Joseph Campolieto has never played in the NCAA men’s hockey tournament.
He will be on familiar ice this weekend, though.
A transfer from Union College to Boston University, the senior defensemen will be in the Terriers’ lineup at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Northeast Regional semifinals against St. Cloud State. That game will take place at Times Union Center, where Campolieto has played Mayor’s Cup games for the Dutchmen against RPI.
Albany wasn’t scheduled to host the NCAA tournament in 2021, but picked up the Northeast Regional when the original host site, SNHU Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire, withdrew because of safety concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
So not only will Campolieto get to play at a rink he knows well, but it creates an opportunity for a mini-rooting section of his former teammates from just up the Thruway to be there.
“I was actually super-excited to hear that [BU was being sent to Albany],” Campolieto said by phone on Wednesday afternoon.
Although his playing time has fluctuated depending on how much of the roster was available at any given time, Campolieto has appeared in all 15 games for BU this season.
Union announced in late November that it was canceling the hockey season, leading to some seniors to enter the transfer portal, whether to use a final year of eligibility to 2021-22, or, like Campolieto, to play right away.
He got the call from BU in December, was accepted on Christmas Eve and was on campus by Dec. 30.
“From there, it was about getting to know the guys, the team, the facilities, the school itself,” Campolieto said.
“Compared to Union, I think I played a different role. Towards January, we had some guys out of the lineup for different reasons, and I filled in and played a decent amount. Recently, I’ve been playing a little less. I’ve adjusted to it. It’s different from Union, where I played 20-plus minutes a night, not necessarily as a go-to guy, but as one of the top defensemen. So it’s a bit of a transition, but I’m adjusting.”
“I like him a lot,” BU head coach Albie O’Connell said. “He’s kind of quiet, but he’s not quiet in his play. He’s a good skater. For an undersized defenseman, he is very strong. He can get under guys’ hands. He’s very good at the net front.
“He’s just starting to hit his stride. He didn’t really play in the fall. Basically, he was off all fall.”
Campolieto played 33 games for Union as a freshman in 2017-18, when the Dutchmen beat RPI 4-3 in the Mayor’s Cup.
He missed most of the second half of his sophomore season due to injury, including the Mayor’s Cup, then returned in time for the ECAC Hockey playoffs, when the Dutchmen swept Colgate, before losing in three games at Cornell in the quarterfinals.
Union dropped to an 8-25-4 record his junior year, as RPI got the best of Union in the Mayor’s Cup in an overtime shootout.
Campolieto has played against BU three times, a 4-1 loss as a freshman; a 2-1 win in the championship game of the Friendship Four in Belfast, Northern Ireland; and a 7-3 loss to open the 2019-20 season.
“I would have to say my best memory from the Mayor’s Cup was my freshman year, when Tyler Hynes scored,” he said, referring to a goal by Hynes, who rarely played, that gave Union a 3-0 lead in the 4-3 win.
One familiar face he expects to see this weekend is classmate Darion Hanson, who chose to stay at Union to graduate, then use his final year of eligibility as a goalie for UConn next season.
“I’m not positive who else is coming, but I know he’s my No. 1 supporter,” said Campolieto, who believes BU has a great shot to make the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh.
“We didn’t have a great season at Union my junior year, but I definitely thought we were going to be better this year and was looking forward to it, especially my senior year. It was obviously very devastating when they canceled the season. My whole take on it was they did it for a reason, and things happen for a reason. It ended up working out for myself.”