By Phil Stacey
---- — BOSTON — For all the years Doyle Somerby had dreamed about his first experience playing in the famed Beanpot college hockey tournament, never once did getting ejected from the game factor into it.
Unfortunately for the Boston University freshman defenseman from Marblehead, that’s exactly what transpired. Somerby was given a 5-minute major penalty for checking from behind with 8:27 remaining in the second period and subsequently ejected from the contest, one in which his Terriers would go on to lose to arch rival Boston College, 3-1, at the TD Garden.
“It all happened so quickly, and what happened certainly wasn’t my intention,” said the 19-year-old Somerby, who said the ejection was the first he’s ever received playing hockey.
The play occured along the near wall in the Boston University end. The 6-foot-5, 221-pound Somerby hit Boston College forward Kevin Hayes (no shrinking violet himself at 6-4, 216 lbs.) from behind and into the boards. Players from both sides then got mixed up and Somerby took a few punches from the Eagles’ Bill Arnold before giving him a facewash with his gloved hand. He was then ushered off to the penalty box, then eventually sent off the ice for the night.
“(The hit) was hip on hip; it wasn’t like I went in there trying to hit (Hayes) from behind. I’m not running around hitting guys,” Somerby, who wears No. 27 for BU, said.
“I was in the box and (the official) pointed at the gate and I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I didn’t believe it,” he continued. “I thought they were saying I was getting two minutes for a face mask (penalty) as an add-on to the major, but they opened the door and pointed to the gate.”
While getting tossed and his team now relegated to next Moday’s consolation game against Harvard weren’t part of Somerby’s plans, he said he loved playing his first-ever game at the Garden. It’s the third such historic venue he’s played in during this, his freshman season for the Terriers, who previously played at Madison Square Garden (against Cornell) and at Fenway Park vs. Hockey East rival Maine.
“When you hear that BC crowd booing you — we were the first ones onto the ice for warmups — that was pretty surreal,” admitted Somerby. “It makes you want to silence them as quickly as possible.
“It’s so special here. It takes a few shifts to get your legs under you, but once you do you’re zoned in.”
Prior to last night’s contest, Somerby talked about getting the chance to attend and play for the school he always rooted for growing up in Marblehead. A converted forward, he skates a regular shift on the second defensive pairing for the first-year head coach David Quinn and is learning the Division 1 college game on the fly, a young talent who is thrilled to be getting the amounts of ice time that he is and the experience that comes along with it.
Still, Somerby said he wishes his play was more consistent.
“Based off my play so far this year, I’d grade myself a B,” said Somerby. “I’ve had certain moments of playing really well, but other times I’d have a bad turnover. It’s all part of growing as a freshman at this level. But overall, I’ve been pretty happy with my game and how I’ve grown from my first day here until now. It’s not easy; I always remind myself that I’m 6-5 and have to be more physical. I also want to get my plus-minus (currently at minus-10) up.”
A fifth round draft pick of the New York Islanders (125th overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Somerby is well aware that his game is constantly evolving and must improve if he eventually wants to play professionally. To achieve that, he’s trying to soak in everything he can as a Terrier defenseman. That includes soaking up the knowledge of senior rearguards Garrett Noonan and Pat MacGregor, whose lockers are near his in the BU room; watching and picking the brains of former Terrier stars who come in with the NHL clubs to skate at BU’s Agganis Arena before playing the Bruins, such as Matt Nieto and (ex-St. John’s Prep star) John McCarthy of San Jose, Nick Bonino of Anaheim and Alex Chaisson of Dallas; learning how important work in the weight room is and how it translates against 22 and 23-year-old opponents on the ice; and absorbing the teachings of Quinn, a former Terrier defenseman and first year head coach who took over from his mentor, the legendary Jack Parker.
“Coach Quinn has taken some criticism for us not doing so well because it’s BU hockey,” said Somerby, “but I absolutely love playing for him. I’ll do something I think was good during a shift or in a game and pat myself on the back, but Coach will pick out the littlest things that I could’ve done better — and he’s right. He relates to us well and he knows what he wants; we just haven’t been able to deliver for him.”
One such example occured during a recent Monday practice, in which the Terrier forwards and defensemen split into groups and work on drills. For the D-men, that means an hour of defensive drills and skating, something a bigger player such as Somerby is always working on.
“I started the season wearing Bauer skates, but a few Mondays ago Coach Quinn came up to me and had me try on some Easton skates. I didn’t think much of it ... but they’ve been a savior for me. My skating is better overall, my backwards skating is so much better and it’s remarkable how much better my inside edges are. It’s such a small thing, but it’s all from Coach telling me to switch skates.
“So basically, if (Quinn) ever says anything to you, I’ve learned to just say ‘OK’ because I know he’s going to be right.”
Of course, there’s also plenty of time for Somerby to be a typical college freshman. Coming from rural New Hampshire with 300 other high school students into the heart of Boston for college, he admits he found himself starting out the window onto Commonwealth Avenue on the first day of classes, getting caught up in watching traffic. And of course, there’s the multitude of food options the city provides.
“Being as big as I am, I love to eat,” Somerby, who has lost almost 20 pounds since school began, laughed. “I love trying new places and branching out. And the thing is, around BU, you can find the best food for $5 or $10. I love it.”