By Kirk Luedeke
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Until this past spring, they were cross-town collegiate rivals.
Now, defensemen Tommy Cross (Simsbury, Conn.) and David Warsofsky (Marshfield, Mass.) are taking the Ristuccia Memorial Arena ice united in their quest to one day become members of the team they both cheered for as youngsters, the Boston Bruins. Both can lay claim to NCAA titles won at Boston University by Warsofsky in 2009 and then Cross at Boston College a year later. When Warsofsky decided to forego his senior season with the Terriers to turn pro and join the Providence Bruins last March, their NCAA rivalry ended.
Now, the two stand as contrasts as you watch the pair go about their business at Boston’s fifth annual prospects development camp this week.
Cross, a rising senior at BC, was elected captain of the 2011-12 squad recently by his teammates, an honor he takes great pride in. He stands 6-foot-3 and weighs about 215 pounds. He’s big, bruising physical rearguard who skates well and likes to bang opponents against the walls and play a tough, tenacious style of defense. The 21-year-old may not put up big points, but with a booming slap shot, he’s been known to score some memorable goals in his career, including an overtime tally that got his Eagles into the 2011 Beanpot Championship game.
This week, however, Cross is taking his considerable experience gleaned from having been at all five team prospect camps since the B’s began holding them in 2007, and trying to make life easier for the younger guys seeing it all for the first time.
“[I'm] just kind of going about things the right way and answering any questions they might have,” Cross said. “It’s always little things. These guys are so experienced in juniors and college, wherever they may be. So, a lot of the times it’s just little questions about logistics or what to expect, where to be at what time. I remember having the same questions when I was younger, so it’s good to have someone to ask.”
Warsofsky (pictured above) isn’t quite the old hand that Cross is. He was originally drafted by the St. Louis Blues in 2008 after a superb career at Cushing Academy followed by a stint in the U.S. NTDP in Ann Arbor, Mich. In 2008-09, he joined the Terriers and was a key contributor to that team’s memorable “Burn the Boats” run to the 2009 Frozen Four and overtime victory over Miami University in an epic game played in Washington, D.C.
“For me, it’s just more comfortable,” Warsofsky told New England Hockey Journal. “Last year I was a little bit nervous, I didn’t really know what to expect and this year, I’m a little more comfortable. I know more guys, I’m more comfortable with the coaching staff. So far, it’s been a great experience.”
Warsofsky, 21, is an undersized (listed at 5-foot-9, 170-pounds, which just might be a tad inflated), but skilled offensive-minded defenseman who is fast and agile. He aggressively rushes the puck and has a knack for getting his heavy shot through to the net from the point.
After leaving Commonwealth Ave a few months ago, he registered three assists in 10 games in the AHL.
“Yeah, it was good,” he said of his time in Providence. “I think you get a little taste of what you’re going to be up for next year and you get used to the speed and the pace of the game a little bit, so it’s good to get down there and get some time and familiar with the guys down there and the coaches also.”
Cross has battled right knee woes since sliding into third base during a Babe Ruth baseball game just weeks before the B’s took a chance on him with the 35th overall selection in 2007. Since then, he’s had several procedures on the knee which cost him a lot of playing time and angst. Now healthy and playing with confidence, Cross is showing off his powerful stride, smooth lateral mobility and a penchant for playing shutdown defense.
“I was 17 when I got picked,” he said. “Four years later, I’ve been through college for three years and been through some different things, some injuries and a national championship, going through stuff like this at development, so all of that stuff kind of adds up and helps your experience and what you’ve gone through and gives you more confidence to handle any kind of adversity you’ve had to go through.”
Cross and Warsofsky played hard against one another in the rough-and-tumble Hockey East, but both now stand united as B’s prospects. They also can’t help but feel energized by the fact that they’re in camp not only as members of the organization they cheered for growing up in New England, but got to see their beloved Bruins win the 2011 Stanley Cup.
“Yeah, it was pretty special,” Warsofsky said. “Obviously I grew up a Bruins fan my whole life and I never saw them win a Stanley Cup, so to have them win a Stanley Cup and be a little part of that organization is special.”
Cross, who grew up in Connecticut cheering for the black and gold and idolizing Ray Bourque, concurred.
“It makes you see the possibilities of what could be if you put in the work,” he said. “That was an unbelievable run the Bruins made and I think it’s something that everyone can take a lot of pride in.”
Both hope that in earning spots in the NHL with the team down the road, they too, can experience the joys of a Stanley Cup championship firsthand.