Minnesota was the better team. Seven penalties was unacceptable. The Terriers found their game late. There is a list of moments to reel over from the national semifinal loss. But it’s not what defines the 2022-2023 season. Instead, it was the year that Boston University reinstated itself as a power in college hockey, led by a veteran group that injected pride back into the program.
“It’s been awesome coming to the rink everyday, just competing with these guys, it’s been unbelievable. The way we bought in this year was really fun to see,” senior defenseman Domenick Fensore said postgame. “It stinks. But this program has a bright future ahead.”
Fensore, and the rest of the senior class, are the ones that set this team up for future success. They reminded people both within and outside the locker room what it means to wear “Boston” on your chest, raising standards and expectations to a level that returned the Terriers to the national stage.
The loss stings for obvious reasons. But beyond the score and deflated prospect of the national title, it was the last game this season’s roster would all skate together as teammates. The brotherhood that the Terriers formed this year directly translated to their dedication to excellence on the ice.
Walking away from that kind of group, who strung together this type of season, is the arguably the hardest pill to swallow.
“Just really proud to be a Terrier. Just a hell of a group, hell of a season,” senior forward Jay O’Brien said. “Going to miss throwing on that scarlet and white. Just really proud and honored to be a Terrier.”
It’s what makes college hockey both great and heartbreaking. These guys come in with four years –– or less –– to make it count. And then, 60 minutes of play later, it’s all done.
“I’m not going to be here anymore, not going to be a Terrier which is crazy,” Fensore said. “I can’t even put it into words right now.”
The thing is, Fensore will always be a Terrier. As will the rest of the players that say goodbye to Comm Ave in the coming weeks. While they may not be in the lineup anymore, the legacy that the senior class is leaving behind taught the young guys what BU hockey is all about, and what it should be in the future.
“Throughout the year you saw guys buy into roles and really understand what it takes to win here,” Fensore said. “Give credit to them, they put their egos aside and wanted to be a part of success and that’s what playing for BU means.”
Head coach Jay Pandolfo worked in tandem with his leadership group to rediscover the BU identity. Through trial and error, tweaks and triumphs, the Terriers came out as a gutty, hardworking team. They made their game hard to play against, leaned on their speed and skill, but stuck to simple execution and took pride in their roles from first to fourth line.
That’s what Terrier hockey is, and under Pandolfo, that’s what it’ll continue to be.
“I want them to be proud of playing for this program,” Pandoflo said. “Moving forward, for them to understand that if you want to be successful you have to sacrifice certain things and do things a certain way. Just learn from that.”
The Pandolfo effect has spanned far past the winning records and hard-earned trophies. He changed the program’s culture in less than a year, giving the Agganis crowd something to cheer for and a community to feel a part of since puck drop in October.
“Very lucky and fortunate to have Pando lead us and come in here and try to change the way things had been going for BU,” O’Brien said. “He cares so much about his players, staff, everyone around BU he treats the same. He holds us to a high standard, holds everybody accountable. He’s going to be a coach at BU for as long as he wants, hopefully that’s a long time.”
And despite the departing seniors, Pandolfo has a deep roster to work with next season. The freshman class gained veteran experience this past month and has the sting of a Frozen Four loss to fuel them right back to that position. This team, as a whole, learned both the euphoria of winning and devastation of losing on big stages.
They’ll be back, and they’ll be hungry.
“Overall, we found that identity again as a group and we want to keep that moving forward. And it’s about the team. At the end of the day it’s about the team. If you don’t have that buy in, it’s tough to win,” Pandolfo said. “We have some talented young players, and for them to buy in the way they did, I think it’s going to propel our program moving forward.”
You’ve got to lose to win, and this Terrier group still has a lot to work on to beat a team of Minnesota’s caliber. But the foundation they built themselves this season has me already counting down the days until opening night at Agganis Arena.
The 2022-2023 team changed the trajectory of BU hockey, and they’re just getting started.