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.