There was a point in time this season
when David Van der Gulik didn’t think he would
ever see the ice. Suffering through a mysterious abdominal
injury that was so painful it brought him to tears
one day in practice, he was fighting a battle he had
little control over.
He was frustrated. He didn’t know
where the injury came from. Seemingly every doctor
had a different diagnosis. And he was angered by the
thought that he may have to redshirt his senior year.
But when he got word from a specialist
in December that the pain was a result of a sports
hernia and he could play hockey without doing further
damage to his body, he trained hard for two weeks
and got himself back into the lineup for Boston University’s
Dec. 30 game against Merrimack. Van der Gulik assisted
on the game-winning goal that night and has led the
Terriers to a 17-2-2 record after they started 6-7-2
with him watching from the stands.
And in the Hockey East quarterfinals
last weekend, Van der Gulik recorded a hat trick in
BU’s Game 1 victory over UMass and then picked
up an assist on the game-winner of Game 2. His presence
in the locker room has been a huge key to the Terriers’
success, but his presence on the score sheet last
weekend got his team past an upset-minded UMass squad
– and gave him a little peace of mind because
he had been struggling from a statistical standpoint.
“When I came back, I had a pretty
long scoring drought, but it just takes time,”
Van der Gulik says. “I hadn’t played hockey
since last April so I had to get my timing with my
line. I’ve had so many chances since I’ve
been back but wasn’t able to finish them. I
don’t think I’ve done anything differently,
but I’ve finally gotten some bounces. It’s
nice to get them on a big weekend in the playoffs,
and hopefully they’ll continue to come.”
BU coach Jack Parker borrowed the words
of a legendary former coach at cross-town Boston College
to describe the importance of getting his team’s
captain back onto the ice.
East Semifinal Capsules
Record: 23-9-4 (17-7-3 HEA)
Terrier Note: After
dropping their first game to Providence in last
year’s quarterfinal, John Curry and the
Terriers picked up two straight shutouts to
move on. Curry held the Minutemen scoreless
until the 14:08 mark of the third period on
Friday night, giving him a quarterfinal shutout
streak of 215:01.
How BU wins:
By going 16-1-2 over its last 19 games, BU has
found ways to win in just about every type of
situation and every type of game. The Terriers
play very tight defense, get consistent scoring
from three lines and have the most clutch goalie
in the conference this year.
Record: 26-10-2 (17-8-2 HEA)
Black Bear Note:
Maine has now advanced to the Hockey East semifinals
in 17 of the conference’s 22 years –
more than any other team.
How Maine wins: The
Black Bear defense limits grade-A scoring opportunities
and gets great play between the pipes from Ben
Bishop and Matt Lundin. And uncharacteristic
of some recent Maine teams, the Black Bears
have a functional offense, led by Greg Moore’s
26 goals and 16 assists.
Boston College Record: 22-11-3 (17-8-2
Eagle Note: By
sweeping through the Hockey East quarterfinals,
Jerry York picked up his 745th career victory,
placing him second all-time behind Ron Mason
How BC wins: The
Eagles are the only team playing this weekend
that didn’t end the season playing at
the top of their game. They will need to ride
Cory Schneider for as long as he’ll take
them, and in order to come out alive against
the tough field this weekend, they’ll
need some scoring from players not named Collins
4 New Hampshire Record: 20-11-7 (14-7-6 HEA)
Wildcat Note: UNH
has now won 20 games in each of its last 10
How UNH wins: After
playing inconsistent hockey during the middle
portion of the schedule, Dick Umile has gotten
his group to peak throughout the last month.
They are playing with a lot more confidence
and will need big efforts from the net out,
especially against BU in the semifinal. The
Terriers have revenge on their minds stemming
from the shellacking they got from UNH in last
year’s semifinal game.
“To quote John ‘Snooks’
Kelley, the return of David Van der Gulik is beyond
the scope of human imagination,” Parker says
with a wry smile. “He said that about the loss
off John Cunniff, a big star for BC who got injured,
and he said the loss of John Cunniff to the Boston
College hockey team is beyond the scope of human imagination.
Snooker was a master of the overstatement, but it
would be hard to overstate the value of David Van
der Gulik. Everything looks better when you get David
Van der Gulik back into the lineup.”
