Before the Boston University men’s hockey team fell to No. 17 University of Vermont 6-2 at Agganis Arena Saturday night, there was already some activity in the news conference room. This press conference was not between the collected media and BU coach David Quinn like it usually is, but instead it was between a youth hockey goaltender and his father.
The son sat tall at the microphone, wearing his team’s jersey and fielding questions from his father who pretended to be a media member. It was a chance for the boy to dream he played goalie for the Terriers, and he smiled wide during each answer he gave his father.
Later in the night, the boy sat in the stands and watched senior goaltender Anthony Moccia finally get his chance to live that dream. The Medford native, who spent a year as a practice goalie, walked on to the team and is now in his third and final season as a third-stringer, got between the pipes in front of 4,948 fans for his first regular-season action.
“It’s kind of always been a huge goal of mine to play in a regular season game and I was able to get in there today,” Moccia said. “I can check that off the list of things that I have to do.”
While this was Moccia’s first regular-season appearance, he had a chance to take the ice during the exhibition game Oct. 5 against St. Francis Xavier University. He made seven saves in the contest and was overjoyed afterward, saying he was “so excited” to get in the game.
It was easier for him to enjoy that experience because his team won. Sure, he finally had a chance to get off the bench and into the gameSaturday night, but Moccia had a tough time enjoying his ice time because his team lost. That is just the kind of guy he is.
“He is just such an unbelievable person,” Quinn said. “He is just so genuine. He cares, he is always doing the right thing and he works his ass off. He is everything you want in a human being let alone an athlete.
“If I can have him around from now until I retire I’d do it, because he brings so much to the program in so many ways.”
Playing Moccia was something that people thought might happen during Frozen Fenway, with the team down 5-0 entering the third period. Moccia led the team on the ice, raising fans’ hopes that they might see the 5-foot-8 goalie take the ice at Fenway Park. Despite the excitement, he spent that game on the bench. Quinn later said he was “pissed” at himself for not playing Moccia.
He did not forget about playing Moccia Saturday night though, much to the joy of the Terrier faithful. When Moccia was swapped in for sophomore goalie Sean Maguire and he skated toward the crease, the fans erupted in cheers. Seeing him play was the silver lining in an otherwise disappointing game for BU (8-14-2, 3-8-1 Hockey East).
“It meant a lot,” Quinn said. “It was great to hear the crowd react. I know how much it probably meant to him, and I know what it meant to me because he’s a special person and he means an awful lot to this program.”
Several teammates skated over to him and patted him on the head or the pads as he pushed snow out of his crease. Moccia’s classmate Matt Ronan said he was “super pumped” to see him get some playing time. Vermont got two power plays while Moccia was in goal, and the penalty killers held the Catamounts to one shot during both power plays combined.
It was the only shot he faced in the game, and he smothered it in his chest. He maintained his 1.000 save percentage.
“He is a good goalie,” Quinn said. “That sometimes gets lost in the fact that he is such a great kid. I don’t want people to lose sight of that too. I watch the guy play every day and he is a good goalie. I’m not keeping him around for charity.”
At the end of the night, the best part of the experience for Moccia was knowing that his parents, Brenda and Mario, were among those cheering and watching on from the crowd.
“That’s the most important,” Moccia said. “I know they’re proud of me whether I play or not, and to get a shot for them to see me play is a great gift.”