When Emerson hockey club captain Matt Porter first heard of Pete Keeling, all he knew was that Keeling was the kid from Jersey who was always the first to respond to his recruiting emails. Months later, Keeling more fully introduced himself to Porter and his teammates when he scored two goals and added an assist in his first game at Emerson. Since then, said Porter, "He's been up there ever since." And he's done his best to make sure no one forgets who he is.
In the hockey club's first season back in existence, Keeling has emerged as a star, the rare forward with skills at both ends of the ice.
"He's very versatile in the way he plays," said Porter. "He can play forward or defenseman."
And at a level of hockey where goal inflation is prevalent and defense is at a premium, Keeling's defensive play is greatly valued. But his greatest impact comes at the offensive end, where his skills honed over years of playing still make him stand out.
"Pete is a quick player, and he has great balance," Porter said. "He thinks very well. He is strong on his skates. He is really hard to knock off the puck."
Keeling began playing hockey as a kid in Mendham, New Jersey. He played on his varsity team in high school and, showing a spirit for taking the initiative that continues to this day, he started his own club team back home.
When he got to Emerson, he wasted little time adapting to his surroundings. He ordered "sick" new jerseys for his new team to play in and he started working on a hip-hop show on WERS. He also established himself as not only one of the best players on the team, but one of its leaders as well. For a club that, more often than not, does not even have a coach, Keelings intangibles are invaluable.
"[Keeling was] eager to take a leadership role, even as a freshman," said Porter. "He interacts with line-mates very well and the program will be successful because of it."
So far, however, the team has struggled. Their schedule has been erratic and so has their play. Sometimes they play other club teams from Boston-area colleges and sometimes they play against adult teams from men's leagues.
So far, the only real rivalry in the club's young existence has turned out to be with Berklee College of Music, Emerson's sister school. In the first game between the two, about 200 fans showed up to cheer Emerson on. A second game is scheduled for Nov. 29.
"The biggest marquis match-up is against Berklee," Keeling said.
But even when Berklee is not on the schedule, Keeling said the fans, who collectively refer to themselves as "Red Ice," have been there for the team.
"It's great," he said "There are about 50 Emerson students who go to every game to cheer us on."
And after watching him all season, it is almost certain that the fans will remember who Pete Keeling is.