Photo by Rena Laverty
One simple thing led Drew Commesso to playing goal.
“When I was younger, I really liked the helmet and the equipment," Commesso said. "You look different than everyone on the ice, especially different from when I played forward."
Equipment played another role when Commesso was 6. After the regular goalie forgot his gear, Commesso stepped in. Once he found his spot, he didn’t want to leave the crease. It was Commesso’s dad John who introduced him to the sport and served as his coach.
“He was the one that signed me up for hockey,” Commesso, who grew up in Norwell, Massachusetts, said. “He was my coach during my time in pee-wees and the town team, and was an assistant coach for my club team. It was a big help to have him on the bench and in practice. He would always let me know how I was doing and could help me.”
Commesso did play other sports growing up but realized how much he preferred playing ice hockey.
“I played baseball until my sophomore year of high school and I also played lacrosse growing up,” he said. “I quit lacrosse so I could focus on goalie, although I did play goalie in lacrosse too and have seen how my friends get all beat up.
“The funny thing is that I would play street hockey with my buddies and I would always be the goalie.”
Commesso naturally gravitated to the position. It was the only one he wanted to watch on the ice when he attended Boston Bruins games.
“We would go to game and get to sit behind the net, so I could watch them,” Commesso said. “My dad and his friends had split season tickets and we would get to go to six games a year.
“When I was little, I really liked Tim Thomas. He won the 2011 Stanley Cup with the Bruins. I just loved to watch him. I also watched Tuukka Rask, who took over for him. It was perfect for me to sit behind the net to watch the goalies.”
When Commesso had an opportunity to leave home and join USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, he jumped at the chance to grow and develop as a player, although there were some rough spots in the transition.
“I had to get used to the schedule,” Commesso said. “It was definitely different than last year when I had a long commute to school. Now, we have school, practice and weights. I have learned it is important to take care of my body and its recovery. Plus, I have had to learn how to manage my time well.”
In addition, Commesso is enjoying some valuable lessons from goaltending coach Thomas Speer, who has helped him develop throughout the season.
“He has taught me to stay calm, especially in heated moments,” Commesso said of Speer. “When we played Canada in Canada in the quarterfinals of the [Under-17] World Challenge, it was the first time many of us had played in that type of atmosphere. He is always telling me to trust the process and trust myself as I’m going to see the results from my training and hard work in practice. I know that I have to trust the training, trust the coaching staff and trust what they tell us to do.”
Favorite NHL team
Favorite U.S.-born player
Best advice you've received
"I've never met a happy lazy person." — Mr. Burke (headmaster of St. Sebastian's)
Favorite TV show
Favorite musical artist
Favorite sport outside of hockey
If you could travel anywhere ...
To the Bahamas to swim in the clear water and golf on the courses.
The process really stood out for Commesso during wins for the U17s against Tri-City on Jan. 3 and Central Illinois on Jan. 11-12. It marked a time Commesso felt he and his teammates grew.
“The first win against Tri-City was huge for us as they are at the top of the league,” Commesso said. “I think we were playing some of our best hockey and it helped us get in the groove that we can play well as a team. I got my first shutout but it was a team effort. They were blocking shots — Matthew Beniers, Landon Slaggert and Tanner Latsch — and the D-men did a great job of making sure that I could see the shots. They really helped take away the grade-A scoring chances.
“The second night, even after (Central Illinois) scored two goals late to force overtime, I think we rebounded. I think we outplayed them in overtime and we had some confidence heading into the shootout. For me, all I wanted to do was take one shooter at a time and make the save. Thomas Bordeleau made a nice move to win the game for us.”
I think we were playing some of our best hockey and it helped us get in the groove that we can play well as a team. I got my first shutout but it was a team effort.
With just a few short weeks before the U17s head to Sweden for their final international tournament of the season, Commesso knows his team has to take the valuable lessons it's learning and apply it to the event.
“We need to trust each other,” Commesso said. “We have come a long way. We finished nearly last in our first tournament and then, we were second in the next one and beat Russia once. It really shows how far we have come. We need to believe in what we do and come out and play with our best effort. The mental aspect is going to be important — as we have shown that we can handle adversity. We just need to play our game.”
It's a big reason why it's special for Commesso to wear the colors of his country each and every day.
“It is a dream come true,” Commesso said. “I get chills every day that I get to wear the jersey, whether it is in practice or games. In our huddle in the crease before games, we shout USA. It give me the chills. It is such an honor to wear and I’m so grateful for this opportunity.”
Of course, it's also a big reason why he put some unique items on his USA goalie mask.
“I was really looking for ideas that were unique,” Commesso said. “I had an idea in the summer that I wanted USA items on my mask and it really wanted something that no one had done before. Plus, I wanted to give it a retro look.”
Photo by Rena Laverty
Commesso loves the final product.
“I put Jim Craig on my helmet," he said. "He was the best American goalie, played for Team USA in the Olympics and won a gold medal. I added Uncle Sam on the other side. I got the idea from [former NTDP goaltender] Jake Oettinger, who I skate with in the summer. I saw it and thought it would be sweet. Of course, I had to have the Boston skyline as a reminder of where I come from. Finally, I had the St. Sebastian’s logo on it as I am the person who I am today because of that school [his high school alma mater].
“I left the rest of the design to the designer and painter. I had some ideas but I really had them put on the finishing touches.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.