SB 46 Intel: Pats have real hometown support

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SB 46 Intel: Pats have real hometown support

FOXBORO -- These days, Aaron Hernandez doesn't have much time to reflect on the fact that he's about to play in the Super Bowl for the team he rooted for growing up, but in the rare instances that he does, he's overcome with emotion.

"When I do get the chance to think about it, it brings tears to my eyes," Hernandez said Friday. "It's crazy. I always thought about playing in the NFL. I was a fan of the Patriots and Drew Bledsoe so just to be able to play and be on this team and actually contribute is an honor."

Growing up in Bristol, Conn. -- where enemy lines between Giants and Pats fans are often drawn between next door neighbors -- Hernandez was always around both New England and New York fans. He even says that, despite his own personal success in with the Patriots, there are still a few Giants fans in his family.

But the second-year tight end has been a Patriots fan for as long as he can remember. He was seven years old for Super Bowl XXXI when the Patriots made it to the Super Bowl behind Bledsoe but lost to the Packers.

"I was a fan of the Patriots because the first jersey I had was Bledsoe," Hernandez said.

He was just a freshman at the University of Florida when the Patriots lost Super Bowl XLII to the Giants. Now, after putting together a breakout season -- 79 catches for 910 yards and 7 touchdowns -- he's looking forward to helping the team he once cheered as a fan to come away with a different result.

"It's what you live for," Hernandez said. "You want to be that person making plays in a big game, or being on the field starting and being able to contribute. When you get the opportunity to contribute in a game like this, you got no choice but to show up."

Like Hernandez, safety James Ihedigbo and defensive lineman Ron Brace also grew up watching Super Bowls in New England, rooting for the Pats.

Brace is from Springfield and was a senior at Worcester Burncoat high school when the Patriots won Super Bowl XXVIII over the Panthers.

Ihedigbo grew up in Amherst, Mass., then went to UMass Amherst, where he spent Super Bowl Sundays at The Hanger Bar and Grill with friends and orders of chicken wings.

"We literally would watch and say 'Wow!' in amazement at the intensity of the game and what's at stake and wondering how those guys play under such pressure," Ihedigbo said. "Now we're on the other side of it."

Ihedigbo's friends at The Hanger will have a chance to see their hometown hero play on the game's biggest stage next week in Indianapolis.

"It's awesome," Ihedigbo said. "It's definitely a great great feeling, knowing that I grew up in Massachusetts and now I'm playing for the team that I watched for so many years. It's a surreal feeling and I'm definitely blessed to be part of it."

Bruins tap Maine-bound goalie Swayman in fourth round

Bruins tap Maine-bound goalie Swayman in fourth round

CHICAGO – It was thought the Bruins might swing for the fences with Boston University goalie Jake Oettinger, particularly if they traded down in the first round, but they ended up filling their goalie quota on Saturday in the fourth round of the NHL Draft at the United Center. The B’s selected University of Maine-bound Jeremy Swayman with the 111th pick in the draft after an impressive run for the Alaska native at Sioux Falls as a junior hockey player.

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The 6-foot-2, 183-pound Swayman posted a 2.90 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in 32 games for a poor Sioux City junior team, but distinguished himself with his size, athleticism and competitiveness as the rare goalie prospect to come out of the great state of Alaska. Swayman was eating breakfast in his Alaskan home while watching himself get drafted by the Bruins. Needless to say, he was pumped as he readies for his first season in Hockey East.

“I’ve been working my whole life for this and just to kind of have the notion of, your work has paid off in a small area of time or a small trinket, it’s very worth all of the hard times and tough times, and kind of working at everything for it. It’s kind of a token back and just an incredible opportunity for sure,” said Swayman, who said he models his game after Braden Holtby while also envying Tuukka Rask’s flexibility. “I would describe myself as a challenge goalie. So, a competitive goalie just kind of fighting through traffic at all times. Being able to see the puck from anywhere on the ice, whether there is a screen in front or a point shot and, of course, a point blank shot. Again, I trust my ability on my skates. I have good feet. I can stay up longer than most goalies in situations where they would have to slide. So, I can stay up and cover more net on a backdoor pass, per say. I also like to cut down the angle a lot.”

Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley admitted that Swayman wasn’t the first choice of everybody at the B’s draft table, but said the scouts were confident making him the pick after another goalie was taken off the board before him. There were three goalies taken in the fourth round, including Prince Albert netminder Ian Scott taken one pick before the B’s selection, so it’s difficult to tell which other goalie Boston had their eyes on.

Clearly, the hope now is that Swayman follows in a proud tradition of stud Black Bears goalies that include Ben Bishop, Jimmy Howard, Scott Darling, Mike Dunham and Garth Snow, and that the B’s have drafted a new goalie of the future with Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre in the AHL.

“He’s a goalie that [Bruins goalie coach] Bob Essensa had really liked, and had scouted him. Most of our staff was on board with the goalie. We targeted another goalie, but he just went before our pick,” said Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley. “We heard good things from [the University of Maine] staff there, and we did our due diligence on him. We’re happy with him.”

It remains to be seen how Swayman develops in college, but the B’s hope it’s a steady, ascending development like that of McIntyre after they drafted him prior to his starring run at North Dakota. 
 

Bruins go for some skill with Studnicka pick in second round

Bruins go for some skill with Studnicka pick in second round

CHICAGO – The Bruins aimed for one of their “skill” picks in the second round when they nabbed Oshawa Generals center Jack Studnicka with the 53rd selection in the NHL Draft Saturday at the United Center.

Studnicka, 18, took a jump with scouts this season while scoring 18 goals and 52 points in 64 games for the Generals and dominated the Memorial Cup playoffs with five goals and 15 points in ten games. Couple that with three goals in three games at the World Under-18’s, and the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder is the kind of forward prospect that Boston was happy to add to their draft class as a center or a possible right wing.

“He had a very good Under-18’s and he’s very skilled. He’s a late bloomer too. He came around and had a good second half and a strong playoff where he was a point-per-game player in the OHL playoffs,” said Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley, who oversaw this weekend’s draft after the departure of head scout Keith Gretzky. “We addressed a need there because we think we can play both wing and center, and that he’s got room to develop. He’s close to 6-foot-2 but the frame is light, so we look forward to working with him and seeing what we develop there.”

Studnicka was happy to be selected by the Bruins on the second day of the draft and said he models his game after Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak while closely watching the Leafs games as a good Ontario boy should.

“I think I’m a two-way centerman that’s trusted in all three zones of the ice, but at the same time, I can contribute to the offense when I have to. I am a reliable center that can put up numbers. Being in Oshawa I got to a lot of Leafs games, and Tyler Bozak was a really reliable centerman, a good face-off guy and he’s very versatile while some nights playing power play and some nights playing penalty kill.”

Interestingly enough Studnicka was coached by Torey Krug’s dad, Kyle, when he played for the Detroit Belle Tire Minor Midgets and the Krug paterfamilias gave his stamp of approval on the B’s pick.

“Very cerebral,” said Kyle Krug to CSN while also mentioning that Studnicka’s dad played at the University of Maine. “Tremendous compete level. Really good skill. Good feet. Terrific work ethic off and on the ice. Great teammate.”

Clearly, Studnicka sounds like a Bruins-type prospect with the reliability, smarts and skillful upside, and the B’s can only hope he develops into a true Studnicka on the ice over the next couple of years while working his way to the NHL.