By Marisa Ingemi, Special to the News
BOSTON – With training camp fast approaching, Sabres star Jack Eichel got back on the ice in a competitive environment a little bit early.
Eichel had two goals and two assists for the Boston University alumni team in the Commonwealth Ave. Charity Classic against Boston College alumni on Friday night.
“Just have to get ready for training camp now,” he said afterward. “I want to be owning these last couple of weeks and try to dial it in as much as possible and get ready for the year. We can have a good season.”
It was Eichel’s second consecutive year in the event, which benefits Compassionate Care ALS, Pete Frates Home Health Initiative and the Travis Roy Foundation.
“It’s nice to play,” he said. “It’s a fun event. A lot of these guys are friends of mine. It’s nice to see how they’re doing. We’re doing this for Travis and Pete. It’s a great cause and we raised a lot of money. It’s a great thing.”
Played at Walter Brown Arena, the Terriers' old home and the current arena for the women’s team at Boston University, the sold-out crowd raised a record-breaking $78,432.
The Sabres were well-represented on the BU side with Eichel, Evan Rodrigues, Danny O’Regan and Brandon Hickey, a prospect acquired in June from Arizona. Former Sabre Nathan Gerbe played for Boston College.
Skating alongside former Terrier linemate Rodrigues, Eichel was the first to touch the puck on Friday night, winning the opening faceoff.
Rodrigues also scored, tapping in a loose puck centered by Eichel on the crease with time expiring in the second period. He scored the Terriers’ eighth goal of the game in the third period, again off a pass from Eichel,
Eichel scored with 4:32 to go in the final period, moments after Rodrigues’ second. Eichel added another soon later, the final Terrier tally, in what was a 10-5 victory for the BU alumni.
While he got to skate with his Sabres teammates, Eichel also had the chance to reminisce by playing with the likes of Team USA teammates Charlie McAvoy and Clayton Keller, potential Eichel teammates had he opted to play another season at BU rather than enter the 2015 NHL Draft.
“I played with those guys in the World Championships and they’re two of my good buddies,” he said. “It’s good to see them and awesome to play with them.
"It’s nice at an event like this how it brings players from different decades, different times from BU together, I think that makes it special, too.”
While the game is a scrimmage, competing against and with NHLers such as Ryan Donato of the Bruins, who scored three times in the span of a minute and a half, and Vancouver’s Adam Gaudette, last season’s Hobey Baker winner, presents a competitive environment that’s rare in the offseason.
Eichel played on a line with Rodrigues, whom he skated with at times in the regular season, and Keller, his World Juniors linemate.
In some ways, the BU roster shared more chemistry with Eichel than the current Sabres roster, which underwent significant changes in the offseason.
Jeff Skinner and Vladimir Sobotka are in as forwards and Ryan O’Reilly is out, meaning the Buffalo offense will look plenty different.
All Eichel can do to prepare is stick to his offseason routine, which includes working out at Boston University at times, where he and his Terrier-turned-Sabre teammates are accustomed.
Eichel was in Buffalo this week where he skated with a number of teammates in an informal workout at HarborCenter.
“It’s been going good,” said Eichel. “It’s obviously almost over, coming to an end. But it’s been a good offseason, I feel pretty healthy and ready for a good season.”
Friday night was also a chance to, in some ways, relax and enjoy the presence of other elite talent that came from the Boston area.
The Sabres have been the beneficiary of BU’s rapid progress developing top players. Eichel was the first before Rodrigues signed as an undrafted free agent, and O’Regan was added midway through last season from San Jose.
With Sabres assistant general manager Steve Greeley being a BU alum, the talent in the Boston area won’t go unnoticed.
The only NHL teams Friday with as many players as the Sabres were the Rangers and the hometown Bruins, with two BU alum skating with Donato, a former Harvard player, and a prospect from Boston College.
Even with the two teams split by former college teams, the rosters were filled with talent that has played together before, whether it be international or in the pro ranks.
“You see a lot of familiar faces and it’s nice to reconnect,” Eichel said. “I haven’t seen a lot of these guys in a while. It makes the night that much more special.”