By Matt Williams
---- — BOSTON — Sam Kurker is a physically imposing, bull moose of an ice hockey player.
He also isn’t shy about what it means to wear the Scarlet-and-White sweater for Boston University.
Kurker, who played the last four seasons at St. John’s Prep, is in the midst of his freshman year skating for the Terriers. He experienced his first Beanpot game as a player here at TD Garden last night, where Northeastern stunned 13th ranked BU, 3-2.
“It was amazing,” Kurker said afterwards. “But it obviously would’ve been better if we’d played better.”
The Terriers (13-11-1) lost to the Huskies in a Beanpot game for the first time since 1988. That’s also the last time Northeastern won college hockey’s most fabled trophy.
At just 18 years old, Kurker is a second round draft choice of the St. Louis Blues (56th overall) and arrived on Commonwealth Ave. straight from St. John’s Prep. He’s been on the ice for 21 of BU’s 25 games, earning a steady spot among the top-9 forwards with confident, relentless play.
“Sometimes, after a game, I sit down and I can’t believe I just played for BU,” Kurker said. “I love this school and I’m having a ton of fun.”
Last night, Kurker skated with senior Ben Rosen at center and fellow freshman Matt Lane on the left wing. The trio were on the ice for NU freshman Kevin Roy’s second goal, which took a wacky bounce that wound up in the Terrier net and gave the Huskies their last lead of the night.
“It was just a strange bounce. Those things happen,” said Kurker. “I was forechecking, concentrating and next thing you know (Northeastern) got a bounce.”
BU couldn’t score on an extended 5-on-3 chance later in the second and had heavy pressure on the Huskies before Roy finished his hat trick with 4:38 to play. The Terriers did score with the goalie pulled and 71 seconds left, but couldn’t get the equalizer.
“I thought we played pretty well at times, but we demoralized ourselves on the power play,” BU head coach Jack Parker said. “That was the difference.”
Kurker’s confidence grew over his years at St. John’s Prep, where he scored 63 goals and had 129 points in four years. Last year while leading his team to the Super 8 semifinals for the second consecutive season, The Salem News Player of the Year had 63 of the those points on 31 goals and 32 assists.
As a freshman at BU Kurker has four points, with his first collegiate goal coming against St. Lawrence and another being the game-winner on the road at New Hampshire. The Terriers are 2-0 when he scores a goal.
“With every game, I’m feeling better and better out there,” said Kurker. “I’m not producing like I want to, but that’ll come.”
Last night in the 61st Beanpot, Kurker skated hard through the neutral zone and drove the net with his stick on the ice when the opportunity arose. He delivered two crunching bodychecks and is playing with the confidence that comes with his powerful frame.
“I’m playing with two skilled guys, smaller guys, and I’m trying to use that advantage to make some opportunities,” said Kurker, who relishes the chance to play in front of packed houses at Agganis Arena (”Our fans have to be the best fans,” he said. “They’re unbelievable.”).
The Terriers are now 1-4-1 in their last six games, but remain in fourth place in the Hockey East standings. Kurker was one of seven freshmen in the BU lineup last night and one of seven NHL draftees; It’s a fairly young, but talented team that could turn the corner in a hurry.
“In high school, it got to the point where I was very comfortable and confident; coming here is a big adjustment that I’m feeling better about every night,” said Kurker. “I’m excited for the future. It all comes down to the end of the season and we have to keep working. We’ll put this all behind us.”