By Gillian McMahon
Saturday night marks the return of Boston University men’s hockey for the 2022-2023 season. The Terrier team will make their season debut versus the Bentley University Falcons of the Atlantic Hockey Association with a 7:00pm puck drop at Agganis Arena.
With only the scarlet and white scrimmage under their belts, this matchup with Bentley will be BU’s first showing of a highly anticipated season number 101. They will, however, get to face off against the University of Waterloo Warriors in a true exhibition game on Oct. 8.
In Thursday’s press conference, first-year head coach Jay Pandolfo said his team is ready to get going.
“We’ve been practicing now for four weeks,” he said. “I think it’s time that we get into a game because our guys are sick or practicing against each other (…) it’s time to play.”
With the 2021-2022 campaign leaving much to be desired, this squad is primed and will look to get off to a hot start in their first game.
“This is a new year –– I think our mindset is to be better every day,” Pandolfo said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We try to get better every day in practice (…) we should be consistent and play the same way no matter who it is. I think the guys have bought into that, and I think that’s our focus going into game one.”
Last year’s squad finished with a 19-13-3 overall record –– 13-8-3 within Hockey East –– after being knocked out of the quarterfinal round of the Hockey East Tournament by UConn, and not receiving a bid to the national tournament.
Meanwhile, the Falcons posted a 14-20-2 overall record last year, 10-14-2 within the AHA. Their season was up and down, and like the Terriers at times, they struggled to put together a consistent winning streak, especially when it mattered most in February and March with the postseason on the horizon. Their season featured a few big wins in non-conference matchups like Ohio State and Boston College last October.
These two Terrier and Falcon rosters feature a majority of experienced upperclassmen who will lead the way and set a strong example for newcomers. A combined 18 juniors, seniors, and grad students are rostered on the Terrier side, and 14 for Bentley.
Instead of reviewing film and picking apart the ins and outs of Bentley’s game, the Terriers have focused their efforts in practice this week on how they will execute their game.
“I don’t want to worry about what another team is doing, especially this early in the season,” Pandolfo said. “We’re going to play the way we want to play.”
On the leadership side, senior captain Domenick Fensore will look to set the tone for the Terriers. In a bit of an unprecedented move, four others will join the leadership group including senior defenseman Case McCarthy and forward Jay O’Brien, as well as junior goaltender Drew Commesso and junior forward Luke Tuch to round out the five Terriers who will be sporting letters this season.
Bentley only recently announced their leadership group on Sept. 23, consisting of co-captains graduate student forward Dylan Pitera and senior defenseman Marcus Walter, and assistants senior forward Joe Winklemann and junior forward Cole Kodsi.
Pitera was a leading scorer for the Falcons a year ago, with seven goals and 13 assists. Kodsi earned the nod following an impressive sophomore season with 23 points, including 10 goals and 13 assists.
Preseason play has shown great depth in the Terrier lineup. Some fitting pairings on both the offensive and defensive lines have emerged and are ready to be tested in a game setting.
“Brown and Phillips have been together a lot in the first four weeks,” Pandolfo said. “O’Brien and Tuch played a little bit together last year, they’ve got some chemistry, they’ve looked really good. We got some good young freshmen Ryan Green, and Jeremy Wilmer have been playing together pretty much since day one.”
On the defensive side, freshman Lane Hutson and McCarthy, Fensore and sophomore Ty Gallagher, and junior Cade Wedder and senior John Copeland will be playing together to start the season, Pandolfo said.
“I think our identity is [that] we want to play a pressure game –– I don’t think we’re a heavy team,” Pandolfo said. “I think we’re a fast team. I think we’re gonna play with speed and skill. That’s how we’re gonna have to play. ”
Saturday’s matchup, though a non-conference game, is an important test for the Terriers to show that they are back for redemption following the rollercoaster of last year, new coaching changes and work they’ve been putting in throughout the long offseason.
“It’s gonna be a lot of fun Saturday, and hopefully, we give the crowd something to be happy about,” Pandolfo said.
The puck drop is set for 7:00pm at Agganis Arena. The Boston Hockey Blog will have live coverage from the game on our social media channels, as well as a post-game recap. Continue to follow along on Instagram @boston.hockey.blog and Twitter @BOSHockeyblog.