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Chris Kreider made his debut for the New York Rangers in last night’s playoff win against the Ottawa Senators, becoming the first player since 1987 to appear in the National Hockey League postseason in the same year that he won a national college championship.
Kreider, who won the National Collegiate Athletic Association title with Boston College on April 7 and started practicing with the Rangers four days later, totaled 11 minutes, 11 seconds of ice time in New York’s 1-0 victory at Ottawa.
Kreider, 20, skated on the Rangers’ top line with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, his debut coming one day after New York forward Carl Hagelin was suspended three games by the league for elbowing.
“I’m really happy with the way he played,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said of Kreider at a post-game news conference.
Kreider just missed a goal during the second period, when he chipped a rebound under the glove of Senators goaltender Craig Anderson that went wide of the net.
The last person to claim the NCAA title and make his professional debut in the NHL playoffs in the same season was Tony Hrkac, who won the college championship with the University of North Dakota 25 years ago before playing for the St. Louis Blues in the NHL postseason, the league said.
Kreider didn’t play in the first two games of the Rangers’ best-of-seven series against the Senators, which the teams split at Madison Square Garden.
With Hagelin suspended, Kreider is now getting his chance for New York, which finished the regular season with an Eastern Conference-high 109 points and is a top seed in the playoffs for the first time since 1994, when it last won the Stanley Cup.
Hagelin, a rookie forward, was disciplined for elbowing Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson in New York’s 3-2 overtime loss on April 14. He’ll also miss the next two playoff games.
Kreider is the first Rangers player to make his NHL debut in the playoffs since Lauri Korpikoski on May 4, 2008, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Pittsburgh.
Kreider had three goals and an assist in four NCAA tournament games this season for Boston College, which defeated Ferris State University 4-1 in Tampa, Florida, for its fifth national title and third in five seasons. Kreider, who was selected by the Rangers in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, finished his junior year as the team leader in goals (23), points (45) and penalty minutes (66).
Jeff Farkas, who lost the NCAA title game with Boston College in 2000 and then joined the Toronto Maple Leafs, is the last player to participate in both college hockey’s final game and the NHL playoffs in the same year, according to the league. Matt Carle of the Philadelphia Flyers is among those who have played in both the NCAA and the NHL in the same season.
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