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Räsänen Relishes Role as Versatile Player During Breakout Season

BCI spoke with Aapeli Räsänen about the success he’s had this season

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The 2018-2019 BC Men’s Hockey season was rough. Recognizing this is junior Aapeli Räsänen, who scored 7 points in 33 games in a year that many players on the ice also faced an offensive drought. After struggling with a shoulder injury that ended his season early, Räsänen went into the 2019 offseason knowing that the next year would have to be a bounce back year for him.

And bounce back he did. Currently, Räsänen has 22 points in 30 games, and is 5th on the team in points per game. He’s moved up and down the lineup, offering flexibility and consistency regardless of the line he’s placed on. Recently, he’s been centering the fourth line. Before that, he found explosive chemistry on a line with freshmen Alex Newhook and Mike Hardman.

We sat down with Aapeli earlier this week to discuss the transition from European to North American hockey, his success this season, and February 21’s iconic home game vs. Northeastern, before going into some fun questions.

Can you talk me through why you chose to go the NCAA route and how you ended up deciding on BC?

Räsänen: My options were going pro in Finland or [going to] the NCAA. I wanted to do school and hockey, kind of combine academics and hockey, so I think going to college here was a better way of doing that. You can’t play hockey forever [and] you gotta have a job after that, [which] was a thing I thought about. I heard good things about the NCAA - it’s not just sports but the whole experience, so that was it. I made the decision, went to the USHL and played a year in Sioux City, [and] was contacted by a couple schools. I visited Denver, Harvard, and BC and BC seemed like the best fit, like the best combination of academics and athletics.

What was it like adjusting to playing in the NCAA and at BC in particular?

Räsänen: A year in the USHL definitely helped, but it’s always a transition between European hockey and North American hockey, off-ice too. So that really helped, playing in the smaller rink, smaller ice surface; North American style hockey. Of course it’s a big jump from USHL to the NCAA, but then it just takes a little time, a little growing pains but eventually I figured it out.

What was the hardest adjustment, whether it was coming from European hockey or going between the USHL and NCAA?

Räsänen: First coming from Europe, it was probably how the smaller rink makes the game faster, so you gotta make decisions quicker. Then from USHL to NCAA - in the USHL you play kids who are your age give or take one year. In the NCAA, some teams have players that are 25 years old. Greco here is like 43. (author’s note: This is hilarious but for some reason I didn’t laugh or acknowledge it during the interview. Long day. Sorry Aapeli!) That’s definitely a big factor - they’re bigger, stronger, faster and pretty much grown men so that was a huge difference.

You’ve played on a variety of lines this year - can you talk about what you see as your role on the team and how you manage to create chemistry with different teammates?

Räsänen: Yeah, it’s been a lot of different lines, center, wing, up and down the lineup. I think it comes down to figuring it out with your linemates, watching video, going through motions in practice, trying to figure out what their tendencies are and building it off of there.

After a disappointing season last year, BC has been having a strong season and in particular showing a lot of resilience - even when the team is down one goal or two goals, it seems like none of you are getting discouraged and can come back. What do you attribute this success and positivity to?

Räsänen: I think it comes down to the culture in the locker room. The guys have really bought into it. We have great players up and down the lineup, and up and down the grades - great freshmen coming in, absolute studs. And then we have a big senior class, so we’re a little older than we’ve been in the past couple of years especially because my freshman year we didn’t have any seniors. So that’s a big difference. And then like I said, everyone buying in - we’re one team, everybody wants to be there for each other and everybody is able to pick another guy up when they’re down. I think that’s what it’s all about.

You’ve been having a productive season this year with 22 points so far after last year’s struggles. Can you detail a little bit what your preparation was coming into this season?

Räsänen: Last year was a tough year and then I ended up with shoulder surgery, so I had to end my season a little early in the playoffs. Then the summer was pretty much rehabbing my shoulder, trying to work on everything else as best as I could. Then I came into this year with the mindset that this has to be a bounce back year. And of course things go in different ways, I found chemistry at one point with Newhook and Hardman - both great freshmen - and then my role changed, so [I] just gotta do my best on my line and with the playing time that the coaches give me.

So, this past Friday’s game was super wild (here’s a recap, for anyone that can’t remember). What was the attitude in the locker room and on the bench as the goals just kept coming?

Räsänen: First it was kind of like, let’s not take our foot off the gas. That was a big thing for us, that we can play a full 60 minutes. As it kept going, it was kind of a disbelief at one point, looking at the scoreboard - 8-1, 9-1, 10-1. It was like wow, we’ve scored this many goals. It was kind of wild and crazy in the locker room afterwards. It was definitely fun, but also it’s not too often games like that come and we can go into the weekends thinking that okay, we’re gonna beat teams 10-1 again - next game will be 0-0 on the board when the puck drops, so then you just gotta find the edge again.

How do you keep that energy going into these last few games of the regular season?

Räsänen: Yeah I think it’s just momentum, you have to build on that, build on the good things we’ve had. We’ve had success lately, [so we’re] just trying to keep a positive mindset going forward which isn’t hard at this point in the year. Everyone just wants to just play for the trophies so I think it’s just carrying that momentum. A big thing is focusing one day at a time; focusing on practice, practice, then the next game - I think that’s really important for us, not looking too far ahead.

Per our internet research, we learned that your dad is an actor back home in Finland. What was it like growing up with a famous dad?

Räsänen: I guess I never really thought about it like that, because for me it was normal, I just grew up with that. It’s not that different, like you might see your dad on TV every now and then but you just know that he’s acting, it’s his job. To be honest I never got into the TV shows that he was in, I really didn’t like those - my sister [did]. But he’s been in theater a lot, which is a different part of acting, there’s not as much publicity. It was fun, I still go to all the plays that I can; it’s difficult because I’m here far from home.

Now for some fun questions!

If you weren’t playing hockey, what would you want to do when you graduate?

Räsänen: Oh this is a tough one. First of all, for other sports - I used to play soccer when I was a kid, so if I wasn’t playing hockey, I’d be playing soccer or some other sport. But I’m in the business school so something combining sports and business, maybe sports management or something like that in the future. You never know where life takes you.

Which non-Finnish teammate knows the most Finnish?

Räsänen: Walks, definitely Walker. He’s lived with the twins all four years, so he picks up words here and there.

A while ago, you had a tweet go somewhat viral about your name at Starbucks. Do you still go by Jeff?

Räsänen: Yeah, yep, I still do it, just the other day we were at Starbucks and had to do it.

What’s your favorite dining hall meal?

Räsänen: [immediately] The Holy Grain. Lowkey really good, I think it’s underrated. Barley and shrimp is my favorite.
(author’s note: Correct. This meal is one of the biggest things I miss about BC.)

What song do you currently have on repeat?

Räsänen: Lots of Finnish songs. One song that got stuck in my head during Christmas break was Oasis’ Half the World Away. It’s a theme song to a British TV show called The Royal Family so it was on repeat for a while. But now it’s just a mix and match of stuff.

Favorite class at BC so far?

Räsänen: There’s been a lot of good classes so far but I really liked my Marketing Principles class last semester, great professor. This semester I really like my Sports and American History class - I like history, I like sports, so combining those works out perfectly.