Thursday, March 15, 2012

PC Men’s Hockey’s Progression Evokes Memory of a Fallen Follower

The Friars’ best-of-three triumph over UMass-Lowell last weekend and date Friday afternoon at TD Garden with Boston College justifies the not-so-shabby careers of senior scorer Matt Bergland and stopper Alex Beaudry.

The recent achievement gives co-captains Andy Balysky and Danny New a small-to-medium helping of fulfillment that had consistently eluded them since orientation. It rewards all seven skating seniors for enduring three years in the cellar before pivoting the program back in a favorable direction under first-year skipper Nate Leaman.

But outside the boards, outside of Balysky, Bergland, Beaudry, David Brown, Justin Gates, Rob Maloney and New, there is doubtlessly another key 2012 graduate on the collective minds of the Friar Puck community.

Brendan Frail, the inaugural men’s hockey chair of the Friar Faithful club, has been gone for a little more than a year and a half. His untimely death in a traumatic fall Aug. 22, 2010, devastated a college community that spent the previous two years savoring his amiability, energy and school spirit.

In accordance with his specialty in the student booster club, Frail arguably sculpted his PC legacy―certainly the extracurricular aspect―as the rabid ringleader of the student section at Schneider Arena. And while his arrival on campus coincided with the beginning of the nadir of the men’s hockey program’s modern history, he battled vigorously against self-negativity and fair-weather fanaticism.

Frail, who also had a comparatively serene yet comparably passionate side as an elementary/special education major, died a year too soon to partake in the program’s renaissance with his fellow student rooters. Odds are all current seniors and recent alumni who bolstered “Mission 3,000” in Leaman’s head coaching debut Oct. 7 would hold that Frail was conspicuous by his absence that night more than any other.

But those who are faithful in the original sense of the term would also hold that he has enjoyed the view of this season from his seat in the Ultimate Skybox. If that did not culminate in the Friars’ long-awaited Hockey East playoff clincher or the longer-awaited quarterfinal triumph, it shall this weekend when he follows the action from Causeway Street.

Even the rigidly objective―as this author always was in the student section and as this author plans to remain in these affairs―can appreciate a notion like that. Being his colorful self, Frail never failed to percolate a fun atmosphere at Schneider Arena.

Now, while staying within boundaries fit for the great beyond, there is reason to imagine he will watch Friday’s action with a gusto that the Rev. Herman Schneider himself will enjoy from the side.