Earlier this week, the New Jersey Devils recalled two of Hockey East’s most underrated players from two of the league’s most memorable teams in recent memory.
Kevin Rooney was called up for his first NHL action over the weekend after signing an NHL contract last week. Rooney had been playing with the Devils’ AHL affiliate in Albany. Rooney was never a big scorer for the Friars — he scored just 36 points in his career — but he was arguably the heart and soul of the Providence team that won a national championship in 2015. It’s no mistake that Rooney was voted team captain the following season as a senior.
The Canton, Mass. native skated on Providence’s top line with Mark Jankowski and Brandon Tanev through the 2015 NCAA Tournament, but he wasn’t there to score goals, he was there to shut down the best player on the other team. As the No. 4 seed in the East Regional that season, the Friars were the road team throughout the tournament, and weren’t given the benefit of a last change. So, when Boston University rolled Jack Eichel’s line, for instance, out against Jankowski’s, it was Rooney who was often tasked with one of the most difficult assignments — shut down that top line.
After that championship run, several Hockey East coaches that summer praised the work of Rooney throughout the tournament, and coaches were well aware of having to game plan against his matchup the following season.
The Devils also recalled former Merrimack defenseman Karl Stollery, who was a junior on the Merrimack team that won 25 games in 2011 and a senior on the Merrimack team that was the first team left out of the NCAA Tournament in 2012.
Stollery was often lost in the shuffle, as far as praise goes, behind players like Stephane Da Costa and Joe Cannata. But, Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy would say oftentimes during those two seasons that Stollery was the team’s workhorse, logging 30 minutes per night at least. Dennehy has even admitted, in the years following Stollery’s time, that there were nights he even pushed close to 40 minutes.
Over Stollery’s final two seasons, Merrimack posted a record of 43-22-11.
On Wednesday, Stollery and Rooney were both sent back to Albany, but given their work ethic, it wouldn’t be surprising to see both called up for more action in New Jersey.