For Aapeli Rasanen, It’s All About Bringing a Trophy Back to Boston College
Photo by BCEagles.com
He’s tasted gold in the past, but, for Aapeli Rasanen, now it’s time to bring some to Boston College.
“This year, we just have to win trophies,” Rasanen said. “We’ve missed the tournament the past couple of years. Last year we came close to winning the Hockey East and the Beanpot. This year we just have to win. Win trophies. And obviously the ultimate goal is to win a national title.”
Rasanen is right; the Eagles have not taken home a single trophy during his two-and-a-half year tenure at BC. No Beanpots, no Lamoriello Trophies, no National Championships. Well, technically there was a Hockey East regular season title during his freshman season, but anyone will tell you that it doesn’t mean anything if it isn’t paired with something larger.
Like he said, they’ve sure come close. An overtime heartbreaker against Boston University and a comeback that fell just short against Northeastern have prevented the Eagles from advancing to the NCAA Tournament in 2018 and 2019, respectively. A similar comeback attempt was thwarted by the Huskies in the 2019 Beanpot finals.
Now, there was that time before he arrived at BC when Rasanen was on top of the mountain. In 2016, he led Finland to a gold medal in the IIHF World U18 Championship. His nine points in the tournament were tied with linemate Eeli Tolvanen for most on the Finnish team. It was the culmination of a three-year journey that began when the group came together as a U16 team. In the semifinals, Rasanen posted a two-goal game against the United States, a team that the Finns had never beaten during Rasanen’s international career. He called the game, one which came with the added benefit of bragging rights over US goaltender and BC teammate Joe Woll, the best of his career. The gold medal was part of a clean sweep for Finland in 2016, when the nation hosted and won the World Juniors as well.
Interestingly enough, the U18 tournament took place in Sioux City, the next stop on Rasanen’s journey. He played a season of junior hockey with the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers following the gold medal run. It was a drastic change in lifestyle coming from Finland, but the transition was made easier by a welcoming billet family and a U18 linemate, Tolevanen, who had previously played in Sioux City and showed Rasanen the ropes. He finished his only season in Sioux City with 25 points in 38 games, and he was fourth in the league with a plus-21 rating.
“It was a great experience for me to get comfortable with the small rink and the North American style of hockey before coming to college,” Rasanen said.
It’s always interesting to see what factors played into a player’s college decision. Rasanen’s case of coming from Finland added another dimension to the question.
His final three schools were BC, Denver and Harvard. BC was the first school to show interest in him, and he said the Eagles offered the best mix of academics and athletics.
Another important factor: BC was installing a sauna. The Finns love their saunas, and it’s not hard to see why.
“[Finland] is a great country,” Rasanen said. “It’s just cold and dark. We have Black Friday, but it’s every Friday from October to March.”
Rasanen is one of three Finnish players on the Eagles, along with the Mattila brothers. The three grew up in the same town and knew each other prior to attending BC together. The Mattilas are a year older, but Rasanen played up in youth hockey, so they were usually in the same league. They got to know each other as opponents growing up and as teammates in high school. Even in the the year when Rasanen played junior hockey and the Mattilas were freshmen at BC, they stayed in touch.
The Finns are kind of like celebrities with this BC team. Their nation’s flag flies in the stands during every game. They are the object of fan’s affections during the team’s yearly International Night. Once, they even entertained the crowd in between periods with a video of them teaching their teammates Finnish hockey.
Päävalmentaja Jerry York is a hall of famer. Marshall Warren has a wicked lyöntilaukaus. And, best of all, Hockey East needs to adopt a rangaistuslaukauskilpailu so there are no more ties. That’s what I took from the videos. Take a crack at what those translate to before watching the video.
A special kind of bond has developed between the three that has carried over to their time at BC. The Finns, they stick together.
When Rasanen collided with Alex Brink away from the play in BC’s 4-3 victory against Boston University on January 18th, he remained down on the ice for a few moments before play was whistled dead. The first one over to check on Rasanen was Jesper. As soon as he got back to the bench, after being helped by the trainer, Julius was right there to check in on his fellow countryman as well.
Rasanen had 16 points during his freshman season, but his production dropped to seven last season. He posted a respectable three points in BC’s first six games, including a two-point game against then-No. 1 Denver.
On November 2nd, in a search for more offense, Coach Jerry York shuffled the lines. The movement included the formation of a third line of Rasanen, Alex Newhook and Mike Hardman. Since then, the three have done nothing but produce. In the 14 games since they came together, the line has recorded at least one point in each game. Rasanen has already set a career-high in points with 20.
“It’s been unbelievable playing with those two,” Rasanen said. “Hardy is so hard-working. He skates hard, works hard, has a great shot. And then Newie is just so skilled, really quick, quick feet, quick hands. So I think we have a good combo there.”
Rasanen has filled plenty of roles during his BC career. He started out as a center and led the team in face-off percentage each of his first two seasons. This season he has transitioned over to the wing, while Newhook centers the third line. He can also play up too, oftentimes serving as the forward BC uses on the first line when one of the regulars is injured. He had a goal and an assist in that game against the top-ranked Pioneers while filling in for Logan Hutsko on the first line.
“When you are thrown into a new position of new line, try to pick it up quickly,” Rasanen said. “What are [your linemates’] traits? What do they do well? Where do I have to be with and without the puck? Watch video of the guys who’ve succeeded with them earlier. Those are some things that help you adapt.”
The success of Rasanen’s line has been a driving factor behind BC’s 15-5 start to the season and No. 4 national ranking. With the Beanpot kicking off against BU in a couple weeks, Rasanen has a chance to capture his first major collegiate trophy. Of course, there are bigger ones, like the Hockey East tournament championship. The Eagles sit one point behind UMass for most in the conference, but BC has two games in hand. Certainly, the Eagles and Minutemen have to be the co-favorites to bring home the Lamoriello. And with the way they’re playing, BC is very much in contention for a national championship. This type of season is exactly what Rasanen, and everyone on BC for that matter, signed up for.