5FW Originals: Venti Continuing To Prove People Wrong

Former Boston College goalie Chris Venti is in camp with the ECHL’s San Francisco Bulls (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

When will people stop counting out Chris Venti?

For a while, it seemed as though the goaltender would be little more than a footnote in Boston College hockey history.

And then he went on to start one of the most anticipated games in the history of the program.

Then, people doubted that Venti would be able to get an opportunity at the pro level.

Now, after a brief stay with the Florida Everblades last season, the 24-year-old finds himself in training camp with the ECHL’s San Francisco Bulls.

“My agent had started off early in the summer at looking around at teams looking for goalies for the upcoming season and for training camp,” Venti told The Trentonian in a phone interview.

“San Francisco seemed to be a good fit, and we went back and forth a little bit, and they decided they wanted to invite me out. It worked out perfect.”

After the Eagles’ National Championship season had ended, Venti latched on with the Everblades in the playoffs, but didn’t get an opportunity to play. However, he feels as though his time there helped get his name out around the league and made him a viable option for the Bulls.

“Obviously, at BC I didn’t play as much as I would have liked to or have much that pro teams could look at,” he said.

“But being down there and being able to show them what I’m capable of — I don’t know if San Francisco called them and told them how I was — I think it helped a little bit.”

However, like many players in the league — and perhaps even more so with goaltenders — Venti finds himself in a tough situation with not knowing how many contracted players are going to come down and try to compete for one of a handful of available spots. The Bulls, NHL affiliate of the San Jose Sharks, have already received Taylor Nelson, and more players may be on the way.

“That’s kind of the uncontrollable, and it’s obviously in the back of your head, but you have to try and not think about it because it’s something that you can’t control,” said Venti, who played well in yesterday’s Bulls preseason game.

“For right now, I’m just kind of focusing on what I can control, and that’s coming to the rink every day, competing for that spot and hoping to make some good relationships with the guys on the team and find a spot here.”

A spot on any pro team seemed to be a pipe dream heading into Venti’s senior season. Stuck behind John Muse and Parker Milner, the popular backup played in just five games over his first three years with the Eagles, accumulating just 25 minutes of playing time in some mop-up duty.

Venti says he wasn’t sure going into his senior season if a pro career was going to be a realistic possibility for him, even coming out of a big program like Boston College.

“I knew that regardless of what happened my senior year of playing, I wanted to give it a shot if I could,” he said.

“The following season that happened, everything happened so quick, it only reaffirmed that feeling of wanting to be a pro hockey player. I just kind of went for it and trained this summer pretty hard and put myself in hopefully the best position to make that dream come true.”

And what happened was really quite remarkable. After a successful relief appearance in the previous game, the Needham, Mass. native was given the opportunity to start “Frozen Fenway,” an outdoor game that was to be held at Fenway Park against Northeastern. In his senior season, Venti made his first start on the biggest stage, and played well in a 2-1 win.

“It was a once in a lifetime type of deal,” he said.

“I grew up right around the area, and all my family was there. Especially for it being my first start, it was something that you can’t really put into words. I feel so fortunate to have had that opportunity. So many people would given their right arm to have that type of experience, and I feel really lucky to have been a part of it. Especially to go out there with all the guys on the team and getting a win, it was even more special, just being able to have that feeling in the locker room with everybody it was just a great experience. The whole day was just amazing.”

It was quite a nervewracking 24 hours for Venti, who says he didn’t sleep at all after finding out the previous night that he was going to get the start.

“I woke up in the morning and I actually went to the church on campus and said a prayer and then met my dad for breakfast afterwards, and he kind of calmed me down a bit,” he said.

“At the end of the day, I prepared myself every year to play, and I just kind of went into it thinking it’s just another game. I could be playing at any rink in Boston, I tried to think like that. I tried to stay away from the big lights. But obviously, walking out of that tunnel, it kind of set in. I may or may not have been shaking a little bit during the starting lineups. I think once I got on the ice and the game started, everything just kind of went away and I was able to focus on the game.”

However, playing in Frozen Fenway wasn’t the greatest thing that Venti got to experience in his senior season. Not even close. Although he didn’t get to play during the NCAA Tournament, Venti got to contribute in a meaningful way during a National Championship season, having a front row seat to the Eagles Frozen Four title.

It was, he said, simply unbelievable.

“Going out my senior year that way with the group of guys we had, it was just the perfect ending to the four-year career I had there,” Venti said.

“Just with my roommates and my classmates and also the younger guys, it was such close-knit group. They’ve got something special over there at BC, the way the coach brings in the guys and how the older guys kind of bring up the younger guys to the BC culture. The run that we had is something that…I’ve never seen it, and I don’t know if we’ll see it again. That was just something unexplainable, but it’s a testament to the guys we had in the locker room and the leadership, and even the young guys. We always say there’s no rookies. Everybody’s a leader in the locker room; one night, you need a senior to stand up and the next night, maybe a freshman stands up. When you have people from each grade and different guys contributing on all different parts of the game, it’s amazing to watch.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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