maybe I would get back into hockey."
But, without question, after this weekend there will never be another regular-season BC-Bu game for Mullane or his senior teammates. Remember back when the current seniors were freshmen and the big names were Kreider, Dumoulin, Samuelson, Wey, Milner and Whitney. Well, out-of-shape Pat Mullane ended up being the captain of them all. Looking ahead, there is nearly two-thirds of a season and a lot can happen on that road.
"I'd like to think that we are going to win the next 30 games," he said. "But the important thing is that we reach the mountaintop in the spring, at the right time. Coach York is good at getting a team to peak at the right time."
And, he said, that would mean another national championship.
"You're not remembered here if you don't win the national championship," he said. "Our senior class wants to be remembered as the class that won it all three times."
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