The hesitant smile on Chris Venti’s face after Boston College’s 2-1 win over Northeastern said it all.
The senior goalie entered Saturday’s Frozen Fenway showdown with 55:43 of ice time in his college hockey career. Saturday was his first career start, and it came atop the soil of a familiar ballpark. No pressure there.
The 14-save victory replaces Venti’s previous top Fenway memory. The Needham native has spent his share of time in America’s Most Beloved Ballpark, most notably at the Home Run Derby leading up to the 1999 MLB All-Star Game.
“It was a dream come true,” Venti said with the hint of a Massachusetts accent. “I come to Red Sox games all the time with my family, and just knowing the culture of the Sox, it’s a special building to play in.
“I was actually a baseball player, too, and could hit them out. I was a lot bigger than I am now. Anyone who knows me, I was a bit chubby.”
It really could’ve been the plot of a Disney movie, or at least a short Disney Channel Original. The career backup finally gets a chance to start in a marquee game as his career winds down? In Fenway Park?
That doesn’t happen in real life.
It happened to Venti, and per teammate Chris Kreider, it couldn’t have happened to a better guy.
“I think I speak for the entire team when I say it’s well deserved, and I still don’t think that does it justice,” Kreider said. “He’s easily the hardest working kid I’ve ever played hockey with, or played organized sports with. It kind of warms your heart to see him get a start and get a win and play as well as he did in that situation.”
The only rain on this parade is Venti didn’t exactly steal this one for BC. The Eagles dominated long stretches of Saturday’s game, most notably in the first period when they out-shot the Huskies 13-3 and out-chanced them 7-3.
Venti was still stellar when needed. The keeper’s best came in the second period, when he dropped jaws with a sprawling glove stop on NU’s Rob Dongara.
“I might’ve flashed that a little too hard,” Venti said jokingly. “I don’t care if it’s a pad save or a flashy save, you just don’t want the puck to go in.”
It was only Venti’s second taste of game action this year. The first came Friday, as he relieved Brian Billett for 30:02 of ice time in a 4-0 loss to the University of Massachusetts.
Venti stopped five of six shots in that game, and was told after the game he’d get the start Saturday at Fenway.
“The thought process after the game was to roll the dice and come back with Chris,” coach Jerry York said. “He really played well in his first real start for Boston College. One of the keys to our game was solid goaltending.”
Venti’s debut sets up an intriguing final stretch for BC when it comes to goaltending. Prior to last night, Billett had started seven of the previous nine games. Before that, Parker Milner started each of BC’s first 13 contests.
Now, BC has three goaltenders with starting experience, plus freshman Brad Barone.
“We thought earlier in the season we were going to have some remarkable depth in goal, and I haven’t had that in a number of years,” York said. “I’ll probably stay with the hot goaltender. Parker was really hot early. Brian Billett became a hot goaltender and is still playing very well. It’ll be interesting dynamic as we go through.”
Perhaps Saturday will be the start of a miraculous string of starts up to the end of Venti’s career, ending as he hoists the national championship trophy in a game he starts and wins.
Perhaps the rest of the season will play out as real life often does, with Venti losing the starting gig and watching from the bench as BC finishes short of its ultimate goal.
Whatever the case, Saturday happened, and that’s one heck of a Fenway miracle for the longtime BC backup.
“It was a very special night for me,” Venti said.