By Tim Healey/DFP Staff
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Garrett Noonan stood by the door to the Boston University bench, waiting as his teammates filed by one-by-one down the tunnel and into the offseason. It was a slow walk off the ice after a 3-2 loss to the University of Notre Dame with the Terriers in no particular hurry to get to the locker room. Only goodbyes and hindsight awaited.
|Garrett Noonan skates down the ice after the Terriers fell
to the University of Notre Dame Saturday evening.
Photo by Michelle Jay.
Some gave Noonan a fist bump, others a hug, most a few simple words of thanks. Associate head coach Steve Greeley offered a pat on the back. All of it served the same purpose: delaying, however slightly, Noonan’s exit from the ice, his last as a Terrier.
Saturday’s loss to the No. 11/12 Fighting Irish in the first round of the Hockey East tournament brought an end to not only a disappointing season for the BU men’s hockey team, but also Noonan’s collegiate career.
“It just really hit me in the locker room that I will never put a BU jersey on again,” said a sullen Noonan in the bowels of Compton Family Ice Arena. “It’s not a good feeling. It’s probably one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had. I’m crushed. This place gave me so much and I wish I could have gave back more.”
He almost did. Noonan, the captain, assisted freshman center Robbie Baillargeon’s power-play goal at 14:22 in the third to bring BU within one. Despite a desperate spurt of energy from the Terriers — including Noonan, who played most of the remaining 5:36 — the effort ultimately fell short.
Noonan’s assist came minutes after he was hit hard into the boards and went down in the corner. He remained motionless on his stomach for several minutes before getting back to his feet and taking the next shift, a two-man advantage for BU. That sequence was, along with the post-game parade, one of the few occasions Noonan stayed in one place for an extended period of time all night.
BU coach David Quinn half-joked that Noonan, who was shaken up but felt fine after the hit, stayed down to catch his breathe. Playing about 30 minutes per night wears on a guy, after all.
“It’s almost inhumane what we’ve asked him to do,” Quinn said.
Noonan’s senior year was by any measure a difficult one for the Terriers. Last spring, Noonan decided to come back for one more season in the scarlet and white with two main objectives: win trophies and study under the tutelage of Quinn to become a better defenseman.
BU missed on the first one, finishing at 10-21-4 and in ninth place in the conference, its worst since Hockey East’s inception three decades ago.
But that second goal? Ask any of the parties involved and they will give rave reviews.
Noonan’s game has evolved dramatically from his 16-goal, 11-assist campaign in 2011-12, back when he was a sophomore regularly sneaking up the wing and banging home back-door goals. This season’s circumstances forced him into a different role — one with much more defensive responsibility for a young Terrier team that lacked depth as much as it did experience.
Noonan tallied four goals and 15 assists to go with his immeasurable defensive impact.
“His play without the puck has really improved. His backward skating has improved,” Quinn said. “His stick has been great, and defensively he’s been good on the d-side of people.”
Noonan agreed that he achieved what he had wanted to accomplish with Quinn on an individual level.
“I thought that he helped me grow as a person and a leader and really matured me off the ice,” Noonan said. “He just made me a better player and person.”
It might not be too long until Noonan takes to the ice again, but next time it will be as a professional. Noonan will likely sign with the Nashville Predators — who selected him in the fourth round (112th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft — sooner rather than later.
When the ink dries on that contract, Noonan will keep with him plenty of lessons from his time on Commonwealth Avenue — time that has meant a lot to the Norfolk native.
“So much,” Noonan said. “Everything — so much history at this program. I consider it the best program in college hockey. It’s a privilege and I’m so honored to say that I had the opportunity to play here. This place means the world to me.”