January 28, 2014

From Westminster To Worcester

By Emily Correia
Special to GoHolyCross.com

Although they have now changed the color of their jerseys from gold and black to purple and black, two Crusaders don the same black and white accent colors whenever they step on the ice together again. After spending two seasons apart, sophomore Jake Bolton (Ellington, Conn.) and freshman Nick Finn (Canton, Mass.) returned to the ice in the fall of 2013 as a pair. The two previously played together at the Westminster School in Connecticut for head coach Tim Joncas. Bolton paved the way at Holy Cross entering as a freshman in 2012 and establishing himself as an asset at the point for the Crusaders. Bolton scored a goal and tallied six assists for seven points during the season. Coming into the next season, Bolton received news that his friend and former teammate would be joining him in the locker room again. "Jake was one of the first people I called the day I committed," Finn recollected. "He was as excited as I was about the news and I couldn't wait to once again be teammates." Bolton remembered, "I was obviously excited that I was going to be able to spend some of my college years with such a close friend."

Before arriving at Holy Cross the two previously found success at Westminster. In 2011, during Bolton's senior and Finn's junior year, Westminster experienced incredible success. Finn's favorite part looking back on playing together before Holy Cross was winning a large school championship, Flood-Marr championship and being national finalists. During that season, Bolton posted five goals and 15 assists for 20 points. Throughout his four-year career at Westminster, Bolton notched 15 goals and 33 assists for 48 points. Finn put up 29 goals and 41 assists for 70 points in the 55 games he played over his two-year tenure. "Nick and Jake are outstanding people who represent themselves, their families and their schools very, very well," Joncas said of the pair. "I am very proud of both boys and that pride does not just come from the fact that they are both playing hockey at a very high level. They are good, kind, responsible citizens who understand the importance, and obligation, to give back to their communities. Again, it is a huge thrill for me seeing both boys compete at that level but the mark they left on me has nothing to do with their talent as players but rather the kind of people they were and have become!" The duo parted ways after Westminster going on to find success in their junior hockey careers, but two years later they met again at the college level. 

"The nice thing about having shared a jersey before is that we have a strong chemistry on and off the ice," Bolton said. For a second time, Finn looked to Bolton to ease the transition to a new place. "Jake showed me the ropes when I first stepped on campus at Westminster and has now made for a much easier transition to Holy Cross both academically and athletically," Finn remembered. "Our friendship has grown exponentially over these past few years. I have looked up to Jake and known that I can go to him with any questions I may have." Not only does the pair push each other in hockey, but they motivate each other in life as well. Both Bolton and Finn lean on each other for support. Finn noted that, "I have found myself quite often in my first few months here seeking out Jake for advice about both academics and hockey."

Since the beginning of this season, Bolton and Finn have pushed each other to get better in every part of their game. Bolton reflected that, "Getting to play together again is like getting a brother back. Nick has had a great season so far especially for a first year kid, something that I expected of him coming in. There's no pulling any punches when it comes to motivating each other or trying to improve each other's game. We can vocalize stuff and call each other out when we need to with no hard feelings." Finn echoed saying that, "We constantly push each other day in and day out in practice to make each other the best players we can be." 

Their drive and aspirations to become the best that they can be have paid off for the pair this season. Bolton is leading all defensemen on the team with his seven points as he has scored twice and tallied five assists. He also has spent this season nationally ranked in blocked shots and blocked shots per game. Bolton leads the team and is tied for 30th in the country and fifth in the conference with his 46 blocked shots. Finn has scored three goals and posted three assists for six points so far in his freshman season, the second most among freshmen on the team. Finn was named the Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Week on Nov. 19, 2013 after his two-goal performance against Connecticut. Finn is one of two Crusaders this season to score multiple goals in a game. When playing together against No. 7 Boston College earlier this season, Bolton and Finn set up the game-winning goal. This game was one of three contests this season that they have each posted at least one point in the same appearance. 

With the confidence that they can take on any challenge together, the two are poised to take on the rest of the season. Finn noted that, "I am really looking forward to continuing the success we have shared together in the past at Westminster here at Holy Cross." Reflecting back on their years in the past and the season thus far, Bolton said, "A teammate is basically a family member, especially around the rink, and to see how Nick has improved his game not only in juniors but in his last year at Westy is what made it special. I'm looking forward to the next two and a half years and I think Nick and I will do some great things here at the Cross."

Bolton and Finn have another two full seasons ahead of them and the conclusion of this season together. They hope that they can continue their past triumphs and use them to bring more success to Holy Cross hockey in the future. They take each day as a fight to take the ice together and perform at the highest level that they can. The pair hopes that they can work together and push each other to do everything that they can to be as successful as possible in the future. "Making the lineup in a D1 sport is always a battle, so it's good to have that guy down the bench that you know is pulling for you," Bolton concluded. "I think that is what we get the most out of when it comes to being on the same team again. We know how hard we worked to get here so we are genuinely excited when we hear coach Pearl call 26 or 2 for a roster spot."