Eight days after celebrating an NCAA hockey championship at Boston College, Barry Almeida suited up for the Hershey Bears in their April 15 regular season finale. On his second shift of the game, the college free agent tallied his first professional goal.
Almeida had never generated much buzz as a prospect before emerging as one of the Eagles’ top offensive threats during his senior season. Now the scrappy, 5-foot-8 winger is under contract to play at Hershey next year and is participating in his first development camp. On Wednesday, Bears Coach Mark French praised him for his performance so far, calling him “probably one of the best forwards” in the two intrasquad scrimmages this week.
“It’s been surreal,” Almeida said. “Going out on top at B.C. and then signing, it’s been great how it all came together. Hopefully, there’s more to come.”
Almeida, 23, made the most of increased playing time during his final season at Boston College, helping the Eagles run off 19 straight wins to close the season. He finished third on the team with 40 points, nearly doubling his previous season high. After scoring 23 total goals in his first three years with the Eagles, he tallied 22 in 44 games last season.
After B.C. won its second NCAA title in three years, Almeida had interest from several clubs.
He said a major factor in picking Hershey was the chance to play alongside his cousin T.J. Syner, another college free agent forward who had joined the Bears a month earlier. Syner, who played on all the same youth teams with Almeida, is also attending camp this week.
“I’m happy I had a chance to go out there and get a couple games in,” Almeida said. “It’s a totally different game. It’s a lot more controlled and the guys are a lot bigger and stronger, but it was a great experience.”
While Almeida didn’t create the same buzz as college teammate Chris Kreider, who became a major factor in the New York Rangers playoff run, he did leave an impression in limited time as a high-energy player with the toughness to required to compete at that level.
“He likes to get his nose dirty,” French said. “For an undersized guy, that’s probably the first thing you would think, that he’s going to shy away from that type of contact. But he didn’t.”
— Forward Greg Burke was on crutches and wearing a walking boot on his right foot Wednesday. Burke, a sixth-round pick in 2008, suffered a sprained ankle, according to a Capitals spokesman.
— Russian goaltender Sergei Kostenko, a seventh-round selection in last month’s draft, arrived at training camp and was on the ice for Wednesday’s session.
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