From the dangles to the goals and celebrations, forward Colby Ambrosio has made his presence known at Conte Forum as one of Boston College men’s hockey’s most exciting & fun-to-watch players.
Currently a junior, Ambrosio has slotted seamlessly into any position he’s been asked to play at BC in the past three years. This season, he’s found himself as a driver of the offense, playing at right wing on the top line. He is in a three way tie for team lead in points with nine points in 10 games played, and is second on the team in goals scored with six.
We sat down with Colby ahead of Thanksgiving to chat about adjusting to a new coach, chemistry with his linemates, his sushi recommendations in the area, and more!
What made you decide to go the college hockey route, given how common major junior is up in Canada?
Yeah so obviously growing up in Canada — or at least in Ontario, I grew up in Welland, Ontario — all you hear about is the OHL, the Ontario Hockey League. And obviously when I was younger, all I wanted to do was play in the OHL because that’s all I really knew. Around 8th grade I went to this NCAA talk, I didn’t know what it was and then once I listened to this talk, I had this discussion with my parents and we all thought it was a better route. Obviously the hockey is really good coming here; I came here being 18 and I was playing against 23 year olds so it really prepares you for the next level. And you know, God forbid something were to happen like a career ending injury or something like that — knock on wood hopefully nothing ever happens — at least I’d have schooling to fall back on.
Going off that, why did you choose BC?
I chose BC — so I was actually very fortunate to come to BC when I was 14. And just the guys that they’ve developed here are kind of shorter, more skilled guys that I model my game after — guys like Nathan Gerbe, Johnny Gaudreau, Cam Atkinson — guys like that who I looked up to and still do obviously came here so that played a big factor.
What was it like playing the last two years under Coach York?
It was great. Obviously he’s the winningest coach in college hockey history, he’s in the Hall of Fame, that’s some pretty good accolades for him. He’s a good coach, and very lucky that I was working under him for two years here.
What has it been like adjusting to a new coach so far?
Yeah so I talked to Coach Brown when I was younger about coming here, so I’ve known him for some time now but he’s awesome. He’s the exact definition of a players coach, he interacts with all of us really well, and if we ever need to talk about anything he’s always there.
And he’s so smart too, he’s always talking about these little plays to make whether it’s on the power play, or 5-on-5 or in the offensive or defensive zone — very lucky to have him as a coach and be able to take that all in. And obviously he played here and he played professionally in the NHL and AHL, stuff like that. I’m very fortunate to have him here and just taking it day by day because I can learn a lot from him and I have so far and it’s great.
Have you noticed any specific differences between Coach York and Coach Brown so far?
Yeah, it’s actually funny. I mean Coach York was obviously here forever so the rivalry between us and BU was pretty heavy and he wasn’t a big fan of BU. So whenever I wore red he always said something like, “Don’t wear that” or “wear something else.” But with Coach Brown he hasn’t said anything like that yet — that’s something funny that I’ve noticed.
(author’s note: this is extremely funny to me and very relatable. Jerry York is and continues to be an icon.)
What responsibilities have you had as an upperclassman in terms of helping both Coach Brown and the team adjust?
Honestly I’ve stayed the same, I’ve tried not to change too much. I like to think I’m someone that’s outgoing and that likes to make everyone comfortable and that’s what I’ve been trying to do with Coach Brown and the freshmen that came in.
So yeah I don’t think that I’ve really done anything differently than I’ve done in the past — obviously I have a bigger responsibility now being a junior but yeah, just trying to be outgoing and letting the guys know I’m always there for them, always there to talk. And with Coach Brown I don’t think there’s anything I have to do to make him get comfortable here. He was an assistant coach here for a while and obviously I look up to him and he’s been helping me a lot.
How do you think your game has improved this year?
I think I’ve been having an okay start, I’m never really satisfied — there’s always areas to improve. At the end of the day, I think we’re all playing great right now. These last two games were big for us and it’s a good time to start on the rise here. In terms of an individual standpoint, I don’t think I’ve changed too much of my game, I’m just trying to be a leader that guys can look to me for, try to put the puck in the net at key moments and contribute wins to the team.
