One of the best parts about going back to school every fall is knowing that the Boston University Men’s Hockey season is slowly but surely making its return to the ice for another exciting season. But ahead of that excitement is speculation about the future of this team after a promising half-season and an opportunistic entry into the 100th season of the program. With that, here are my thoughts on the good, the bad, and the ugly heading into year 100. All thoughts are my own.
One area that the Terriers have been lacking in through the last decade has been consistency. After the Eichel year, BU has become more of a one-year development camp and less of an academic institution offering four years of growth and support athletically along the way. Despite this, the Terriers seem to be improving their retention rate heading into their 100th season with the return of Graduate Transfer Max Kaufman and senior captain Logan Cockerill. I guess if there was one good thing to come from COVID, the extra year of eligibility will be huge in maintaining leadership on the ice and in the locker room.
Kaufman was a play-maker on the ice, and clearly carried his weight behind the scenes, donning an “A” quickly into his first year in scarlet and white, and retaining it for his second year. While he may have struggled in goal-scoring with just one, his seven assists in 16 games still proved valuable and I like to think the few number of games and little time to gel with his teammates in a competitive setting may have played into that.
Cockerill, who will keep the “C,” has seen it all in his four years at BU, and at this point all we can do is hope he can play a complete season as captain. Cockerill is a hungry guy, talking about his team’s lack of Beanpot, among other trophies, and likely continues to feel that drive heading into year five as one of the top short-handed goal scorers in the league.
Another area Terrier fans can look forward to will be the addition of another Amonte. Tony Amonte began the legacy back in the early 90s during which he tallied 126 points in his two years. Redshirted his junior year, Ty Amonte came back in 2020 ready to make his mark in his final year. In what was ultimately short-lived, a recurring knee injury kept him from a complete senior year, but COVID will let him stick around for one more, this time sharing the ice with his younger brother, Tristan. Tristan will be joining the Terriers after two years in the BCHL with the Penticton Vees where he put up 48 points in 74 games. With a family line as powerful, memorable, and influential as the Amontes, maybe we’ll see some sibling magic as the two join forces.
NHL Coaches make their return
There is no denying the BU-to-NHL pipeline, and even more so, the BU-to-Bruins pipeline, but sometimes that pipeline circles back to BU. Announced in July, Jay Pandolfo and Doug Friedman will return to their home base at Agganis Arena after almost 10 years in the world of professional Hockey. Pandolfo and Friedman both captained their Terrier squads in the 90s, putting up 169 and 104 points, respectively.
Obviously they’re experienced, but what I think might be even more important is their knowledge of NHL potential and development. Everyone in a BU jersey wants to go pro, but maybe hearing from the guys who worked in the professional world of hockey will encourage four years of development at BU before heading onwards. Not only that, but the college game has changed and will continue to change to be more like that of the NHL. Maybe having some more experience behind the bench will give Coach O’Connell the advice and confidence he needs to push this program and this team beyond where they are now.
Draftees and their potential
With the loss of Roman Schmidt came the addition of Ty Gallagher. Gallagher, the 6 foot Clarkston, Michigan native out of the US National Team Development Program, will add the depth this roster needs with more enforcement from the blueline. While at the NTDP, Gallagher set the record for most goals scored by a defenseman with 24.
Alongside Gallagher from the NTDP is Tyler Boucher, who went 10th overall to the Ottawa Senators. Boucher, often compared to Tom Wilson, seems to put up big points in big games. Despite pestering ACL surgeries and a global pandemic, his nine goals in 14 games show the offensive talent he can add to this Terrier squad– hopefully we’ll see some Brady Tkachuk in both Gallagher and Boucher this fall.
World Junior Summer Showcase
In August, Tyler Boucher, Dylan Peterson, Luke Tuch, and Drew Commesso all went out to Finland to play in the World Junior Summer Showcase with team USA. While it might not be the most traditional off-season workout, any experiences these guys can get in a competitive setting is productive for the team. Of the four, Tuch led with four points in five games, Peterson had one assist in five games, and Boucher had two points in his four games. In net, Commesso started in five games, and ended the showcase with a 2.39 goals against average and a .913 save percentage.
Senior Class, or lack thereof
The class of 2023 added 13 freshmen to the roster in one season. And in that one season, many of those 13 guys got more ice time than anyone in the class of 2022. With that being said, the entire senior class has packed up and moved on around the country. Jake Wise will play at Ohio State, Matthew Quercia is heading to Michigan Tech, and Jack DeBoer will head to Niagara University. While the junior class may be experienced, they still haven’t played a full season in a BU jersey, and off the ice, losing that many players in a season must say something about the coaching staff as well.
Another sore point on the Terrier blueline is the loss of David Farrance. A Hobey baker finalist two years in a row, there is no question of the impact Farrance made on the ice. Losing a big player like that leaves some major gaps in the defense, but the junior class should feel comfortable stepping up to take that place. Junior Alex Vlasic made a huge step in his second year, putting up eight points and earning the “A” for his third year at BU. With Vlasic came Case McCarthy and Domenick Fensore, who still have plenty of room for improvement, but will hopefully make their impact by playing in a full season.
Boston College was clearly a powerhouse for most of the 2020-21 season with big names on every line of the roster and corner of the ice. While BC will always be our number one rival, their competitive streak may have come to an end with several players leaving for the pros, as Matt Boldy, Alex Newhook, and Spencer Knight all traded in their Eagle jerseys for professional ones.
Our Beanpot rivals will always be our Beanpot rivals, but it looks like the Terriers may feel the heat from a different Massachusetts school with reigning champions from UMass Amherst looking to repeat their national sweep and get back-to-back championships. The good news is UMass’ victory helps to establish Hockey East as a competitive league, but that comes with all of the pressure the Minutemen can add.
While maybe not ugly, there are a few questions to ask heading into the 100th year of Terrier Hockey.
BU used to struggle with protecting the crease, but between Sophomores Vinny Duplessis and Drew Commesso and Junior Ashton Abel, Coach O’Connell has three very solid options to take over the net. Commesso left his mark as the starter with a .915 save percentage and a 2.99 goals against average, followed by Duplessis with a .939 sv% and a 1.66 GAA in five games. Abel split his freshman year with then graduate transfer Sam Tucker, and seemed to struggle in his 2021 debut, but maybe the time the off-season will do him justice.
Fans at Agganis?
Agganis Arena has announced the return of fans and the student section this fall with masks being worn at all times. After nearly two years of fan-less hockey, it will be interesting to see how the players, especially some of the younger ones, react to a sea of scarlet and white and whether it amps up the pressure and drive, or ultimately serves as a distraction.
How will the team do in season 100?
This program is among the best in the country and has achieved enormous success. In 100 seasons, there have been National Champions, Hobey Baker award winners, Olympians, Beanpot trophies, and Stanley cups. The 2021-22 season is loaded with great opponents, a trip to Madison Square Garden for Red Hot Hockey, and will wrap-up with the Frozen Four at TD Garden in Boston.
There are high expectations when it comes to maintaining the legacy of BU Hockey, and we’ll just have to wait and see how season 100 plays out.