Three weeks ago, Boston University freshman goalie Vinny Duplessis wasn’t sure he’d see much — if any — action this season.
Then he was in net against Boston College, the top team in Hockey East, and he shut them down in one of BU’s best wins all season, a 3-1 victory on Feb. 6.
It kind of came out of nowhere — this season, there’s little time to prepare anyways with opponents coming out of the blue and nothing set in stone. So when the moment came the Terriers needed him, Duplessis was already in the mindset to be prepared for the unexpected.
“I pride myself in my career on just kind of adapting to whatever situation I’m thrown into,” said Duplessis. “That was just one of those situations where it was like, we got a good team in front of us, but at the same time I have one of the best teams in front of me as well. I felt prepared for it.”
When Duplessis joined the Terriers he knew there was little chance he saw consistent action. Ahead of him were elite freshman Drew Commesso and sophomore Ashton Abel, who has seen plenty of time in his own right.
Instead, circumstances had it so Duplessis was BU’s last resort, and he’s taken it and ran with it.
His numbers indicate he’s incredibly prepared. In four games, Duplessis has a .962 save percentage and has allowed just four goals en route to four consecutive wins.
It helps the Terriers are on a tear, taking advantage of their few opportunities to play after not starting their campaign until Saturday.
Those delays caused frustration at BU, but once it was time to take the ice, they took everything in stride. Like everyone else, Duplessis is just grateful for the chance to play at all.
“I’m practicing with my team every day, the same guys on this team that are 9-2 for a reason,” he said. “There’s a lot of good players on this team so for me to compete against these guys, that prepares me for when we do get games with other teams.”
After the Eagles game he shut down Vermont to earn his first career shutout, then held them to a single goal.
As if being thrown out there for his collegiate debut against the Eagles wasn’t enough, Duplessis started in net against UConn this past weekend without a backup.
“Every guy has an opportunity every day to show what he can do,” BU head coach Albie O’Connell told reporters after that game. “Especially at that position, you don’t want to just give the guy the reins. He’s got to compete and fight for it.”
For many that would be a ton of pressure, no matter if they’re a rookie or not, but Duplessis viewed it as just another challenge in a challenging year.
“I know some people might have thought like, I’d be like oh my God I can’t be injured or anything,” he said. “But no, I mean like I approach the game the exact same way. It’s something that’s out of my control and usually those kind of things work themselves out, I don’t really focus on them.”
At 21 years old, Duplessis is one of the oldest freshmen in Hockey East and the oldest with BU. He played in the AJHL last season, posting a .912 save percentage with Whitecourt and prior to that spent time in the BCHL.
He had his moments in the AJHL, leading the Wolverines in the postseason with a 1.99 GAA.
Duplessis said the collegiate level is more skilled and the shots are tougher, but it’s allowed him to hone in that much more.
He’s also embraced his role as the “old” freshman.
“I think we have one or two 19 year olds,” he said. “It’s more comfortable because, I’m not saying I’m more mature than these guys but I’m in a position where I can maybe help a little bit with experience and stuff. I’m like the dad of the freshmen.”
No one wants to be in a position where they’re essentially on an island as the only goalie option, but Duplessis handled it exactly like BU could have only hoped.
They’ve gotten lucky Duplessis was ready for these moments, or their season could have turned. Instead, they have a star in the making.
“I love pushing myself and we’ve played some really great teams,” said Duplessis. “It’s something new every week and just having the right mentality is what makes you better.”
Northeastern needs numbers
The Huskies might have the worst luck of any team in Hockey East this season when it comes to strength of schedule.
Matched up with Providence this week, their odds should get a bit better, but Northeastern hasn’t had the best opportunity to improve its place in the standings or Hockey East Power Index with the regular season rapidly coming to a close.
Heading into this weekend, the Huskies have played just six of their 17 contests against a top six team in the new HEPI, lower than any other in the conference at less than 50 percent of their games.
It’s impossible to balance everything with game cancellations and postponements happening at random due to COVID-19, so it’s tough to assign blame, but certainly must be frustrating.