This article is part of the 2022-2023 printed “Hockey Edition” that will be available on campus Friday, Sept. 30 and at both men’s and women’s opening nights. Be sure to get your copy!
Quotes have been edited for clarity and brevity.
In the weeks leading up to opening night, The Boston Hockey Blog got to sit down with Nadia Mattivi and Domenick Fensore –– the captains of the women’s and men’s hockey teams –– to discuss goals for the season, leadership styles and their journey to Comm. Ave. The complete interviews can be listened to on “Terrier Hockey Talk,” wherever you get your podcasts.
Captain of the women’s hockey team
Q: What’s your hockey origin story? How did you get into the sport?
A: I’m originally from Italy. People might not know we have ice hockey there, but I grew up in the Italian Alps which is in the very Northern part. My brother, he’s five years older than me, he started playing hockey so I wanted to start too. When I was four, I put the skates on and never really played any other sports, just hockey. I grew up playing boys’ hockey –– women’s hockey is not really a thing, we have like five teams in the whole nation. Then I joined one of the girls teams. They played in the European League so I started traveling around the age of 15.
I didn’t know what college hockey was. I didn’t know people had this opportunity. But then I went to Sweden to play professional hockey there and study abroad and learn a little bit of English
I also started playing with the national team, the Italian national team, when I was like 16. So, maybe some college hockey coaches recruited me at Worlds or something. I don’t really know, but I started getting some emails.
Q: Was it common for a lot of people on the Italian national team or just people playing hockey in Italy at large, to come to the U.S. to go to school and play college hockey?
A: I was actually the second Italian that ever came to the U.S. to play NCAA Division 1 hockey … I think that even younger people at home [are] starting to understand that there are options … Being an inspiration for younger girls is really cool. Especially because we have like 400 people that play hockey, like girls’ hockey, in Italy.
Q: What were some of your biggest takeaways from last year and then translating that into this upcoming season?
A: Last year we finally started playing hockey again after COVID which was a big adjustment. BU hockey is pretty big and last year we didn’t really perform as we wanted. We definitely want to be a top ranked team this year. We’re practicing and working really hard. We want to win from the beginning –– we want to be top ten from the beginning and stay there. We want to win Hockey East, Beanpot, everything. We’re very motivated, very determined.
Q: What are your main goals personally as a leader, but also for the team?
A: As a leadership group we’ve talked a lot about being there for our teammates. It’s hard being a Division 1 athlete –– you have school on top of hockey, you have family, friends, relationships, so being there for each other is a big thing. And also just being mature. It’s more common than you think [to have] conflict with a teammate … We’re emphasizing the fact of being able to have that hard conversation and if you can’t have that by yourself, come to us. So definitely being there for people, being a resource, and also leading by example. Giving your 100% every day.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about playing for the national team and in the IIHF? You won medals, and Best Defender and all these awesome accolades –– so what it really means to you and how you think you can translate that back here?
A: The goal with the national team is going back home and playing with your teammates for your nation –– it’s just such an honor. Again, it’s not as competitive back home, but I feel like going back and bringing the experience that I’ve gained here in the U.S always helps … I’ve gained so many hockey related skills here that I can bring back to my national team so I think it’s a two-way street. It’s definitely been a journey. I’m excited to go back every April and play worlds. It’s always a great experience; you travel the world, you see your best friends, you play hockey and that’s it.
Captain of men’s hockey team
Q: To start off, we’re going to get into a little bit more about your hockey origin story, how you started playing, and how that’s led you to BU
A: I started playing early. My dad started me young when I was four years old. I don’t really remember much but he said I used to never come off the ice so I’m so glad he did because I love this game. From there I just played youth hockey growing up and once I got to U14 I played in Fairfield with Trevor Zegras, Spencer Knight –– all those guys. Then I played U16 Islanders in Long Island. I didn’t go the prep school route because I just kind of wanted to play more games and stay on the ice a little more because prep school hockey played less games, like 30 games or something like that.
Then I was fortunate enough to make the U.S. program which was awesome, [to be] surrounded by a lot of great people and great players … I was actually committed to Quinnipiac University before I chose BU. I was pretty young. I was 14 when I committed there. I don’t even know what I was thinking. I was really young, I kind of just rushed it so I decided to decommit when I was 17 and then opened up my options. When BU came knocking on the door it was a pretty easy decision for me.
Q: In maybe the last 10 years at BU, you’ve had guys who had the option to leave early to go play in the AHL or in the NHL and they left after sophomore, junior year. But there’s a lot of guys this year who opted to stay. What does that mean for the group and what you guys are trying to build here?
A: I think it just shows how committed this group of guys is. [With] the conversations we had at the end of the year last year, I don’t think anyone was leaving, coaching change or not coaching change. Everyone was staying because we knew we had something special this year with the guys coming in and all of us returning. That was kind of our goal and our mindset. We want to bring BU back on top and we feel that we have the right guys to do it and the coaching staff to do it. … The people that came before us, we owe it to them to put this program back where it’s supposed to be.
Q: What are you anticipating out of the group this coming year given the fact that there are so many veterans?
A: Just have passion I think. Showing up to the rink everyday and working hard. If you’re not feeling it that day, you’ve got to find your B game –– everyday is an opportunity to get better and get your teammates better and that’s how we see it … The number one value for our team is compete and we’ve been competing every single day. It’s showing. A lot of guys getting better already and you can see it. It’s going to be challenging. We have a lot of great guys on our team and it’s just exciting for the whole program.
Q: Can you walk us through the last five minutes of the Beanpot championship game?
A: I remember it actually very well. We obviously scored with like 2:45 left or something. Then I went back out there and actually hurt my shoulder and had to go down the tunnel with like a minute left. I was telling our trainer, “I can’t miss this. I’m going back out there.” I just sat on the bench with so much pain, but that last 20 seconds was nuts. We got down ice and then we didn’t clear it again … and then we got the job done. All I remember is just hugging the first guy I saw and it was awesome. We had a fun night.
It just showed how when we play the right way, there’s not a team that can play with us. We’ve got a commitment to winning and that means blocking shots, sacrificing your body, doing the little things to win. We kind of figured that out leading up to the Beanpot and we woke up that day and we were like, “we’re not losing this game.”
Keep that focus, Dom. even during the bumps and blips. keep working