Is there anything specific you think Coach Brown has brought to the table in terms of your game?
He always brings up Cam Atkinson to me and says he sees similarities between us and it obviously gives me good confidence that he sees me as being someone of that caliber. He always tells me to shoot the puck and have a shoot first mentality, something that I’ve been working on for years now - I think I’m a shoot first guy but that’s something he’s been helping me with. So my confidence for sure, and then he always wants me to shoot the puck and put the puck in the net so that’s always good to hear from your coach.
So you changed your number from #27 to #11 this year. Can you walk me through why you decided to switch?
Yeah for sure so I grew up wearing number 11 — I have two older brothers, Caleb and Colton, they wore number 11 when they played hockey, my father wore 11 when he was younger playing hockey. And then I lost one of my best friends two years back and he wore 11 as well, so it’s an important number to me and means a lot so I’m just glad I get to wear that on the jersey.
How does it feel transitioning to being one of the major focal points of the BC offense?
Yeah it’s nice, but at the end of the day there’s a lot of skilled players on the team and we have a lot of guys that contribute to the offense. So if I’m looked on for that, I just hope I can play my role in that part. It’s obviously nice to be looked on as a key guy to put the puck in the net and help the team win, so I’m trying to work on that and get better at that every day, but we have a lot of skilled guys on this team that can really put the puck in the net that you can look to.
Can you talk a little bit about how your chemistry with Nikita Nesterenko has developed over the years and what your experience has been having freshman standout Cutter Gauthier on your line?
Yeah, me and Nester are best friends, we’ve been roommates for the past two years — not directs but in the same room. My direct roommate for three years now has been Eamon Powell — but yeah me and Nester are always together and it’s great.
We have a great chemistry off the ice, whether it’s going out to sushi on a random day or just watching hockey in our room. But yeah we’ve played together now for three years in different parts of the year, right now we’ve been together all year but I think we really work well together and we both like how we complement each other on the ice. So we’ve just been working on our craft at the end of practice, we always watch NHL games and kinda say, ‘hey we should try this, we should try that,’ so it’s been great and I’m very fortunate to be playing with a guy like him.
And obviously Cutter’s been having a great start, he’s a tremendous player and a great kid, we’re both pretty close with Cutter. He’s had a hell of transition so far and I think it’s only up from here. He’s a great player and has been helping out the team a lot and helping our line.
Where do you guys go for sushi?
Everywhere - I mean close by, we get lazy most of the time because it’s a rash decision and we want to go close, but we’ve been to [inaudible], Sushi Memento, but other places we’ve been to are Blue Ribbon, LoLa 42, stuff like that.
(author’s note: Unfortunately, I couldn’t transcribe the first restaurant mentioned but I’m sure it’s delicious.)
Back to hockey: the team went through a bit of a rough stretch before coming up with two huge wins this past week — what has the mood been like in the locker room? How did you keep from letting the losses get you down?
Yeah, Coach Brown is a big help with that, he’s always positive and stressing to stick with it. At the end of the day you’re never going to have a perfect season, there’s always gonna be ups and downs and it’s how you battle back and how you react to them that really shows the true colors of the team.
The mood’s been great, nobody’s really been getting down - obviously no one wants to lose and we get angry when we do but you have to have a short memory. We’ve got some heavy games coming up soon with some big points so we’ve been keeping the locker room light and having fun with it, and we just came up with those two big wins so it’s been good.
When you scored against Northeastern at home you did the iconic Eagle wing celly — what was going through your mind when you chose that? I’ve seen Logan Hutsko do it last against BU [in 2019, so it’s been a while].
