It began with the go-ahead goal and eventual game-winner and ended with the No. 11 Boston University men’s hockey team’s fifth of seven goals on the evening against the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
In his second game back from injury, senior captain Matt Grzelcyk recorded a natural hat trick in the Terriers’ (11-6-3, 5-3-2 Hockey East) victory over the Minutemen (7-10-4, 2-5-4 Hockey East) on Saturday night at Agganis Arena.
His first tally came 20 seconds after both teams exchanged goals a minute apart with 13:02 gone in the middle period, and his second occurred 3:33 later. It was a power-play marker, and a one-timer, too, from the right point on a pass from sophomore defenseman Brandon Fortunato.
Then, with the second intermission as the only interruption, Grzelcyk concluded the hatty 18 seconds into the third period with a rocket of a shot from the high slot.
“Grizzy gets it away quickly, he’s got a pace to it, he shoots quickly,” said BU head coach David Quinn. “He shoots it hard, it’s a quick release.
“He’s worked hard at it too,” he added. “This isn’t something that happened overnight. He’s put a lot of time into it, and just really happy for him.”
The captain has missed prolonged time not once but twice this year, sitting out the first six games of the season while recovering from offseason knee surgery, and another half dozen with a separate knee injury on the opposite leg.
“It’s obviously nice to be back out there competing with your teammates,” Grzelcyk said. “I think anyone struggling with injuries is kind of frustrated sitting back and watching, so I mean just to be out there is cool enough for me.”
He’s made the most the time he’s had on the ice, though, tallying six goals and four assists for 10 points in eight games. Those 1.25 points per game put him at 19th in the country for that stat.
Through BU’s first 16 games last season, Grzelcyk registered points in just five games, seven total. Once the team returned from its break, however, he put points up in 19 of the Terriers’ final 25 games of the season, and 31 at that.
“Last year I was kind of frustrated at Christmas,” he said. “I felt I’d been playing pretty well, and then after that point, I think our team as a whole kind of stepped up their game and was getting puck luck.”
Grzelcyk continued in saying that he felt maybe he’s “just getting his bounces” this season, something that started happening throughout last year’s second half.
“Getting a bit of that right now,” he said. “And I got to give a lot of credit to my teammates, not only finding me but also distracting the goalie in front.”
Grzelcyk’s impact is felt by his teammates whether he’s on the scoresheet on not — though he has registered a point in six of the eight games he’s played in. Being in the lineup alone has proven to give the Terriers a notable advantage, as they are 5-1-2 with him compared to 6-5-1 without.
“Oh, it’s huge I mean he’s our captain,” said freshman center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. “He’s leading our team both off the ice and on the ice, and like you’ve seen today, three goals … it’s a big boost for us.”
With a large portion of the season to go, Quinn assured that it only bodes well for his team when Grzelcyk is back at full strength.
“He’s feeling more comfortable,” he said. “I thought he was tentative a little early on against Harvard [University on Thursday], but I thought as that game went on he kept playing and playing and playing, and he’s just going to continue to get more confident as the year goes on.
“It’s been a long time, and he’s only played [eight] games since last April. So imagine when the rust comes off.”