Getting into the lineup wasn’t
easy. The abdominal pain showed up in December of
2004, but despite the discomfort, Van der Gulik played
through the final four months of the season without
missing a single game – taking several pain-killing
injections so he could gut it out.
Moving into the summer, though, the
pain worsened. He had no idea what was wrong with
him, and doctors were having the same problem. He
was originally diagnosed with osteitis pubis, which
is an inflammation of the pubic bone, and his only
prescribed remedy was the worst four-letter word any
athlete wants to hear – rest.
The rest, like just about everything
else however, wasn’t working. Later in the summer,
he saw a few more doctors back home in Canada, and
one of them took a more hands-on – and much
more painful – approach. Van der Gulik was given
more injections, though this time they were used to
cause internal bleeding, which would in turn build
up scar tissue to heal his abdomen.
This medical method lasted until October,
but just like his dosage of rest, it wasn’t
making anything any better. So – once again
– Van der Gulik looked for another opinion.
That was when he was told it was a sports hernia that
caused the inflammation of his pubic bone, and he
was finally given the green light to get back on the
“I’ve never experienced
anything more frustrating,” he says. “It
was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal
with in my life.”
But despite the run-around from doctors
and everything else that went wrong throughout this
year-long process, Van der Gulik didn’t have
to look far for inspiration.
“I give credit to my sister [Gina],
who has been dealing with a rare blood disorder and
has been sick for the last two years,” he says.
“She has been so strong fighting it off. She
has had so many problems and complications, and when
I talk to her on the phone, she gives me so much moral
support. It should be the other way around. I should
be there supporting her, but she has been so courageous.
She has been an inspiration for me, and I realize
how lucky I have it. She has really helped me get
Obviously, it was a difficult task.
As the team captain and most looked-to leader, Van
der Gulik was having trouble just putting a smile
on his face because he felt so helpless with his condition.
“It was hard,” he says.
“There were a lot of days when I wasn’t
a happy guy around here. I hope they understood, but
it was hard. I was coming in with a leadership role,
and I wasn’t even on the team for the first
half of the year. I couldn’t practice or work
out or anything. I was at the rink, but I couldn’t
do anything with the guys. Senior year, you want to
have a good year, and you have a future to worry about.
I didn’t know if I was going to play this year
or redshirt and come back next year. There was all
of that stress involved as well so it was difficult.”
Things turned around quickly, though.
He came back and lightened the mood. Everyone on the
roster had an extra bounce in their step, and they
all attributed it to Van der Gulik. They talked about
their senior captain like he was a celebrity, always
smiling when his name was brought up.
“I just try to keep things loose,”
Van der Gulik says. “The season was up and down,
and guys didn’t have things going the way they
wanted. There was frustration in the locker room a
lot of times so I just tried to keep it loose and
make guys realize that we’re playing hockey
and we’re supposed to have fun doing it.”
It’s easy to have fun when you’ve
only tasted defeat twice in the last four months and
you’re getting a chance to lead your team to
a national championship after not knowing if you’d
ever get a chance to play the game again. But it’s
not easy when you have to play each game with a torn
knee ligament – Van der Gulik’s latest
He got caught on an edge the night BU
beat Boston College to win the Beanpot championship
on Feb. 13 and tore the PCL in what he calls his “middle”
knee. After fighting tooth and nail to get back on
the ice following the abdominal injury, Van der Gulik
said there was no way anything – even a torn-up
knee – would end his collegiate career.
“The knee is pretty serious,”
he says. “It’s a torn ligament, but it’s
not one of the major ligaments. It’s actually
the best one to tear if you’re going to tear
one, the doctors say. I can play through it, and it
doesn’t really hold me back. It’s nothing
compared to the [abdominal injury]. It’s a piece
It’s probably not the type of
dessert Van der Gulik was hoping for after doing such
a great job to get back on the ice, but with an NCAA
Tournament bid locked up and a chance to win the Hockey
East Championship this weekend, the chance for something
sweeter is on the horizon.
With the Terriers struggling to find
consistency a few months back and Van der Gulik struggling
to even figure out what was wrong with him, that doesn’t
seem all that bad.