By Mitch Fink
It’s time to give Drew Commesso his flowers.
The Boston University men’s hockey goaltender was tested this weekend against Boston College. Glove side. Blocker side. Down low. Up high. BC threw everything and the kitchen sink at Commesso.
He was unfazed.
I think it’s fair to call this series a defining moment — if not the defining moment — of Commesso’s career at BU so far. Is Commesso the most talented goalie in Hockey East? Probably not. Does he have the best stats? Definitely not. He ranks seventh in the conference in goals against average with 2.58, and eighth in save percentage with a .913.
But, this weekend, he showed up when the lights were at their brightest.
Let’s take a moment to recognize just how bright those lights were. These were the highest-leverage games Commesso has played in a BU uniform since, arguably, the St. Cloud State NCAA regional two seasons ago. And the Saturday night crowd at BC’s Conte Forum was, surely, one of the most hostile environments he has played in.
Commesso played for the U.S. Olympic team last February, so backup goaltender Vinny Duplessis started both Beanpot games for the Terriers last year, and there was no Beanpot in the wonky 2020-21 season, Commesso’s freshman year.
One last nugget of context: Commesso was coming into this rivalry series after one his worst performances of the season last Saturday against Maine, in which he gave up five goals and was pulled 30 minutes into the game. And Commesso conceded seven goals and was pulled for Duplessis when the Terriers lost 9-6 to the Eagles at Conte Forum in December.
He was impressive in Friday night’s 6-3 win, making some crucial saves to keep BU in the game early and to help the Terriers seal the victory late in the third period. After that 24-save performance, he submitted an even stronger effort in Saturday’s 3-1 win in Newton.
BC put 41 shots on net. Commesso made 40 saves, the only exception being Andre Gasseau’s point-blank look on a 5-on-3. The Eagles forced Commesso to make a series of tricky east-to-west saves, and generated several grade-A chances on net. Commesso was sharp as a blade throughout.
With his team down 2-1 in the third period, BC forward Nikita Nesterenko found himself wide open just under the right circle with a prime chance on net. Nesterenko, an ever-present offensive weapon, waited, waited, wound up, and ripped a shot towards the top corner of the net. Commesso calmly angled his shoulder to block the effort, defusing the threat and enabling BU to break out down the other end of the ice.
A few minutes later, the NESN cameras zoomed in on Nesterenko stewing on the Eagles’ bench with a look of bewilderment and frustration. That expression seemed to be a common theme at Conte Forum all night long, and Commesso was a main reason why.
This weekend, Commesso showed why he was a second round pick in the NHL draft by the Chicago Blackhawks — five rounds higher than Northeastern standout netminder Devon Levi. His performance against BC should make BU fans feel confident — not overconfident, but confident — about this team’s chances in the Beanpot and beyond.
If ‘Messo continues to play like he did this weekend, watch out. This team is going to be a tough, tough out come tournament season — against just about anybody.
All of the wonderful accolades being given to Commesso following the BC series are still understated! His performances were spectacular, many of his saves were unreal robberies, game changers, and tremendous momentum builders. While the whole team rose to the occasion, he did even more so. PSD
Drew seemed to do a masterful job of playing his angles perfectly. Kudos to our overworked and highly talented d-men for forcing so many of BC’s best scoring chances to occur from the outside. Drew also gave up few rebounds.
He played out of his mind. Now we need Dom back