Once the Bruins’ opponent for the Stanley Cup Final was confirmed, prospect Trent Frederic said he started to receive text messages expressing torn allegiances.
“Who should I root for?’’ his friends and family asked.
That question should be a no-brainer. Boston, of course.
But Frederic, a St. Louis native whose family lives about 10 minutes from the Enterprise Center, didn’t have an answer, leaving the decision to the inquirer.
“It’s up to them, right?’’ he said.
Unlike Massachusetts natives Charlie Coyle, Matt Grzelcyk, and Chris Wagner, Frederic’s Missouri roots give him reason to support the Bruins’ opponent, the St. Louis Blues. The 21-year-old center will have to curb his fandom, after pulling for his hometown Blues to prevail against the San Jose Sharks. Their emphatic, series-clinching 5-1 victory in Game 6 set up a matchup between two clubs central to Frederic’s hockey career — and created a twisted win-win situation for his friends and family.
“I obviously was rooting for the Blues to make it far, and now it’s Blues-Bruins,’’ said Frederic, who was selected 29th overall by the Bruins in the 2016 NHL Draft. “It’s unreal.’’
His background isn’t the only reason the upcoming series could feel a bit odd. As a member of the Black Aces, a select group of Providence Bruins recalled for the postseason run, Frederic only will take the ice during the Stanley Cup if a player suffers an injury.
It’s somewhat of an odd, albeit imperative, position, preparing for an opportunity that could be right around the corner but also could never happen. And if it does, it’s the result of a teammate’s misfortune. Amid the slightly awkward undercurrent, Frederic said he keeps his focus on being ready to jump in whenever his number is called.
“It’s a little bit weird, and you obviously don’t want anybody to get hurt,’’ Frederic said. “You just want the team to win. It’s good for the organization.’’
Besides the fact that he’s living in a hotel and training in a different arena, Frederic said his weeks in Boston have been pretty similar to those in Providence. After their AHL season ended on April 26 with a loss to the Charlotte Checkers in the Atlantic Division semifinals of the Calder Cup, he and the rest of the Black Aces picked up right where they left off — first at Providence College and now at Warrior Ice Arena.
Like the Bruins, their time is spent watching film, working out, and skating. But there’s not a ton of overlap between the two squads. The Black Aces don’t practice with the Bruins, nor do they travel for road contests. Thursday’s intrasquad scrimmage represented one of the few collaborative instances.
“It’d be great to incorporate them into a practice a little more, but we have our own sort of goal and agenda right now that we can’t be worried about that part of it,’’ coach Bruce Cassidy said.
“We try to kind of stay out of their way, but we see them around,’’ added Frederic. “When it’s their time to focus, we just try to get out of their way.’’
Still, general manager Don Sweeney emphasized the importance of the Black Aces.
“We’ve tried to make them understand that they’re not out of sight or out of mind,’’ Sweeney said. “At any point in time, a player can find himself in that stage.’’
Following his NHL debut on Jan. 29, Frederic filled in at third-line center until the team traded for Coyle. He appeared in 15 NHL games but didn’t tally any points. The majority of his playing time came in Providence, where he had 14 goals and 11 assists in 55 games.
With veteran Steven Kampfer waiting in the wings as a defenseman and 23-year-old Karson Kuhlman the assumed choice at forward, Frederic is the most likely option at center should one become sidelined.
Even if he logs zero minutes of playing time, however, Frederic is hoping to relish the run — especially given the teams involved. His dad told him St. Louis is “buzzing,’’ awaiting Games 3 and 4.
“Just to follow along has been pretty sweet,’’ he said. “Hopefully, I get a chance to travel, go home, get to see my family a little bit, and watch the games. I’m pretty excited.’’