OPINION 2021-2022 season recap: lack of heart broke the Terrier run

By Gillian McMahon 

In the wake and reflection of the epic highs and lows of the 2021-2022 Terrier hockey season and an exciting postseason across the country, it’s not easy to point out exactly where things went wrong. For a squad of mostly returning players from last year’s NCAA berth, even despite the COVID year, the potential for the perfect storm was there. It was the 100th year of BU Hockey, and if there was any year to make history this was it. 

That storyline was hyped up before the start of the season. From a fan perspective, the excitement surrounding the program was high, leading to a campus environment unified behind their team for the first time since COVID. Going into the exhibition game and the first few weekends, it seemed like the team was ready. The competition on the ice showed a different story. 

Dropping the home opener 5-1 at Agganis Arena on Oct 9 was not the start the Terriers were expected to make. From that start, things were pretty shaky through the months of the fall semester. It was certainly no cakewalk battling injuries and inconsistent lineups. 

But regardless, the Terriers struggled to put together a sense of consistency, between a Friday and Saturday night series, 2 week stretches, and even month-long periods. They had a hard time putting together a complete 60 minutes of play and often underestimated the skill and desire to win they would encounter from their opponents. 

The few promising showings in that period included an OT win at UMass Amherst, two hard-fought, but OT losses to Northeastern, a tough Red Hot Hockey game vs Cornell at MSG, and part one of the Battle of Comm Ave resulting in a 3-3 SOL right before finals. It wasn’t until New Year’s Eve at Brown that it seemed like a season turn-around was possible. 

From there, things kept rolling. The team was able to get on a hot streak and capitalize on it, making up for lost ground in the Hockey East standings and getting recognized nationally. They won 11 of 12 games between Dec 31, and Feb 27 with the only loss coming in overtime to Vermont on Jan 21. 

BU captured their 31st Beanpot championship and ended a seven-year drought during this stretch. The 1-0 victory against Northeastern was arguably one of their best games of the season in an electric TD Garden in front of die-hard Boston hockey fans, and the Dog Pound at full force.

Through this time, there was a different level of focus, drive, and motivation to win. It was so opposite to the team from the fall semester, where each night they would take to the ice and you wouldn’t know what kind of night it was going to be. 

The Terriers excelled during these weeks and gained a position in the Pairwise rankings. They played hard for each other, their coaches, and their program. The defense was on point- players diving and sliding to block pucks was regular. The scoring balanced out as lines gelled together and gained confidence, creating more offensive threats. 

In one of the most important stories of the season, sophomore goaltender Drew Commesso was selected to represent the United States at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. In his absence, classmate Vinny Duplessis stepped up, and performed with poise in a stressful position, going 5-0 including two shutouts and the Beanpot victory. 

The Terriers did not finish strong in their final two weekends against Boston College and Maine. Both weekends were sweepable. Business was simply not taken care of in the second game of both of these two weekends. 

It remains unclear what the reason was for these seemingly out-of-character losses but regardless, losing wasn’t reframed as a motivator for moving forward. It seemed as if the Terriers had reverted to the shaky team from the fall that often underestimated their opponents, digging themselves into deep holes. 

The Hockey East Quarterfinal, a win or go home game, was more of the same. The lack of energy from the puck drop showed that the season was already over, and indeed it was, losing 3-1 to UConn, the same team that had stunned them on opening night. In looking back, perhaps the season was already over that night in Maine. 

On Wednesday, March 30 director of athletics Drew Marrochello announced that head coach Albie O’Connell would not be returning next year. 

“We have very high expectations for our men’s ice hockey program and we are determined to have our team compete at the highest level of college hockey. After the conclusion of our regular year-end assessment, we believe that a new direction is needed for our program to achieve our goals.” 

The decision makes sense as it is time to reorient and return the Terrier hockey program to its past glory. The 100th season certainly saw its ups and downs, but realistically this team had the potential for more success than they were able to achieve.

There is no shortage of talent, ability, or fan support with this team or program history. What is lacking, however, is heart- a desire to win, compete, and play the game of hockey to its highest standard, every single night. 

