Chris and Jack Connolly are identical, but not twins.
The Duluth hockey-playing brothers are headed for the NCAA Division I men’s tournament this week with remarkably similar resumes:
Chris, 21, is a freshman left winger for No. 1-ranked Boston University, which won the Hockey East playoff title. He has nine goals and 18 assists for 27 points in 41 games. He’s 5-foot-9, 165 pounds and wears No. 12.
Jack, 19, is a freshman center for No. 7-ranked Minnesota Duluth, which won the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff title. He has nine goals and 19 assists for 28 points in 41 games. He’s 5-8, 160 pounds and wears No. 12.
“They’ve always been very close friends, best friends, and have had the same aspirations growing up,” Mark Connolly, their dad, said this week.
Now they aspire to keep winning and reach the NCAA Frozen Four in Washington, D.C., which would require two wins and a regional title this weekend. UMD (21-12-8) opens play at 8 p.m. Friday against Princeton (22-11-1) in the West Regional semifinals in Minneapolis, while Boston University (31-6-4) faces Ohio State (23-14-4) at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in the East Regional in Manchester, N.H.
The Bulldogs are in the tournament for the first time since 2004, while the Terriers have qualified for the fourth time in five years.
“You always want your brother to do well, so this is exciting for both of us,” said Chris Connolly, a member of the 2009 Hockey East all-rookie team. “Growing up together and skating together, it’s only natural we might look the same. People who have seen both of us say our skating styles are almost identical.”
One NHL team official who watched Boston University, after seeing UMD, joked that he thought Jack Connolly had been traded to BU when No. 12 came onto the ice.
When their first choices for college jerseys weren’t available, the brothers ended up with matching numbers. Chris wore No. 19 at Duluth Marshall and Jack No. 20 (taken at UMD by senior Andrew Carroll.) Chris did wear No. 12 with Fargo (N.D.) in one of three years in junior hockey.
“I’m glad to see the success [Chris] is having after such a long route to college,” said Jack Connolly, who spent a season in the U.S. Hockey League last year in Sioux Falls (S.D.)
Mark Connolly and his wife, Judy, have done some traveling this winter in trying to be equitable in their hockey viewing. They went to all of UMD’s home games in addition to UMD road series against St. Cloud State, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and have been at Agganis Arena at Boston University for three series. Mark, 48, is a partner in an independent property casualty insurance company in his hometown of Superior, while Judy, a Duluth Denfeld graduate, is a supervisor in the cancer registry department at St. Mary’s-Duluth Clinic.
How will the Connollys keep track of their two children this weekend? They’ll be at Mariucci Arena watching UMD and monitor Boston University through live game blogs available on a BlackBerry phone, or on TV on ESPN2 or ESPNU.
“It was a little melancholy last Saturday when we were celebrating in St. Paul with Jack, and at the same time we knew Chris and BU had won the Hockey East championship in Boston [beating Massachusetts-Lowell 1-0],” said Mark Connolly. “But Chris understands the situation and has been great about it and knows we’re cheering for him.”