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A work in progress, BC’s Mullane pays off

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / April 3, 2012
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When Pat Mullane was a child growing up in Connecticut, he wanted to play hockey for Boston College.

Some of that influence came from his father’s cousin, Rose Mary Donahue, who was a longtime employee at the school as assistant to former BC president J. Donald Monan and current president William P. Leahy.

She gave Mullane a tour of the campus and it reinforced his desire.

Unbeknownst to Mullane, Donahue wrote a letter to senior associate athletic director Tom Peters requesting coach Jerry York and his staff look into recruiting Mullane, who was playing hockey for Avon Old Farms. York was unmoved at first.

“We all get those letters,’’ said York, chuckling at the memory. “But it turned out to be a legit letter and we followed it up.’’

When York’s staff watched Mullane play, his talent was obvious, but he had some things to overcome.

“When we first saw him, he was a pretty good player at Avon and he was a little bit heavy and a little bit slow,’’ said York. “He went to Omaha [of the USHL] and still had a little bit of a weight problem, he still wasn’t in great, great shape but there has always been something there, his hockey sense. During Omaha and his first year with us, he became stronger and leaner and it’s really helped his development with us.’’

Now 21, the junior center is one of the reasons BC is in the Frozen Four and preparing to play Minnesota at Tampa Thursday night.

Mullane has 36 points in 42 games, good for fourth on the team. In the last 10 outings, Mullane has 9 points, and six of his 10 goals came in that span.

Mullane plays on a line with senior right wing Paul Carey and freshman left wing Johnny Gaudreau. Carey said Mullane’s vision and hockey sense are what set him apart.

“We all kind of have a similar style,’’ said Carey. “We’re all kind of playmakers. He and I have played together for three years on and off, so I have a good feel for him. And Gaudreau is such a special talent, he can fit in with anyone.’’

Mullane is outgoing, articulate, and has a great sense of humor. He also seems wise beyond his years. But he also has faced tragedy. When Mullane was 8, he and his father, Jerry, were leaving the rink after practice when his father suffered a heart attack and died at 44.

“It was April of 1999,’’ said Mullane. “I was in third grade. My dad picked me up from school, he was my coach, to go to a regular practice. As we were getting off the ice, he had a heart attack right next to me and passed away. It was extremely difficult. He was my best friend. It was tough for me but it was tough to see my mom in that position.’’

His mother, Amanda, made sure Mullane received grief counseling, and she always has been a force in his life.

“My mom did a really good job of raising me,’’ said Mullane. “She was there for support and provided the motherly role but she was the one driving me to soccer, baseball, and hockey games and playing catch with me in the yard.’’

That isn’t to say Mullane didn’t feel the need to take on more to help his mother and sister, Marissa.

“I did take a lot of responsibility,’’ said Mullane. “I was the only man left in the family. It challenged me to grow up. I’d like to think I’m more mature for it than most kids were in high school. Even with how bad everything was, I tried to stay optimistic and [focus] on what I had, not what I didn’t have.’’

What he does have is the opportunity to win his second national championship in three years. When he won it during his freshman year, he thought it was going to happen every year.

“That was easy,’’ said Mullane. “It was like the Staples commercial [with the Easy button]. We walked through Miami and walked through Wisconsin. I didn’t have as big a role as I do now. I just kind of hung back and watched [the upperclassmen] take over the team and win the national championship. I thought it was easy and that wasn’t even the team that was supposed to win it.’’

The Eagles lost to Colorado College in the NCAA West regional semifinals in St. Louis last year.

“Last year’s team was supposed to win it and we went into that game against Colorado College and I don’t think we were as prepared as we should have been and our season was over,’’ said Mullane. “That was a difficult loss to swallow. It’s extremely hard to win a national championship. We learned from last year. We’re not going to take Minnesota lightly and we’re going to enjoy every minute.’’

If there was a turning point to this season, it was the weekend of Jan. 20-21, when BC was swept at Maine.

“That bus ride back was miserable,’’ said Mullane. “Every single person in the locker room is the worst poor sport I’ve ever seen. You come to BC to win and when you don’t win, a lot of kids get upset. It’s like a 6-year-old in the backyard losing to his brother. Everyone was like, ‘This doesn’t happen.’ It was extremely difficult. There was no heartbeat to the team.

“We were there and we got along but no heartbeat. We didn’t know what the team was going to be. From there, our coaching staff challenged us. From there, everyone bought in.’’

Since that weekend, the Eagles have won 17 games in a row. As solidly as Mullane has played, his coach said that isn’t his only important role.

“He’s a go-to guy as far as our locker room,’’ said York. “He’s a good leader now and he has the potential to be a real solid leader.’’

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.

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