Drew Commesso: Looking Back and Ahead
By Gracie Davenport
Drew Commesso always knew he wanted to be a Terrier, and he has the evidence to prove it.
In elementary school, the budding goaltender was tasked with making a dream board of his career aspirations. Alongside the pictures of his favorite NHL teams and players, the Terrier logo burned brightest.
“I think it was in third grade. They said to put everything you want to be on it,” Commesso said. “I had a picture of the BU logo.”
Growing up in Norwell, it was easy for Commesso to envision himself one day in the Scarlet and White sweater.
After spending the past three seasons on Comm. Ave., the hometown netminder has accomplished just that. Capping off a career-best season with the Terriers, Commesso now hopes to fulfill the rest of his dream board by playing professional hockey.
Four days after BU’s 2022-23 season ended, the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2020 second-round pick signed a three-year, entry-level contract.
“I feel very prepared,” Commesso said. “I think I wouldn’t have taken the jump if I didn’t feel I was ready.”
Once a Terrier, Always a Terrier: BU Season Takeaways
Although excited to take that next step, Commesso is leaving behind a family at BU.
“In my whole hockey career, I’ve never been with a group that’s been that close,” Commesso said. “[The team] just had that special factor to it … it’s hard to know what that is unless you’ve really been a part of it.”
That “special” group redefined BU as a program this year.
After finishing tied for fourth in Hockey East and missing the national tournament last season, BU won the HE regular season title, HE Championship and Manchester Regional to make it to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2015.
“It was pretty hard to take in, honestly, because everything was happening so fast,” Commesso said. “Awesome to be a part of.”
One reason for the team’s success was the complete culture shift put forth by the Terriers’ new coaching staff — led by first-year head coach Jay Pandolfo.
“Everyone really bought in, and our head coach Jay Pandolfo honestly couldn’t have done a better job,” Commesso said. “He’s probably the best coach I’ve ever had in my life, and I thank him for making leaving so hard.”
While Commesso’s career numbers do not appear to drastically improve from one season to the next, the goalie ended his final year on Comm. Ave with a definitive statement. Wearing the ‘A’ in his final year as a Terrier, Commesso owned his leadership role to drive BU deep into the postseason.
Heading into the Frozen Four in Tampa, FL, the Terriers rode a nine-game win streak, and Commesso played a key factor. Over that stretch, the netminder posted a .936 save percentage and a 1.67 goals against average.
Some of his highlight moments include a 39-save shutout in the regular season finale and carrying his team to a HE title with back-to-back overtime wins at TD Garden.
NCAA Frozen Four: Commesso’s Final Moments in the BU Sweater
On April 6, BU’s season ended in heartbreaking fashion to the No. 1 Minnesota Golden Gophers. At the sound of the final horn, the entire roster crowded the blue paint to embrace Commesso in one final hug.
“The hardest part was just knowing that was the last time that group was gonna be on the ice together,” Commesso said. “We really spent every second together. We’d go to class, practice and then right after we’d leave the rink we’d just go hang out and play Xbox.”
During his last game as a Terrier, Commesso fought until the end — conceding only one even-strength goal to the nation’s leading offense.
In a moment usually reserved for captain Domenick Fensore, Commesso was instead the last Terrier to leave the ice that night.
As a whole, the netminder applauded the city of Tampa and the NCAA for making his last ride one to remember.
“Tampa did an amazing job,” Commesso said. “I was talking to some BU alumni after the game. We all agreed they should host it in Tampa every year just because of how well everything was run.”
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road: Commesso Heads to Rockford
Commesso joined the Blackhawks’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate — the Rockford IceHogs — midway through their game on April 11. The IceHogs were playing in one of their final regular season matchups, battling to secure the final playoff spot in the Central Division.
Especially at the end of the season, trying to acclimate to a new team can be a tough transition, but Commesso was reuniting with former BU teammate and roommate Alex Vlasic.
“I was in the locker room area after, and [Vlasic] just came over, gave me a big hug, and put his sweaty glove in my face,” Commesso said. “It was definitely a warm welcome from ‘Vlas.’”
Vlasic is not the only familiar face in the IceHogs’ locker room. Commesso also rejoined former USNTDP teammate Ryder Rolston, who signed with the Blackhawks after finishing his career with Notre Dame in March.
