By: Josh Brown
CHICAGO- Despite a historic season that saw him win Hockey East Player of the Year honors, Northeastern assistant captain Zach Aston-Reese left the Aon Grand Ballroom in Chicago without the nation’s most prestigious hardware on Friday evening.
University of Denver defenseman Will Butcher beat out Aston-Reese and Union College forward Mike Vecchione for the Hobey Baker Award. But even so, the moment served as a time to celebrate one of the most influential players in program history.
“It meant a great deal for me,” said Aston Reese, a Pittsburgh Penguin signee who is just the second player in Northeastern history (Brad Thiessen in 2009) to be named a Hobey Hat Trick finalist. “It meant a lot for my family and Northeastern as a whole.”
“I was a little bit immature when I came in,” said Aston-Reese, “and it was just a process for me to be able to control my emotions and change my attitude. Coach (Madigan) has been working with the Penguins and the Islanders so he knows what it’s like to be a professional, and I’m definitely seeing that now as a pro hockey player – that you have to leave your attitude at the door because you’ll be gone in a second if they sniff that out.”
Aston-Reese finished the 2016-2017 campaign either atop or tied the nation’s leads in goals (31), goals per game (0.82), shorthanded goals (four) and hat tricks (three). His 1.66 points per game is tied for best in the nation, and his 63 total points make him just one of twelve Division 1 players to reach the 60-point plateau in the last five seasons.
Earlier in the afternoon, Aston-Reese was named a CCM/AHCA First-Team All-American. The Staten Island native is the 19th player in Northeastern program history to receive the honor.
“I always had a pretty good work ethic, and I think just getting stronger each summer,” said Aston-Reese. “I think a lot that changed was my mindset and my approach to the game. I just got more mature and consistency is such a big thing. So I was trying to look forward to make a career out of it and what exactly [sic] I needed to do and consistency is a big thing.”
Following the conclusion of his senior season, Aston-Reese signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has already netted three goals and four assists with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the club’s AHL affiliate.
“There’s different aspects to it,” said Aston-Reese of the adjustment to professional hockey. “I had really good coaches here and they taught me the game and it’s been translating well to the AHL level.”