SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

May 22, 2012

Wowing them back home

Chris Kreider's incredible entry into the NHL playoffs has his fans back home buzzing

Keaton Cashin clearly remembers sitting on the bench of the Masconomet Regional hockey team, a freshman who made the varsity but did not play on opening night.

Sitting next to him was fellow freshman Chris Kreider, who also did not play that evening.

"Three of us (freshmen) made the varsity that year; Jay Nichols, who played in the opener, plus Chris and I," recalled Cashin, now 21. "Chris and I were on the bench and he says to me, 'Wouldn't it be great to go to college at a place like Babson and be able to play hockey?'

"Imagine that. Chris thought it'd be great to play Division 3 college hockey — and now he's close to playing in the Stanley Cup final. Unreal."

New York Rangers rookie left winger Chris Kreider may be the darling of the hockey world these days, wowing teammates, coaches, opponents and fans alike with his speed, smarts and scoring ability. He's gone straight from winning a second NCAA championship in three seasons at Boston College into the NHL playoffs without missing a beat.

But he's long been admired by those in his hometown of Boxford who watched him and played with him growing up. To them he's just Chris, a great kid from a terrific family who just happens to excel at the highest level of professional hockey.

"I respect him on so many levels for what he's been able to do. He's such a mature kid who handles everything so well," said Andrew Panella, who has been friends with Kreider since kindergarten and is a former Masconomet teammate. "At least half of everything he's accomplished can be attributed to his maturity. It's amazing he can do it so coolly."

"I saw him the first night he played (in the NHL, Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in Ottawa last month)," added Bill Blackwell, who coached Kreider for two seasons at Masconomet. "Right after the game there are 10 microphones jammed in his face, but he's still just that humble kid from Boxford, saying all the right things.

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