The Terriers won the Hockey East Championship Saturday night, but only got to revel in their victory for a couple of hours. With gameday versus the Western Michigan University Broncos (23-14-1, 15-8-1 NCHC) just five days after their coronation, the Boston University men’s hockey team (27-10-0, 18-6-0 Hockey East) got back to work immediately, with eyes set on a much larger prize.
They can’t bask in the win, but I sure can. Here are some takeaways from an impressive championship weekend.
The Hutson Brothers
I’ll start with the most obvious difference-maker. How lucky are we that Quinn and Lane Hutson are in scarlet and white? Both have been unbelievably impressive all year, and I don’t need to dig through the statistics to prove that.
Lane has stolen the college hockey spotlight with his dynamic scoring and ability to deke almost every defender in the league. We can probably write a Lane Hutson manifesto, but I’ll save that for the Hobey campaign. I’m so confident that he’s a Hobey Hat Trick finalist, and if it’s an award based on character between Lane and Michigan’s Adam Fantilli, I’ll let Fantilli’s 63 PIM and Lane’s 24 speak for themselves.
He also won the E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence with the USNTDP last year, an award presented annually by the NHL to “a candidate who best exemplifies commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness, and athleticism.” If there’s one NCAA freshman (I know the Hobey race isn’t just freshmen. I’m cherry picking), who’s done that… It’s Lane Hutson.
Quinn though, has been an unbelievably consistent part of this team as well. He’s a “pure goal-scorer” and is tied with his brother for goals this season at 14, second only to senior Matt Brown’s 15. Quinn is second in the NCAA for game-winning goals as well, netting his sixth to carry the Terriers into the HE Championship game Friday night. He’s an aggressive forward, often pushing the rush and sends every puck to the net.
The two of them have 74 points. As freshmen. And the best news? There’s a THIRD Hutson, Cole, committed to BU, who was called up from the U17s to the U18s just last week as well. I’ll say it again: how lucky are we?
Unsung Heroes: the freshmen
When I say unsung heroes and then say “the freshmen,” it’s almost like… we’ve been singing the freshmen’s praises since October 1. This time around, the Hutson’s stole the show, but we owe a LOT of this weekend to Ryan Greene and Devin Kaplan. Without them, we’d have a very different mindset heading into the tournament.
Greene had a hot start as a Terrier, then went relatively quiet, and now has been silently thriving, making slick plays with seven assists in his last seven games, including apples on both goals Friday night. He’s due for a goal, and hopefully will get rewarded tomorrow afternoon.
What I really want to talk about is Devin Kaplan’s campaign for the most-improved Terrier. His game-tying goal on Saturday wasn’t a freshman goal, it was a poised individual effort that I’d expect to see from a junior or a senior. He picked up the puck along the boards and then created time and space for himself for a shot from the circle in a play that can only be described as mature. Here is a link to the video so you can watch it as many times as I have.
The turnaround from the first time the freshmen suited up at TD Garden was unbelievable. We’ve touted BU’s depth all year, but really, the team is second in terms of scoring from the freshmen class and fourth for scoring from the senior class (thanks @BUhockeystats). Any player can step up in any game, and it’s awesome to watch the reliability that this team has from all four lines.
Accountability turned resiliency
In every player interview at the beginning of the season, we heard about the coaching staff’s emphasis on accountability; how everything matters. While accountability was what got this team off the ground in October, resiliency quickly became the theme of the season. From the Friday losses to Saturday wins and growing pains of the fall, BU has fallen subject to injuries of key players at weird times.
Captain Domenick Fensore talked all about this in our most recent Terrier Hockey Talk, but there’s a clear commitment to the “next man up” mentality. Take the McCarthy injury for example: Lachlan Getz was essentially “called up” to play for the first time since Feb. 3 against Maine, and while he wasn’t perfect, I really don’t think anyone was holding their breath out of fear or concern over him playing in a championship game after being scratched for a month and a half.
Not only did the D-men step up, but with Skoog’s questionable suspension Saturday morning and then a midgame Nick Zabaneh injury, the Terriers ultimately rolled three forwards and still came out on top. Despite the exhaustion of playing extra minutes, OB, Greene and Stevens, took on the challenge, as did the entire defensive-unit.
Also worth noting is the Terriers won two tight games, as opposed to their regular offensive blowouts. As the competition gets tougher, the scoring gets lower, and BU proved that they could come out victorious even with just a one-goal margin.
Drew Commesso stood on his head
Drew Commesso put on a show this weekend. He is, I’d argue, the only Terrier who showed up during regulation Friday night. I think Pandolfo, the team, and the fans all know that the performance in the Providence game was unacceptable –– but as every coach loves to say, “good teams find a way to win.” Commesso made breakaway saves, rebound saves, saves down low, just every save imaginable on Friday.
There was no lack of “what a save by Drew Commesso” tweets against Providence.
Saturday was more of the same and the confidence boost this should give him is well-deserved. Even after letting in a short-handed goal (that wasn’t really his fault), ‘Messo seemed locked in. The mental distance it takes to recover from and return to a “net zero” after letting in a soft goal is twice that of any regular goal. He shook it off, hunkered down, and as mentioned above, was another key example of Terrier resilience.
Also, it seems like we have a fourth goaltender. Cade Webber. Mitch said it all already, but ‘Messo often says that he owes Cade a steak dinner. He does.
Momentum is high, but focus remains the same
As journalists, we’re not on the bench. But we are in the press conference and the podcast studio. This team is focused on more. When BU made the tournament in 2021, it felt like a Cinderella story and an unachievable dream. After winning the Beanpot last year, the team essentially crumbled and the season ended with an 8-1 loss to Maine. If you listen to the podcast episode with Fensore, you can really tell that this team is striving for more with a healthy level of confidence, but with the sour taste of the Beanpot loss still lingering. That –– and the podcast –– makes you want to run through a brick wall.
Before the Beanpot, the Terriers were on a seven-game win streak, and we all know how that turned out. This win streak feels different, like the guys are loose but still locked. Fensore talked about the ease and light energy of the intermission locker room before overtime. Guys calling out saying “don’t worry, I’ll get this one” in regards to the game-winning goal shows a lot of this team’s faith and security in themselves.
Pandolfo and Fensore both said it: this team is confident and good and they know that. But, after what happened one horrid Monday in February, they’re not overlooking their opponents.
Someone, something to win for
This team had doubters in the beginning of the year. Bringing in a new head coach is supposed to have a transition year and instead, it turned into the most successful season this team has had since 2015.
The beginning of the year seemed to want to prove that the “BU hockey program isn’t broken,” and my god have they proven that. To give credit where credit is due, O’Connell is responsible for recruiting in these freshman difference makers, but the coaching, culture, and BU hockey atmosphere has become totally undone and rewritten.
After what happened to Mac and with Zabaneh now out with injury (hoping for an update on this this afternoon), the Terriers are looking to prove that this isn’t a fluke, and that this team is as good as its record shows –– but now with a chip on their shoulder and a guy to rally for.
The key to a national championship is a winning formula of depth, veteran advice, solid goaltending, and a steadfast leader. The Terriers have shown time and time again that these keys are alive and well on Comm Ave. Now let’s hope they’re alive and well in Manchester, and eventually, in Tampa.