By Patrick Donnelly
After three years on Commonwealth Avenue, junior forward Robert Mastrosimone will be taking his talents to Arizona State University, joining the Sun Devils at their new arena in Tempe for his senior season.
The East Islip, N.Y., native had a breakout year at Boston University in 2021-22, putting up 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points, all career-highs, in 34 games. On his career at BU, Mastrosimone had 21 goals and 29 assists for 50 points in 83 contests over three seasons with the Terriers.
A second round pick (54th overall) of the Detroit Red Wings in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the 5-foot-10, 170 pound forward was part of the program’s 31st Beanpot championship this season. He scored with 1:42 remaining in regulation to put BU up 4-3 on Boston College in the 2020 Beanpot semifinal before the Terriers eventually won 5-4 in double overtime.
He took time for a Q&A on Wednesday to reflect on his three years at BU, and look ahead to what’s next in the desert.
First off, what went into your decision to enter the transfer portal?
Robert Mastrosimone: “It was definitely a tough decision. I mean, I love BU. I love everyone here. I love Boston. The city is great. Everything here is awesome. So, it was definitely a tough decision to enter the portal, but at the end of the day, I needed to do what I felt was right for me, and that’s a fresh start. Just getting out, and getting in front of some new faces in a new place. I went through some mental stuff this year that I needed to get resolved. I think that just getting somewhere else will really help me overall mentally, physically and hockey-wise. So, I think just a fresh start was needed.”
What was the process like committing to ASU?
RM: “Once I entered the portal, it was pretty crazy. My phone was blowing up a little bit. It was crazy. I had a lot of options. I talked to a lot of people, and really discussed it with my family, my advisors, my friends and everyone who’s really close to me about what the best option was.
The staff at ASU is unbelievable. Their facilities – the new rink they’re getting in June is unbelievable. They’ve got an amazing strength and conditioning program there. I’m going there the whole summer. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and a lot of hard work. They really, really, really fit me well over there with just everything I needed.”
You had your best collegiate season yet in terms of production, what clicked for you on the ice this year?
RM: “Just really focusing on playing the team game every day, coming to work every day, and focusing on what I could do to make my teammates and my line-mates better, having a good relationship with everyone on the team and them being able to make me better. We had a lot of great success as a team in the second half this year, and I think that helped lead to my success this season. If it weren’t for how good and how hot we got in the middle of the season, it could be a different story. But hey, we did. I feel like I played really well in the second half.”
You’ve always had the skill and some grit to your game. Where do you think you’ve grown the most as a player?
RM: “I think the most I’ve grown as a player is definitely fitting that skill in with the grit. I like to be a little rat on the ice. I like to get in the corners, get to work, and get dirty. Then the skill takes care of itself. Once you do that, once you work to get the puck back, the skill will come out. I think really this year, I focused on trying to get a little bit bigger, and definitely this summer I’ve already put on a good amount of weight since the end of the season. So I think that’s going to be the main thing for me this year, just to develop my game. I’ve got to get heavier. I’ve got to be harder. I’ve got to be stronger. That’ll really help showcase my skill.”
You and Matt Brown had a fun warmup routine this year. How did you guys come up with that?
RM: “We had a lot of routines that no one sees, me and Brownie. He’s the man. Thursday practices, we would stay out after and do the same exact things every Thursday. Do the same cross-ice passes, one-timers, the same games, the same competitions between me and him at the end. We’d flip the pucks up, and hit them in the air a certain amount of times before we put the last one in the bag.
We had a lot of things, and it translated into warmups. We were just like ‘Alright, let’s do something. Like let’s have a routine here. We can get ready for the game.’ You’d see us passing back and forth really quickly. We did a lot of shooting. We did the funny passes. So it was getting dialed in, getting the stick and the touches ready, but also being a little bit loose and having some fun, really getting the mind ready to play the type of game we wanted to play.”
As someone who’s experienced losing the Beanpot as a freshman, what was it like winning it this year?
RM: “It’s hard to describe, honestly. It’s such an amazing feeling. I mean, I had been committed to BU since I was 14. I had been looking forward to that tournament for years and years. I’ve watched all the Beanpots. Then just to come so close freshman year at the end is just heartbreaking. You never forget that. You don’t forget that feeling you had when you lose in a game like that.
This year, we had a lot of guys who played in that game, and we had a lot of new guys on the team. You woke up that morning and it was just like, ‘Yep, this is it. We’re winning the Beanpot.’ It was just a good feeling around the locker room and the team. Everyone knew we were going to win. When that buzzer rang and we were up 1-0 at the end, it was just unbelievable. Poetic, just the way it happened.”
