David Walberg/University of Massachusetts Boston

From lacrosse recruit to Division 3 hockey star, Nick Albano making most of opportunity with Bruins

Cameron Kerry
June 28, 2018 - 10:11 pm

Nick Albano was committed to play lacrosse in college, but he has spent the past three days on the ice sporting his hometown spoked B across his chest.

Albano's road to Bruins development camp is nothing short of improbable. Players that attend development camp typically play in Europe, the Canadian Hockey League, or NCAA Division I. The Beverly, Mass. native skated with UMass-Boston, a Division 3 school this past season.

Albano was both a skilled attackman on the turf and a gifted defenseman on the ice for Proctor Academy. He scored 23 points his senior season at Proctor, but made waves for his ability to put the ball in the net on the lacrosse field.

"No, to be honest, not once did that cross my mind," said Albano, when asked if he ever envisioned himself playing for the Bruins. "I was a big lacrosse kid growing up, so I always figured I'd play lacrosse in college."

Despite his gifted talents on the field, Albano's heart never lied with lacrosse. He asked his lacrosse coach if he could play junior hockey, something he had his heart set upon. The coaching staff supported his decision, encouraged by the fact that he would stay in shape. He still had his offer on the table, as long as he stayed in lacrosse mode by keeping up with his skills and throwing a ball against a wall occasionally.

Albano's love for hockey grew as his junior career took off. He played for the Portland Jr. Pirates and Islanders Hockey Club, both members of the USPHL Premier, before skating with Des Moines of the USHL.

A coach he grew close with, David McCauley, connected him with college coaches. All of sudden, Albano would be lacing up skates instead of cleats in college. Despite talking with Division I coaches for an extended period of time, no school offered. Albano chose to play Division III with UMass Boston instead.

"I just figured I could get the most out of going to UMass," said Albano. "I just spoke with my two coaches, Peter Belisle and Cory Schneider, and they are so supportive of me and wanted me so bad and gave me so much ice time. They gave me a great opportunity. I couldn't be more grateful."

Albano seized the opportunity. He totaled 35 points, which lead the Beacons defensemen, in his first season. His offensive impact earned him United States College Hockey Online Rookie of the Year and caught the eye of local Bruins scout Scott Fitzgerald.

"We had very high expectations for Nick when he arrived here," Belisle told USCHO.com. "He exceeded those expectations quite a bit and really showed a lot of maturity in his game as a freshman from the very first game of the season. He was a real complete defenseman, and his numbers reflect just how important to our team he was this season."

Most prospects showcasing their skill sets at the highest levels of amateur hockey to attract NHL interest. Albano garnered attention at a level most NHL scouts seldom search, where players compete for the love of the game instead of the potential making a career from the game.

"He has," said Bruins director of player development Jamie Langenbrunner, when asked if the coaching staff has been impressed with Albano throughout the week. "When you first said he's a D-3 guy, you're thinking, 'Maybe he'll be a little bit off pace', but he hasn't been. I think he's thrown himself right in there. He's got some skill - makes you wonder what some of the college coaches were doing not getting him into school somewhere. Good player. Our local scout Scott Fitzgerald highly recommended that we take a look at this kid and he hasn't disappointed."

Albano agrees with his assessment. Unafraid of the highly touted competition, he has approached the week with the attitude that he has nothing to lose and can only put his best foot forward.

"Everyone's like 'Oh it's D-3 it must be [expletive]' but our league is so competitive, even the bottom tier teams," said Albano. "Any game you can lose and any you can win. Every game is so fun and everyone wants it so much. It's so high intensity, just incredible. Once you're there, you realize it's fast. Sure, it's not Minnesota-Duluth or North Dakota or Harvard, like all those schools of all those guys in here, but I earned my spot just like everyone else. I feel like I'm doing just fine."

Albano is able to spend time with his family since they live on the North Shore. Albano lost his tooth on Wednesday and spent the next morning in the dentist's morning with his mother. His dad attends practices, proudly cheering on his son from the yellow seats overlooking the ice. The family grew up watching the black-and-gold. Now, they get to watch Nick represent their hometown team.

"I was definitely nervous. Coming into it, everyone is dreading day one," elaborated Albano. "Being able to get through that...it was just such a satisfying feeling. I had the skill, so I'm gonna be more than fine and I got my confidence up. I spoke with a few of the coaches and it helped me so much. I have all the support from all the Massachusetts people. People who I haven't heard from in years text me and say 'You're going to do great'; that really goes a long way."

On Thursday, Albano stood out as a must-watch player.

In 1-on-1 battle drills, he shut down Jakub Lauko, using his large frame and physicality to swallow up the Czech forward. Throughout the drills, Albano showcased strong puck protection abilities and an active stick. His energy radiated throughout the practice. After he and defensive partner Nick Wolff cleared the defensive zone on three-on-two drill and Albano screamed with joy, high-fiving his fellow blueliners sporting white jerseys. 

"The awestruck, I haven't seen that part from him," said Langenbrunner, playing down a question about if Albano would be overwhelmed by playing for his hometown team. "I've seen him throw himself right into it, right from the opening meeting. Great personality, he's engaged with all the guys. He definitely didn't take a back seat and I haven't noticed that on the ice either. He jumps right in and I've seen him lead some of the drills. That shows a lot about a kid - he wants to be a player. He's doing a lot of good things that are registering with a lot of us."

The former lacrosse recruit who watched the Bruins his whole life now has seized an incredible opportunity to compete against the organization's best prospects. A free spirit who loves to compete on the ice, Albano is relishing the opportunity to make his family and friends proud playing with the hometown team. 

"I can't really lose much out here," explained Albano. "I'm a D-3 guy, clearly the lowest level, but I'm coming out here and working my tail off and seeing where it takes me. I'm using everything I can as motivation."

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