Yeah yeah yeah, so Hutsko did that against BU — I wasn’t here, I was still playing juniors but I saw it and thought it was pretty cool and I don’t know I’ve always talked about it in practice and stuff, just joking around. And honestly I don’t even really know it was just the first thing that came in my mind so I just did it. I think I did it once last year against Northeastern too, so I just decided to do it again I guess, there wasn’t really much to it.
Yeah, they did have a tiny fan section at Conte so I thought it was a really good move.
What is the team doing to carry momentum into next week’s matchup with Notre Dame since you’ve got a long break and a holiday in between games?
We’re just taking it day by day, just working on the little things. There’s obviously things that we can get better at, like I said you’re never gonna be perfect so there’s always things to work on. Not getting too stressed out, doing a lot of video, and just trying to stay loose — we can’t really get too tense, too tight, you know? You wanna be able to play the game to your best ability so we’re just staying loose, everyone’s happy to get those two wins so hopefully we can keep it rolling.
Alright, time for some fun questions!
Social media suggests that ‘Bangarang’ is the new rallying cry for you guys. Tell me more about that.
Yeah for sure, so I’ve been saying that all year. I love golf, a lot of us on the team love golf, and I watch this YouTube channel called BobDoesSports and it’s a three guys that have matches against each other.
There’s this guy called Joey Cold Cuts — they call him Cold Cuts — and every time he makes a nice putt or has a really nice drive or shot in close he always screams “bangarang” and then he follows it up with “Rufio”. So I always say that in the locker room and everyone loves it so I kept going.
Interesting, so I think it’s also from Hook, the live-action Peter Pan children’s movie? That’s where we thought it was from when we first saw it on social media.
Oh [laughs] I have not seen that, I got it from Joey Cold Cuts.
What tv show did you most recently binge watch? Or just watched, doesn’t necessarily have to be a binge watch.
Stranger Things. It was very good, I loved it, it was sick.
What’s something that BC fans might be surprised to know about you? This one is a hard one, and also everyone says golf which is not surprising! (author’s note: sorry to all the hockey players)
Surprised to know about me… I grew up playing lacrosse and I played for Team Ontario. We won the national championship.
Song that you’ve got on loop recently?
Electricity by Dua Lipa.
That is a very good song.
Yeah, she’s the GOAT. (this is true)
Is that your favorite Dua Lipa song or just the one you have on loop?
Hmm, I don’t know if that’s my favorite but it’s definitely up there, I love Dua Lipa’s songs. She has a song with Elton John — Cold Heart, that’s a really good song. Levitating’s really good...
Go-to coffee order?
Just black, I just drink black coffee.
We talked a bit about sushi places earlier, but what’s your favorite off campus restaurant?
Favorite off campus restaurant, hmm. I’m not gonna include sushi because I feel like if the guys see this they’re gonna be like “oh of course he said sushi,” because I eat sushi like every day. So I’ll say… Legal Sea Foods. We go there a lot.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Boston?
I can’t say “play hockey,” can I?
My favorite thing to do in Boston… well near the end of the year or the beginning of the year I love to golf. There are some great courses here that me and the guys have been to.
You know what, I just went to this movie theater, it’s in the mall… — The SuperLux? That’s a good theater — yeah I’ve been there only once but I’m going to start going more, that place was unreal. There’s full reclining seats, you can order food, it’s great stuff.
Okay so my last question, which I ask every single player I’ve interviewed — what’s your favorite dining hall meal here?
Hmm. I cook food a lot, but the Honey Q Chicken over rice, with ranch. It’s probably not the best for you, but I enjoy when they have it.
Or no, that, and The Holy Grain. Me and Nester love that stuff, it’s so good.
(author’s note: I’m so sorry this isn’t a podcast because you truly cannot comprehend how excited I was that The Holy Grain still exists. I’m still obsessed with this meal a full three years after graduating — truly nothing hits the same as getting The Holy Grain on Thursday nights at Lower. I can only be glad that others, like Ambrosio & Nesterenko, feel the same way.)
A huge thank you to Colby for taking the time out of his day to sit down with us!