One thing that sticks out is the goal to get the lead late against BC in the semifinals your freshman year off that pass from Trevor Zegras before getting the win in double overtime. What do you remember from that?
RM: “That was crazy. I remember that real well. I kind of got up by the blue line. The puck was going out. Patrick Harper kept it in and sent it down that bench-side wall to Zegras. As I was swinging around back towards the net, I saw him get the puck. I was like, ‘Oh my god, he’s gonna pass this to me. He sees me. He definitely sees me. He’s giving this to me.’ I saw that pass coming and thought, ‘Oh my god.’ I just tried to get it on net, and it went five hole. I looked back, I saw it in the net, and I just turned up the wall and cellied. I was like, ‘Holy crap. We just won this game.’ That put us up. Then what do you know, BC goes down and scores seconds later to tie the game.
That game was so memorable. It went past midnight. In the locker room between the first overtime and the third period, guys were screaming, and we were getting pumped. Then after the first overtime, it was silent. Guys were stretching. Guys were cramping. We said, ‘We’ve got to bear down here. This is our game to lose now. Let’s go. We’ve got to win this game.’ Then we know what happened after that. Wilmer Skoog buried that rebound, and it was just mayhem.”
What was it like as a student-athlete trying to navigate all the craziness from the end of your freshman season to now, while balancing everything?
RM: “It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting for my college experience the first three years. The first year everything was good in the first half, and then we got shut down right before playoffs. That was heartbreaking. We were going to play UMass-Lowell, and we had a meeting the day before the game. It was ‘Hey, we think the season’s getting canceled.’ So, we were sitting like, ‘Whoa.’ Everyone’s going home and getting moved to online. It was tough. You didn’t get to be around your friends. You didn’t get to be around the people you spend every day with. So, it definitely took a toll mentally on me, and I know it did on a lot of guys.
Last year, my sophomore season was definitely weird. We weren’t allowed out of the dorms or to go hang out with your teammates. You were in the dorms, and whoever lives there are the only guys you can hang out with. We had small groups in practice, small groups in the gym, different locker rooms all year, and we didn’t start until January. It was a lot of adversity, and a lot of stress and anxiety behind all of it for everyone. I was just so happy with the guys and how we handled that. We came out in January, kind of put on a show, and made it to the tournament. As weird as it was, it was an unforgettable year, especially making the tournament. That’s something you dream of, and that was a really cool experience.
This year we got a little bit back to normal, but still we had to deal with all the COVID. We had a ton of injuries at the beginning of the season, which kind of hurt us a little bit, but this team handled it really well. We handled it better than a lot of teams I think. Overall, it made these three years at BU just crazy, memorable, upsetting and awesome. Every emotion you could think of was filled.”
There were 13 of you in your freshman class, including fellow Red Wings prospect Ethan Phillips. How was it having so many of you coming all in the same boat, coming into college?
RM: “It definitely made the transition to college a little easier. A lot of times you come in as a freshman, and you don’t get that many on your team. You’re getting used to it. You don’t have too many guys to hang out with at first, and you’ve got to make friends. But I feel like coming in with that giant freshman class. We all bonded really quickly. That was really cool, and I’ve stuck with them for three years. Then, being a Detroit prospect with Phillips, he’s been my roommate the last two years. He and I are best friends. We have a really good relationship, and it made the transition a lot easier.”
Looking ahead, BU has a trip to ASU next season. Have you thought about facing your old team, and have guys started chirping you yet?
RM: “Absolutely. I’m sure they’ve got something on the board in the locker room. We’ve started a little bit of friendly chirping. I think it’s more that I’m so excited I’ll get to see everyone. They’ll get to come down there and play. I’ll get to see my boys and my best friends. It’s going to be really cool, but also bittersweet, obviously. But I’m really happy that BU gets to come down to Arizona this year, and we get to play.”
Lastly, what are you looking forward to most about ASU?
RM: “I’m looking forward to just getting down there, and really taking advantage of everything they have to offer. It’s a big school. It’s a different style campus than BU. I’m excited to kind of get on a college campus a little bit. Obviously with different weather, it’s really nice down there, so that’s something to look forward to also. I’m excited to get in that new rink. It’s beautiful. I got to see it when I visited. It’s going to be unbelievable when it’s ready in June.
I’m really excited just to take advantage of everything they have to offer, and really get to compare two different programs. One, with a lot of history. Obviously at BU, we’ve got a ton of history here. Then a program with not that much history, so I’m really excited to hopefully be able to write some history of our own next year.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The Sun Devils will host the Terriers, Air Force and Michigan Tech in the Desert Hockey Classic from Jan. 6-7, 2023.