2020-21 Athletes of the Year, Men's Hockey, Hockey, Sports

‘Heights’ 2020-21 Male Athlete of the Year: Matt Boldy

Final result be damned, Boston College men’s hockey looked infallible in the first period of its NCAA Tournament clash against St. Cloud State. BC head coach Jerry York elected to play the matchups game and hold the Eagles’ top line on the bench to start the game, but Matt Boldy, Alex Newhook, and Mike Hardman quickly entered the game and, to no one’s surprise, made their presence known. 

With slick puck handling and perfectly timed no-look passes, the trio almost seemed to be toying with the Huskies as they flowed up the ice as a single unit. The efforts of St. Cloud’s defenders were helpless against BC’s top trio’s skill and synchronization.

The Eagles were finally rewarded with a goal just over 16 minutes into the game, as Boldy picked up the puck from a scrum on the boards, turned toward goal, and easily slotted it past goalie David Hrenak.

A bevy of similarly stellar plays that propelled BC men’s hockey’s impressive season earned Boldy the 2020-21 Heights Male Athlete of the Year honor.

“I think we had a lot of depth, we had contributions from a lot of different players and I think that’s a big part of the team, not just having one line that produces all the offense but having multiple players that contribute,” BC captain Marc McLaughlin said. 

Depth certainly abounded for the Eagles this season, as 13 skaters registered at least 10 points on the season for the third-highest scoring offense in the nation. 

Still, even the deepest units need a star and a leader, and with Newhook and Logan Hutsko limited to less than half of BC’s games, the Eagles had an opening to fill at the top of their attack. 

Boldy went above and beyond to fill the role, building on his stellar 26-point freshman campaign to tally 31 during his sophomore year and finish sixth in the nation in assists per game. 

Boldy came through over and over again when the Eagles needed him most, as exemplified by his staggering four-assist display against UMass Lowell in the Hockey East Tournament Semifinals. As Spencer Knight and the Eagles’ defense stumbled down the stretch, Boldy put the offense on his back in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to will BC to victory. 

Boldy also notched a pair of assists in the first round of the Hockey East Tournament against New Hampshire. During the regular season, UMass Lowell was the unfortunate recipient of another one of Boldy’s most potent displays on the ice, as he also racked up four assists against them in the Eagles’ 7-1 destruction of the River Hawks. 

The creative play and passing prowess come as no surprise to Dan Donato, head hockey coach at Dexter Southfield School, where Boldy began his high school career. 

“He has incredible vision, he knows where the other four guys on his line are at all times, and he has the confidence to make plays and try things,” Donato said. “I would say the thing that separates him is Matt makes his teammates better every time he steps on the ice.”

To limit Boldy’s contributions to the sport of hockey over the last season to simply his play on the Heights would be disingenuous. Over just this past season, he has dazzled across three different competition levels and one international border.

In mid-December, Boldy—along with Newhook, Knight, and Drew Helleson—departed the team for the IIHF World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, with Boldy, Knight, and Helleson lining up for Team USA and Newhook slotting in for Team Canada.

“It was definitely weird leaving but it was kind of something I dreamed about my whole life, always what I wanted to do,” Boldy said. “I always wanted to be a part of that tournament … and win a gold medal. So, having a chance to do that, it’s really hard to pass up.”

Boldy’s golden dreams came true, as Team USA defeated Team Canada 2-0 in the title game to claim the championship. He was instrumental in the Americans’ success in the tournament, ranking fourth on the team with seven points and putting together some truly ridiculous highlights in the process. 

“It was an unbelievable experience,” Boldy said. “The tournament was incredible, again, to win gold with the group of guys that we had. I’d grown up playing with so many of those guys and against them and with them again at the National Development Program.”

Boldy, who hails from Millis, Mass. and grew up an Eagles fan, attended Dexter Southfield for one year before joining the Michigan-based U.S. National Team Development Program. 

“You obviously get attached to them and their families in that sense, so it’s hard sometimes to see a kid leave,” Donato said. “But my job is to do what’s best for the kid and the family and so [I’m] really happy for Matty.”

A host of other Eagles also came to the Heights from the program, including Knight, Helleson, Patrick Giles, and Marshall Warren. 

While his experiences both at BC and at World Juniors came alongside a host of familiar faces, Boldy’s latest hockey move has put him among a new cast of characters.

Drafted 12th overall by the Minnesota Wild in the 2019 NHL Draft, Boldy decided to make the move to the professional ranks after the conclusion of the Eagles’ 2020-21 season, signing a three-year deal. 

Hardman, Newhook, and Knight made the jump up to the pros at a similar time to Boldy. 

“[Going pro] is a pretty personal decision, you definitely don’t want to make your decision because someone else is making their decision,” Boldy said. “It’s a really personal decision that you have to make and really commit to.”

The Iowa Wild, Minnesota’s AHL affiliate on which Boldy began his professional career, does not have any other former National Team Development Program skaters on its roster, but Boldy has proved more than up to the task of adjusting to new teammates and a higher level of play. 

He scored a screaming slapshot in his first game on the Wild and has shown no sign of slowing down since, notching over a point per game in his 10 games in the AHL.

With the Minnesota Wild sitting comfortably in playoff position after winning eight of its last 10 games, a potential late-season call up to the top team would put Boldy on a hot team that could make a deep postseason run. 

“They just look so dominant out there, and they’re playing such good hockey that it’s really fun to watch,” Boldy said. “And that’s something that I get excited about, just knowing that I have the opportunity to go into an organization like that where you have a good team, you have great coaching.”

If the quick success of the rest of the Eagles’ cadre of new professionals is any hint, Boldy’s eventual transition to the NHL should be smooth. 

Despite the quick success he has found in the AHL, Boldy couldn’t help but lament how factors outside of his control limited his college playing years.

“That made the [going pro] decision pretty hard, because I grew up coming to games with full student sections and stuff like that, and I never really got that full experience,” Boldy said.

While Boldy is still taking BC classes and has proved adept at translating his play to new environment after new environment, he said there’s nothing quite like the experience of playing collegiate hockey. 

“At BC, [there is] kind of a little community that we have there, and kind of having that atmosphere at Conte with all the students and stuff like that, it’s almost like a little town there,” Boldy said. “You get that a little bit with the fans [in the AHL], but it’s not the same as it is at school.”

Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor

Other images by Jess Rivilis / Heights Editor, by Jason Franson / AP Photo

May 3, 2021