By James Garrison
For the Boston University Men’s Hockey Team (1-0-0), Saturday night marked the second beatdown in just as many weeks that the Terriers have delivered against inferior opponents. Such results will hardly be prevalent against the University of Michigan Wolverines next weekend.
In two dominant victories against Bentley and the University of Waterloo, the Terriers performed as advertised, with speed and skill at the forefront. Such dominance against inferior opponents may not have been a given under former Head Coach Albie O’Connell. Jay Pandolfo’s tenure, though, has showcased the Terriers’ ability to “get up” for even the most minute contests.
For the Terriers, a matchup against the Wolverines presents them with a quality of opponent they have not faced in four seasons, much less the past two weekends.
Nothing should be taken away from the BU – they imposed their will on both Bentley and Waterloo. However, light scheduling to start the season will only hurt the Terriers as they prepare themselves for a massive test early on.
With the schedule having been what it was the first two weeks, Head Coach Jay Pandolfo’s focus has rested mainly on the personnel within his own locker room.
“We didn’t really know what to expect from Waterloo,” Pandolfo said following the win. “We really wanted to focus on how we were going to play and I thought we did a really good job.”
Was Saturday night a job well done for the Terriers? The short answer is yes.
Positive Takeaways from Saturday and Their Implications for Michigan
The Terriers struggled to capitalize early due to an outstanding performance by Waterloo goaltender Julian Sime in the first period. Despite that, BU played almost as complete of a game as possible against an inferior opponent like Waterloo, building off of a strong opening performance against Bentley.
Across two games, a sum total of 90 shots, special teams goals, as well as contributions up and down the lineup have showcased the immense depth of the 2022-23 Terriers.
Between Domenick Fensore, Case McCarthy, Ty Gallagher, and Lane Hutson, the Terriers have a very solid top-four. What Fensore and Hutson lack in terms of physical stature is made up for in their ability to drive the play up ice. Their high-end speed and skill has been on full display two games into the young season.
“We’re going to be hard to play against, we’re going to be fast,” said Associate Head Coach Joe Pereira last month. “It’s going to be 60 minutes of hell.”
Well complemented by the likes of Gallagher and McCarthy, Hutson and Fensore’s main offensive objective – to headman the puck up the ice – has been greatly simplified by the emerging depth within the Terriers’ forward core.
Freshmen forwards Quinn Hutson, Jeremy Wilmer, Ryan Greene, and Devin Kaplan have all contributed early on to the groups’ offense production. With a combined eight goals and nine assists for 17 points between the four of them, the Terrier freshmen have rounded out a forward group with 10 top-six caliber forwards.
“I’d say [they’re more confident,]” senior forward Matt Brown said following Saturday’s game. “I mean, almost all of them had two or three the first night, it’s a good start.”
The depth the Terriers have shown early on, as well as the pace at which they play, will be essential in taking on a Michigan squad littered with top NHL prospects.
Was Saturday night a job well done? The short answer is yes. The long answer, though, is not as simple.
The long answer is that regardless of their success the first two weeks, BU is going to be thrown headfirst into the deep end of the swimming pool after a long hiatus in the lap lane.
Next Weekend’s Future Implications
Even though it will only be their second and third official games of the season, the Terriers’ hopes of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament will be heavily influenced by the upcoming series against Michigan.
The Tournament qualifiers are largely calculated based on their non-conference schedule, which is weighted alongside the strength of that schedule. This year more than others, the Terriers have a very strong non-conference schedule, with Michigan headlining.
Securing points against a top-ranked, Big 10 school would go a long way in boosting the Terriers’ national ranking and potential NCAA Tournament seed that will be determined five months down the road.
With depth as their ally, the Terriers will head into the belly of the beast this Friday with a resume of only Bentley and Waterloo to show for. Jay Pandolfo has shown though, his group will be ready for puck drop regardless of the caliber of opponent.
Consistent effort aside, two matchups against a non-ranked opponent and a school outside the NCAA leave plenty to be desired in the way of competitive hockey. Hindsight will show, regardless of outcome, tougher opponents produce stronger preparation.
“I’m not sure how much that game helped us out,” said Quinn Hutson. “Still helps with confidence a little bit.”