“I came in obviously on a team that had been together pretty much the whole season, and everyone’s been so awesome to me — making me feel at home already,” Commesso said. “I’m actually living with [Rolston] right now, so he’s been great.”
Given BU played into April, Commesso found a hungry team waiting in Rockford that did not clinch a playoff berth until its final regular season game. The IceHogs have been backed by an experienced goalie tandem all season, so the young goaltender will not be suiting up for his debut in the team’s Calder Cup run.
“Should be awesome. Obviously, I don’t think I’ll be playing,” Commesso said. “I’ve been doing my best to help them out in practice … I’m confident in the group. I’m looking forward to helping in any way I can.”
In the first round, the IceHogs swept the Iowa Wild in a best-of-three series to advance to the Divisional Semifinal. Their next series, a best-of-five series against the Texas Stars, began on April 28, with Texas taking the first two games.
However, the Blackhawks announced in a press release on May 1 that Commesso has been released from his professional tryout with the IceHogs. The netminder will join Terrier teammate Luke Tuch on Team USA at the 2023 IIHF World Championship. The tournament runs from May 12-28 in Tampere, Finland and Riga, Latvia.
Welcome to the Commes-show: Decision to Sign
The idea of one day playing in the NHL lingers in the back of every young hockey player’s mind, but for Commesso, he was only focused on playing at BU this season.
The assistant captain fully committed himself to the Terrier squad this year, and that showed on and off the ice. Commesso did not allow himself to start thinking about signing until after the season ended.
“I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do — even right up to the end of the season. I told my advisor throughout the year that I just wanted to focus on BU, and I was having so much fun, that nothing else really mattered,” Commesso said. “Once the season ended, we had some talks, and it was a really hard decision for me to make.”
Now that his collegiate journey is in the rearview, Commesso can finally shift his attention toward the NHL.
School’s Out for Summer: Prepping for the Offseason
Just as becoming a Terrier seemed written in the stars for Commesso from a young age, signing with the Blackhawks also seemed meant to be. BU was not the only logo on the elementary student’s dream board.
The Blackhawks logo also shared a spot.
“For some reason, I just liked the Blackhawks. I think it was just because they were so good, and they were always winning, as one of those little bandwagon kids,” Commesso said, laughing. “I know a younger me would be really proud and happy with how hard I’ve worked and how everything’s played out.”
In Tampa, Commesso battled against guys currently playing in the 2023 NHL Playoffs. However, the netminder will have a different road to the NHL.
Commesso is entering a Blackhawks organization rebuilding entirely from the ground up. While the entire roster and front office have been gutted, the prospect pool has been steadily growing.
For now, Commesso will not be rushed into a contender. Instead, he can gradually develop in Rockford and have the chance to cement himself as a cornerstone of the Blackhawks franchise.
“How [Chicago’s] going about everything is top-notch,” Commesso said. “I have trust in the organization moving forward, and I’m just really happy and excited to be a part of it.”
With another season full of meaningful experiences under his belt, Commesso should be ready to make his AHL debut next season. In the summer, he will attend his second NHL development camp to see where he stands among the rest of the Blackhawks’ prospects.
“It was a great week last year for development camp, and I know dev camp this summer will be awesome, too,” Commesso said. “Maybe spend some more time in Chicago, getting to know the area.”
Future of Terrier Hockey
Although Commesso will not be playing at Agganis Arena next season, the tried and true Terrier will not forget about the program that made him.
“I know 10-15 years from now that team will still be talking, and a bunch of those guys are going to be at my wedding,” Commesso said. “The best group I’ve ever been a part of.”
The BU lineup is bound to look different next year with the departure of Commesso and last season’s 11-member senior class, but no warning bells should be rung from the Terrier fan base.
With the highly touted incoming freshman class and junior goaltender Mathieu Caron’s recent transfer commitment to BU next season, the Terriers seem poised to get another crack at a national championship.
Commesso will be watching every step of the way.
“I’ll obviously be following them all season. A lot of my best friends still play on that team,” Commesso said. “I think this year is the standard of BU hockey moving forward … I expect them to be very good next season and for the seasons to come.