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Boston College, Boston University do ‘battle’ on ice for a great cause

By Arielle Aronson, FOX Sports, July 13, 2015

Boston University and Boston College came together to fight for Pete Frates and the battle against ALS

There is nothing quite like a hockey game in the middle of summer, and there is nothing quite like the rivalry between Boston University and Boston College. So when former BC hockey players Pat Mullane and Andrew Orpik decided to combine the rivalry and the draw of summer hockey for a good cause, it was no surprise that the Boston hockey community responded in a big way.

Approximately 3,000 people showed up at Boston University’s Walter Brown Arena Friday night for the Comm Ave Charity Classic, a game benefiting Compassionate Care ALS. The nonprofit offers individualized support for ALS patients, their families and their caregivers.

The rosters spanned generations of BU and BC alums with NHL or AHL experience, and there was a great collection of talent. The scoring lines featured oddities like a goal from 2014-15 Calder Trophy finalist Johnny Gaudreau with assists by Bill Arnold and Hockey Hall of Famer Brian Leetch, while a BU goal by Minnesota Wild forward Charlie Coyle was assisted by Hall of Famer and Boston legend Ray Bourque.

Coyle recorded a hat trick in BU’s 7-5 win, but the most important number from Friday night was the $55,000 raised for ALS patients.

The money came from ticket sales as well as a silent auction, which included autographed items from nearly every player participating as well as some goodies from other athletes who simply wanted to help out.

James van Riemsdyk of the Toronto Maple Leafs donated an autographed jersey. The Bruins sent autographed sticks. The Red Sox had VIP tickets up for auction.

“A lot of people reached out to me and said ‘Hey Pat, I’d love to get involved. Do you need anything donated?'” Mullane said. “It shows how willing this community is to participate and to raise money. Obviously it was easy to get the guys who were playing to bring a stick or a couple of gloves, but for everyone else to step up and say ‘Hey I want to donate something,’ it’s a class act.”

The goaltenders were kept busy on Friday.

Mullane said he came up with the idea for a charity game last winter. It was only natural that he picked Compassionate Care ALS as the beneficiary of the game, as Boston College is too familiar with Lou Gehrig’s disease, as former sports information director Dick Kelley died from it in 2014, while former BC baseball player Pete Frates, the founder of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, continues to fight.

Although Frates never took the ice in a game with the Eagles, he loved to join in on practices or skates with the BC hockey team during his time as an undergrad. New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider was a year behind Frates at BC and said he has fond memories of the times they spent together.

“I always said Pete was a pretty good hockey player but a great baseball player,” Schneider said. “So he always would come on the ice with us or he’d try to jump out there any chance he could so he was sort of an honorary hockey guy while he was there too.”

Boston University has a connection with ALS as well. Goaltender Matt O’Connor, who led the Terriers to a national championship berth this past season before signing with the Ottawa Senators in April, said his grandmother was diagnosed with ALS last year.

“It meant a lot to her and me to be able to come and raise money for a great cause,” O’Connor said.

The Terriers initially had a difficult time putting together a roster. One of the members of BU’s 2008-2009 national championship team got married over the weekend, so some of BU’s more well-known NHLers — such as Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis Blues), Colin Wilson (Nashville Predators) and Nick Bonino (Vancouver Canucks) — were unable to attend.

“The wedding was a bit of a hurdle,” Mullane admitted. “The guys were so receptive, but it took a little while because no one really knew what [the event] was going to be. They just thought it was going to be a quick game, no fans, so guys were hesitant, but slowly but surely, guys committed and became involved and it turned into something great.”

The Terriers had a little help from outside the organization when Ray Bourque, the father of former BU player Chris Bourque, offered to play for BU. The BU roster also featured Tom Poti (who retired from the NHL in 2014), Stanley Cup champion Shawn McEachern, Jay Pandolfo (retired from the NHL in 2013), and Scott Young (who retired in 2006).

Boston College’s roster hosted much more recent talent. Aside from older alums Brian Leetch and Mike Mottau, BC’s stars included Jimmy Hayes (Bruins), Kevin Hayes (New York Rangers), Gaudreau (Calgary Flames), Chris Kreider (New York Rangers) and Stephen Gionta (New Jersey Devils). Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brian Boyle was unable to play but still attended as one of BC’s coaches.

And while charity games are often lighthearted games known for a lack of defense, the BU-BC rivalry turned the event into a competitive affair full of back-checking, shot blocking and coaches complaining.

With the game tied, 5-5, with less than three minutes remaining, Boyle gave the referees an earful for an offsides call he disagreed with. BC coach Jerry York, the winningest coach in college hockey, was caught complaining about his team’s high number of turnovers.

Familiar faces exchange handshakes after the game.

“A couple of guys who didn’t even back-check at BC were back-checking in a charity game,” Kreider said. “It was competitive, it was fun, it was pretty much everything they wanted when they organized it, so great result.”

“No one was really going all-out at first, but once time was winding down, it’s a tie game and it’s a charity game, but we want to win,” Coyle said. “It’s still BC/BU rivalry so you don’t go overboard, but you just have some fun doing it, being competitive and that’s what made it fun out there. We enjoyed it.”

Mullane said the best part of the entire event for him, however, happened before the game when fans gave Pete Frates a standing ovation as he wheeled onto the ice.

“We didn’t know if he was going to be able to come, so for him to be there and to be on the ice and for the fans to see him and have him be a part of it, for him to watch the game, it made the night perfect,” Mullane said.

The event was so successful that Mullane is already starting to plan for next year.

“It will be bigger and better,” Mullane promised. “I think we can do a much better job of raising more money and marketing it better, and I think that there’s just ways to really make this event something that people look forward to every summer.”