Off-Ice News

Mathieu Caron: The newest BU goalie’s long and winding journey to Comm. Ave

Photo by Molly Potter.

Mathieu Caron did not pick the goaltending position — it picked him. 

At just six months old, the British Columbia native was dropped off at his babysitter of two young boys’ home, and the rest was history.  

“They decided to put me in front of the mini hockey net and started firing away,” Caron said. 

Now, fresh off a Hobey-Baker-nominating year at Brown University, the junior transfer will be leading the way in net for Boston University men’s hockey this season.

The Terriers welcome an entirely new goalie rotation after the NHL signing of Drew Commesso, transfer of Vinny Duplessis and graduation of Patrick Schena over the offseason. 

Caron will have big shoes to fill, but the newest Terrier is ready for this next chapter. 

“The locker room is amazing,” Caron said. “All the guys have been really nice to me. I think they’re just as excited as me to have a competitive season and hopefully win a lot.”

Fueld by his parents’ wishes, Caron grew up playing every sport, but the Canadian kid naturally gravitated toward hockey. 

At age 15, he started playing for his hometown’s Yale Hockey Academy, where he eventually played alongside the likes of future NHL stars Bowen Byram and Dylan Cozens.

“It really gave me the chance to grow my game,” Caron said. “I wouldn’t say it was perfect seasons, but definitely a lot of lessons learned during those years.”

It was during this time that Caron decided to forge his own future. 

Like most budding hockey players from B.C., Caron initially hoped to play in the Western Hockey League. However, feeling underdeveloped and on the shorter side for goalies, Caron looked to hold out for the NCAA instead. 

“Western Canada definitely has a major emphasis on Major Juniors,” Caron said. “It felt like it wasn’t quite the fit for me.”  

Caron would spend the next five seasons in Junior A with the Chilliwack Chiefs— a common route for Canadian players seeking to play college hockey. 

During just his second season, Caron got his first taste of winning. The then-17-year-old split time in net and went all the way, winning the 2018 Royal Bank Cup.

Proving himself at the national stage, Caron earned the starting position in year three. 

“I was finally the number one guy, playing every game, and was having lots of attention from colleges,” Caron said.

Then, disaster struck. 

Photo by Gracie Davenport.

“Unfortunately, I [suffered] a freak accident — got myself torn from a guy falling into me,” Caron said.

The post-surgery road to recovery was a nine-month long process, and the adversity Caron faced only increased twofold heading into his fourth year. Although not reflected in his statistics, Caron battled coming back from his injury. 

“Mentally, I wasn’t feeling one hundred percent,” Caron said. “I felt like I was just struggling.” 

During that time, Caron was fortunate to make his commitment to Brown in a year where he felt most schools were not looking for goalies. With academics being a priority for him, Caron felt the Ivy League was a good fit. 

“The recruiting process is definitely a little different for goalies,” Caron said. “I felt pretty confident I could go in and play a decent amount off the bat … very happy I made that decision.” 

By the end of year four, COVID-19 shut down Chilliwack’s playoffs and continued into the next year. As the pandemic forewent Brown’s upcoming season, the university told Caron to stay in Juniors an extra year. 

Alas, Caron rounded out his Junior career with year five before finally making the jump to the NCAA.

“I like to joke that I went through everything in Juniors — the good and the bad,” Caron said. “Everything that I learned made me more than ready for college hockey.”

Once at Brown, Caron transitioned seamlessly into the No. 1 role. Although his team consistently ranked at the bottom of the ECAC, Caron dazzled in net — posting a .921 save percentage and 2.49 goals against average last year. 

Caron started in all but six of the Bears’ 30 matchups last season, missing only a stretch of games at the beginning of second semester with a concussion. The idea of transferring did not even surface until after the season ended. 

Still recovering from the concussion, Caron used the offseason to catch up on homework and reflect on his personal goals. In the end, he did not feel Brown was meeting his needs. 

“I went away for spring break and started talking with family and friends,” Caron said. “I wanted to give a push hockey-wise to move onto the pro level, and I felt like Brown wasn’t the place for me to do that.”

This time around, Caron understood many schools were desperate for goaltenders, so he entered the transfer portal. 

Photo by Molly Potter.

Caron received a “ton of calls” but cut down his list by prioritizing academics. From there, the decision became clearer. On top of BU’s rigorous coursework, the location was also appealing. 

“I felt comfortable in the New England area, and Hockey East was definitely the conference I wanted to go to,” Caron said. “Everything felt right, and I picked BU.” 

This season, Caron will be entering a completely different playing environment. BU was projected to finish first in the USCHO’s Division I pre-season poll, but Caron is not worried. 

“I was on a winning program in juniors, so I’m no stranger to winning,” Caron said. “I’m an extremely competitive guy, so it really excites me to come to a team where the motto is, ‘We’re going to win.’ ”

Already, the fresh-faced Terrier has settled into his new home. 

“The facilities here are amazing — getting to be around so many pro guys, running into NHL players at the rink,” Caron said. 

It also helps that Caron will not be the only newcomer. This season’s roster welcomes 13 different players, including senior transfer Henry Graham and graduate Nick Howard. These two goalies will be competing for the backup position. 

Graham spent three seasons at UMass Amherst before deciding to come to BU ahead of his senior year. Graham did not see any game action until his junior campaign, where he posted a 2.34 GAA and .921 save percentage over eight games. 

Howard played three seasons at the Division II level with Saint Anselm College, backstopping his team to the Northeast-10 Conference Championship last season. 

Despite only knowing each other for a short period of time, the three have meshed well together. 

“Having three guys come in all at the same time is pretty unheard of, but it seems like they’ve really bonded,” BU captain Case McCarthy said. 

Photo by Molly Potter.

Taking shots from guys like Lane Hutson and Macklin Celebrini is no easy task, and the trio has come together in support through the first couple weeks of full-team practice. 

“It’s a very competitive environment, but at the end of the day we’re the best of friends — which is not always the case,” Caron said. “It’s very much a positive environment of support, and we’re just all helping each other out.”  

Outside of those highly-touted two, Caron said the toughest player to face in practice thus far has been sophomore forward Devin Kaplan. 

“[Celebrini and Hutson] are extremely shifty, extremely crafty — always trying stuff that I’ve never seen before,” Caron said. “But I’d say Kaplan probably has one of the best shots I’ve ever seen.” 

While practice has been challenging, the stiff competition has only made Caron that much sharper. 

“It’s miserable facing him. It’s terrible,” McCarthy laughed. “I think I scored maybe once or twice on him in the last two weeks.” 

BU head coach Jay Pandolfo has not decided how the goalies will rotate just yet, but he welcomes the open competition in practice.

“I would suspect Mathieu is going to start, but we also want the other guys to push,” Pandolfo said at HE Media Day. 

Regardless of who is in net, the goal remains to win a national championship. But for now, Caron will take it one game at a time. 

“I’m not trying to feel like everything’s big,” Caron said. “I’m just excited to have the opportunity to shine under those big moments.” 

The Terriers will play their first three weeks of the season on the road, but come home-opening night, Caron will be ready to go. 

“I’m very excited to finally experience a game at Agganis,” Caron said. “Alumni, coaches, present players, fans really say it’s one of the best places to play college hockey … the excitement is there.”

One Comment

  1. Well reported!