WASHINGTON - This doesn't happen too often: A player loses his scholarship, then wins player of the year.
Matt Gilroy came to Boston University as a walk-on, and he's essentially leaving as one because his coach was certain he'd turn pro after his junior year. The senior captain also is leaving with the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, receiving the honour given to U.S. college hockey's top player Friday night at the Frozen Four.
He could also leave with one more coveted prize: a national championship for the Terriers, who play Miami University in Saturday night's title game.
"Four years ago sitting on my couch at home, talking to my dad, my junior career was over and I had nowhere to go," Gilroy said. "I think I emailed every team in the country. I tried calling every team in the country. No one was interested at all. Then a powerhouse like BU gives me an opportunity."
Albeit grudgingly. Assistant coach Mike Bavis was in Gilroy's corner, but head coach Jack Parker took a while to warm to the kid from North Bellmore, N.Y., who was willing to shift from forward to defence.
"I was in sheer panic when I moved back to defence," Gilroy said. "They gave me the option and I just said yes immediately without thinking. And then in the car on the way home I said to my dad, 'What did I just do?"'
Gilroy turned into an iron man, playing in a consecutive games streak that will reach 146 in his college finale Saturday. This season, he had eight goals and 28 assists in 43 games. He led all Hockey East defencemen in scoring and ranked third in the nation.
The second BU player to win the award following Chris Drury in 1998, Gilroy was selected over fellow finalists Colin Wilson of BU and Northeastern goalie Brad Thiessen of Aldergrove, B.C.
Gilroy wears jersey No. 97 in memory of his brother, Timmy, who died in a bicycle accident at a young age.
"Seeing that jersey and the number I wear for my brother, I get goose bumps every time I walk in the locker room," Gilroy said.
Gilroy made sure to thank his parents at the ceremony -- for good reason. He didn't get a scholarship until his junior year, then received offers as a free agent from some 23 NHL teams after last season. Parker felt his talented player was ready for the pros and advised him to go -- and gave his scholarship to someone else.
"I was pretty mad," Gilroy said. "My first reaction was not too happy. I remember calling Coach and, like, 'Are you kidding me?' Then I realized what was done. It's worked out for the best -- except for my dad. He's had to pay a lot of money for me, and I hope I can pay him back one day."