Odds are, at some point in the last two years, Vinny Saponari pictured himself on the ice against Jack Parker’s Boston University men’s hockey team. He may have dreamt of the chance to skate against the team Parker removed him from for conduct unbecoming of a Terrier in April 2010.
He perhaps envisioned the shot at “redemption” he Facebooked about when he initially committed to Boston College later that fall.
In his mind, he almost surely heard the PA announcer calling out the goal by No. 27 on the team taking down the Terriers in a key Hockey East battle.
Round one of Saponari versus his former team didn’t go quite as the junior would’ve liked, as his new team, Northeastern, fell 4-3, and Saponari was held to just a secondary assist on a late power-play goal.
Of course, No. 27 did score. Saponari was on the ice, too, but unfortunately for him, his Husky number is 74. Instead, he watched as teammate Alex Tuckerman –– wearing Saponari’s old No. 27 – put NU up 1-0 in the first. Saponari later earned an assist when Ludwig Karlsson put the Huskies up 2-0 later in the frame, and again when Karlsson’s power-play tally cut BU’s lead to 4-3 in the third.
That was about the end of the good news for Saponari and Northeastern.
BU bounced back with a three-goal second period to carry a 3-2 lead into the third, and extended that to 4-2 early in the final frame.
For Saponari, the game was an exercise in self-control highlighted by only a few lapses. There was the skate out for warmups, where Saponari ogled the Terriers skating from their tunnel as he made his initial trek to NU’s end. Saponari’s warm up was an oft-interrupted one. Every time he came near center ice, a different former teammate had a quick hello or a lighthearted jab to throw his way.
It was more than a normal HE game for Saponari, even if he only showed it in flashes. In the second period, Saponari dished to Adam Reid and embarked on a 2-on-1 with the freshman forward. Reid opted to shoot, and BU goalie Kieran Millan made the save. Saponari was livid after, slamming his stick and yelling at Reid on the way back to the bench for not dishing him the puck.
Saponari downplayed the brief tantrum later, saying his emotions got the best of him because of the game’s tight nature.
“He shot it and that’s an alright decision,” Saponari said. “I was just frustrated. I obviously want to get one.
“It was an emotional game. It was an awesome game. A lot of chances both ways. A lot of speed, a lot of tempo. Two teams really trying to find their way here in the second half. Going through and seeing all the old guys and getting the chance to play against them, and to still be as close as friends as I am and still compete against them is awesome.”
The showdown was the first of three for the Huskies against BU this year, with the next a game at Agganis Arena on March 2nd, the first of a home-and-home that weekend.
“It will be great to play in that building,” Saponari said. “I spent two years there. A lot of great memories. Really nice facility. Just getting to play against all the close friends again, that’s what’s so exciting about it. You don’t get many chances to play against your friends in a competitive game like that, so it’s fun.”
Saponari’s relationship with his former teammates is fuzzier than with his former coach –– Parker said he did talk to Saponari at any point Friday. Equally un-warm will be Saponari’s reception at Agganis in March, at least if the 30-odd Terrier fans at Friday’s game are any indication.
“I’m sure it’ll be ruthless,” Saponari said smiling. “And I’ll love it.”