In the offseason, this group of returning Terriers might consider spending some time away from hockey to focus and reestablish their goals and what the sport means to them, both individually, as a team, and as a coaching staff. Some required off-season reading about teamwork, work ethic, and perseverance through adversity might be a suggestion.

If anything were to help get these Terries back on the right track, BU alum Travis Roy’s Eleven Seconds might be just the inspiring and motivating thing. His perspective of life is quite profound, and one that would help this Terrier group to think about what they want to achieve in their time at BU. 

The opportunity to attend BU and be a part of such a special hockey tradition is a privilege that many young kids only dream of achieving. Using that history to fuel the fire and truly compete at the highest level against teams nationwide is long overdue. The expectations and standards for Boston University hockey must be higher and need to be delivered on, a notion that has been made clear by the athletic department. There’s no place for mediocrity in this program.  

Changes in the coming months of the offseason will be critical in determining what kind of team is going to take the ice come October. Will it be more of the same, or will we be able to build and have a successful season from start to finish? Time will tell. 

5 thoughts on “OPINION 2021-2022 season recap: lack of heart broke the Terrier run”

  1. Glad you said it and not me, so Colin can deal with you

    i agreed they lacked heart down the end. when it came time to finish the deal, they wilted. gotta look at the coach on that one, in my opinion

  2. i think this comment captures the meaning of heart

    Hastings: You need all five guys playing offense and you need all five guys playing defense.

  3. Gillian first let me comment you on a well written article. It is factually true the games and outcomes are without dispute. How and why I differ from you in some respects. Don’t let that dampen your day as just about everyone who comments on the blog will agree with you 100 percent.

    Heart and desire I truly believe that’s not a issue with this team. I constantly get bashed on here for sticking up for these kids . I’m fortunate to know most of them. I just met the new strength and conditioning coach this year but my bruins friends can’t speak highly enough about him. The old coach is a friend of mine I worked out at his assistants gym I see the type of work these kids put in on the off season I talk to them regularly I know how much they want to win. Heart is not a issue. What is a issue is we need a natural born gifted goal scorer we have not had one in a while. We have tons of talent as you and everyone points out but we are missing that sniper. If we can find him and who knows maybe a healthy O’Brien fits that bill everyone else will become that much better. Finding that guy will be a big task but one that is essential for success next year.

    My next area to cover is the first half obviously it was not the half I was looking for or anyone else for that matter but at one point our top 6 forwards were out. We were asking talented yes but unproven freshman to play roles they were not used to playing at. The team started to stray as the loses started to mount up. At this point is where I and the folks who comment disagree. In my opinion and from my observations outside influences whether they be Advisors Donors fans parents began telling the kids try this do that don’t listen to coach etc. I have said this in many comments on this blog this I believe is the biggest issue of concern for this hockey club because what you point out accurately is kids just started to play rogue hockey it was horrible there was no structure and because these kids are so talented the stuff that worked and came so easy in high school did not work here and frustration kept building and these folks who I saw with my own two eyes accelerated there plan in my opinion to oust the coach targeted parents who obviously have emotions for there kids and this snow balled . As I have said over and over I love college hockey I’m fortunate to know most of these kids and there parents but I never get involved in some of these conversations because I know what it leads to. This type of behavior needs to stop it’s distinctive to the program.

    Gillian about Travis I was at the game when he got hurt. I know hockey players not just from bu but the larger community as a whole know what Travis has meant to the game of hockey to those with spinal cord injuries and he will always be remembered. Only two sweater numbers are retired for a reason and every kid who puts the bu sweater on knows the story of Travis and shares the sense of pride for what he stood for. I believe bu hockey is in a good place I’m not about to give up on these kids many on this blog wanted me too but I don’t and I won’t. I see better days coming. Thank you for your coverage I always enjoy reading about bu hockey and even commenting on this blog which usually gives me the chance to express the dissenting view among harsh personal attacks which is ok because I bleed 🩸 scarlet and white. Go bu 🐾

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