Sean Kuraly never had the chance to play on the big stages growing up. Hailing from Dublin, Ohio, he never played in a true hockey market. Kuraly played at the highest level of hockey available in Ohio, a center for the Tier 1, Ohio AAA Blue Jackets, and his skills and talent got him noticed by the United States National Development Program Team, but after four games he was dismissed, and instead joined the Indiana Ice of the USHL.
Kuraly was a strong juniors player and at the 2011 NHL Draft, he was selected 133rd overall by the San Jose Sharks. But, after his junior career was over, he just wasn’t ready for the NHL – he went on to play NCAA hockey at Miami University – Ohio.
NOTE: Miami University has turned out mostly AHL and depth NHL players, Alec Martinez being the most notable alumni from the program.
Kuraly averaged around 30 points per season, and 0.75 PPG during his time at Miami University. A decent college player, but nothing to write home about. After his junior year, Kuraly’s rights were traded to Boston as part of the transaction that sent Martin Jones to San Jose, and in 2016, Kuraly was assigned to the Providence Bruins; there, he scored 26 points in 54 games before being called up for the playoffs in spring of 2017.
Now, here’s the thing about Kuraly: he doesn’t score a lot. But when he scores, it matters. If Kuraly played baseball, he would be widely known as a ‘clutch hitter’. For instance, Kuraly scored his first two career goals in Game 5 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals where the Bruins beat the Ottawa Senators 3–2; the second was the double-overtime game winner.
His first regular season goal came against the Vegas Golden Knights, also a game winner, in a 2-1 battle on November 2nd, 2017.
But why is that important today?
Well, today was the Winter Classic, a winter tradition with a ton of promise that has become a running game of ‘what team will the Chicago Blackhawks or Boston Bruins play this year?’ that we all watch anyway, for some reason.
This year, they traveled to South Bend, Indiana to play each other.
Yes, you read that right. Indiana. Y’know, the same place where Sean ‘clutch’ Kuraly played junior hockey.
So the game starts. The stadium full of Blackhawks fans are loud, some poor guy dressed as a leprechaun falls, and the puck is dropped.
Brendan Perlini scores midway through the first period for Chicago, igniting the noise of the midwest crowd. David Pastrnak evens the score for the Bruins just 4 minutes later. The first period ends; the score is tied, and the mood tense.
The second period begins and remains scoreless for the first 10 minutes. At 11:24 Dominik Kahun scores for the Blackhawks, and the B’s go back to work to even the score, and Patrice Bergeron did so at 18:48 as the period was coming to an end.
Going into the third period, the score is tied and it is a 20 minute game. In Indiana, where Sean Kuraly played Junior Hockey. On the field where Rudy sacked the Georgia Tech Quarterback and was carried off on his teammates’ shoulders, a hero finally got his moment on the biggest stage.
10 minutes and 20 seconds into the third period, Sean Kuraly is like a cat, leaping towards the goal, swatting down a rebound with a backhand and into the back of the net past Cam Ward.
Brad Marchand gets an insurance goal in the last 40 seconds of the game, but Sean Kuraly was the hero. If they hadn’t been on skates, Zdeno Chara would have listed the third line center onto his shoulders and they would have walked off into the sunset. A Rudy moment, fit for the setting.
The young Bruin doesn’t score often, but when he does, they’re important goals. He doesn’t get a lot of attention, but when he does, its deserved. And Sean Kuraly hasn’t gotten to play on the biggest stages through out his career, but now that he does, now that he has the world’s attention, he’s making it count.