Petrecki knows his history

Freshman glad to be part of Beanpot lore

Email|Print| Text size + By Jim McCabe
Globe Staff / February 12, 2008

He has the out-of-state address and the national and international hockey résumé, but there was never any need to enroll Nick Petrecki into the "Intro to Beanpot 101" class upon his arrival at The Heights.

Heck, he qualifies as a veritable Beanpot junkie.

"I was there at the Beanpot the last year it was held at the old [Boston] Garden," said the BC freshman defenseman, and yes, a scowl appeared on his face. That's because Boston University beat Boston College that February night and even back then, Petrecki claims, "I was an Eagle."

Of course, he was also 5 years old, so it could be said that it has taken Petrecki 13 years to straighten out the Beanpot picture as he envisions it. The fact that he did it in a most improbable way last night - with his first two collegiate goals, the second of which came 7:07 into overtime to beat Harvard, 6-5 - well, it's nothing he ever could have imagined.

"Definitely, it's being in the right place at the right time," said the 6-foot-3-inch, 215-pounder whose charge toward the goal resulted in a sight that any hockey player dreams of: a loose puck, a sprawled goalie, and plenty of net to shoot at.

"My life flashed before my eyes right there," said Petrecki. "I was like, 'Do not hit the post. Do not fall down.' "

He did neither. Instead, Petrecki lifted the puck over Harvard goaltender Kyle Richter to provide the game-winner, though the defenseman deflected praise toward forwards Matt Greene and Pat Gannon. They had worked the puck into the Harvard zone, and with Greene dishing to Gannon, who got behind the Crimson defense, a clear shot was put on goal. It was then that Petrecki reacted.

"Coach [Greg] Brown always tells us, 'Always follow up the play. You never know when you're going to be in the right place at the right time,' " Petrecki said.

Petrecki's passion for the Beanpot can be traced to his mother Michelle, a West Roxbury native who moved to Falmouth, and his father, Mark, who played hockey at Babson, back in the days when former BU standout Steve Stirling was the coach. Though he grew up outside of Albany, in Clifton Park, N.Y., and played his hockey in the EJHL for the Capital District Selects and in the USHL for the Omaha (Neb.) Lancers, Petrecki has always felt a kinship toward the Boston area thanks to his parents. His father would take him to the Beanpot every year and there are still relatives in the area - a grandmother in Falmouth, aunts and uncles in Framingham.

They were on their own for tickets, however, because this thing means so much to him, Petrecki wanted to be focused strictly on the hockey. You'd have to say he did quite well, thank you.

There was, for instance, the nifty move he made at the blue line along the right boards, just in front of the Eagles' bench midway through the second period. It was a 2-2 game when Petrecki gained control of the puck, kept his balance after nearly falling, and skated down the right wing on Richter.

"I'd like to say, 'Yeah, I saw the top corner the whole time,' " said Petrecki, "but actually, I kind of tripped over my feet as I got past the defenseman, I looked up and saw I had a little bit of room, so I gripped it and ripped it."

Nothing but net, though the 3-2 lead wouldn't be the end of things on a night when all six BC goals came from players who never had scored in the Beanpot before. In the third period, with his team in front, 5-3, Petrecki was at the other end of Beanpot drama, caught in a collision with linesman Mark Messier that allowed Harvard's Jon Pelle to skate in alone on BC goaltender John Muse.

Pelle converted to cut the deficit to 5-4, then, with 4:24 to play, the Crimson tied the game. Petrecki's emotions weren't what they had been earlier, but neither did he lose focus on the situation. Drafted in the first round by the San Jose Sharks last year, the 28th pick overall, he's got an abundance of talent, but what comes with the sterling skills is a passion for the stiffest competition at the grittiest part of the game. The Beanpot, he knows as an eyewitness, provides just such pressure.

That is why, as he crashed the net and spotted the loose puck off the rebound of Gannon's shot, Petrecki maintained focus. And it's why later, he counted his blessings.

"To have an opportunity like this," he said, shaking his head. "I'm very fortunate."

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