Though Noel Acciari’s goal Tuesday night was not the game winner for the Boston Bruins in their tilt against the Nashville Predators, it was a milestone that the rookie had undoubtedly dreamed about for as many years as he’d been lacing up the hockey skates.
With 4:13 remaining in the third period and the Bruins nursing a one-goal lead in a game of which they needed to take the two points, Riley Nash, skating down the left wing, had Acciari on the right wing and Drew Stafford trailing a bit as center in triangle formation. They skated into Nashville’s zone on a 3-on-1 rush for the Bruins. Though it looked like Nash might try for the goal himself, he drew it backhand and made a solid pass to Acciari, who beat Predators goalie Pekka Rinne glove side to get his first career NHL goal in his 43rd game.
His teammates were so happy for him and David Pastrnak helped him celebrate during a postgame, on-camera, interview with the requisite shaving cream pie to the face.
— Yianni Kourakis (@YianniKourakis) March 29, 2017
Postgame all of Acciari’s teammates were thrilled for his accomplishment, but also made a point of discussing the many things he does game in and game out that may not show up on a score sheet but are as important in that physical-style game the Bruins are known for.
“Yeah, I’m glad I don’t have to play against him because those [hits] look like they hurt a lot of the time. It doesn’t matter if he’s hitting you or you’re trying to hit him. He’s pretty sturdy,” Nash said after the Bruins win. “And he just creates a lot of space. If he’s in on the forecheck and hits one of their D-men, it kind of takes them out of the play and gives us a couple extra feet with the puck.”
The 5’10” Rhode Island native checks in at 208 pounds, solid as a Sequoia, and may actually be able to demonstrate the answer to what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. If Acciari is the immovable object or the unstoppable force, the other player usually finds himself on the ice on his behind. An opposing player would probably have better luck running into a bull. And for all the players on the ice, it’s probably a good thing that the 25-year-old Providence College alum isn’t any taller, or he could unintentionally do some serious damage to opposing players.
“I can’t help that I’m solid and they don’t know it, but, you know I just kind of… be aware of if a hit’s coming and kind of be able to brace myself,” Acciari said of how opponents often underestimate his strength. “Just throw hits when I can, but anyway to get to the puck; go through them or around I’ll pretty much do it.”
Veteran NHLer David Backes commented as to how pretty Acciari’s goal was and alluded to how quiet he is, focusing on his job. Backes stressed how pleased he was that Acciari was getting the recognition on such an important moment in the life of any NHL player.
It is those solid hits and the other areas in which Acciari comes up big for his line mates that, though they don’t make the score sheet, play a pivotal role in the Bruins being able to score. And Acciari doesn’t worry that the often, and rather ironic, subtle efforts of his game may go overlooked by fans in the stands.
“If it helps the team, I’m going to continue doing it,” Acciari responded. “And I’m not going to change my style to what got me here, so I’m going to continue doing that and I think keep opening up space for Riley [Nash] and Dom [Moore].”
Though they are fourth liners, they have certainly been a dominant line of players in the last couple of games—especially Nash who had both goals against the New York Islanders on Saturday’s win for the Bruins.
“He has a hot stick, but I was just ready for anything and he happened to pass it—great pass, good poise, and he left me, like I said, with an easier part just to kind of tap it in,” Acciari said of Nash’s assist on the goal.
For Acciari? Even with the focus on him, like most hockey players, he couldn’t go a couple of sentences in answer to any question about the goal without mentioning his teammates, especially his line mates Nash and Moore.
“Your first NHL goal is a special feeling and to finally have it, you know, like I said before, I couldn’t have done it without the other guys, the other four, five guys on the ice. But it feels good.”
For Acciari, he can revel in the feelings of this moment until he drifts off to sleep, but come Wednesday the team will be back at practice in preparation for taking on the Dallas Stars Thursday night.
Acciari’s first career NHL goal: