After a month of team practice, the No. 1 ranked Boston University men’s hockey team will officially start its 2023-24 season on Saturday when it takes on the Bentley University Falcons in Waltham, Mass.
Head coach Jay Pandolfo said his team will be pretty close to full health for the matchup. Junior forward Jack Hughes is day-to-day with a lower body injury, hasn’t practiced this week and Pandolfo said is “doubtful” to play against Bentley. However, Macklin Celebrini, Case McCarthy and Nick Zabaneh should be good to go this weekend after rehabbing from offseason injuries.
“We’ve been chomping at the bit. We’ve been going at it for five weeks now, we’re ready for the first game,” graduate defenseman and assistant captain Cade Webber said.
“We know it’s going to be a tough environment. They’re a structured team, they’re going to be tough to play against. Our minds are just focussed on that game and I think the guys are ready.”
Webber is a piece of the returning group that made it to the Frozen Four last season, in part because of the grinding, selfless play the 6-foot-7 blueliner committed himself to all year long. Webber played with a few different guys on the third D-pair last season, but now, with a more filled out defensive room, he’ll have consistency in his partner.
Junior defenseman Ty Gallagher skated on a pair with Webber during Thursday’s practice, and that’s likely a duo we’ll see tested out on Saturday. Webber also got some time with freshman Aiden Celebrini.
“Obviously Gally’s a great player; he’s reliable, he played with Dom [Fensore] the past two seasons,” Webber said. “Last year we all played with each other, so we’re comfortable with each other. We’re good friends off the ice so we’re on the same page and look forward to playing with him.”
Freshmen defensemen Mick Frechette and Gavin McCarthy got some reps together on Thursday and Lane Hutson worked with both Case McCarthy and Tom Willander. In terms of forward lines, the Dylan Peterson, Nick Zabaneh, Luke Tuch trio was back at it as well as Jeremy Wilmer, Macklin Celebrini and Quinn Hutson.
Sophomore forward Ryan Greene centered a line with Shane Lachance on the left wing and Devin Kaplan on the right, which was really clicking through Thursday’s practice.
“I like the size on the wings with Kaplan and Lachance, both power forward-type players, and the way Greene moves up the ice with his speed and pace, they complement each other well. They’ve looked really good together in practice,” Pandolfo said.
Coming into his second year of collegiate hockey after arguably being last season’s most improved player, Kaplan said he worked on his shot a lot over the summer and switched from a Bauer to CCM stick. The winger will look to have an immediate impact, leaning on his freshman campaign experience.
“Just knowing that the coaches have your back and also just staying consistent because it’s a long season,” Kaplan said. “Focusing on your game and what you can do best and kind of just carrying that into each game and not worrying about anything else.”
The Terriers have won their last two games against Bentley, once in the 2015-16 season and again last October with a 8-2 Agganis Arena Opening night victory. No matter the opponent, Pandolfo said his squad is more concerned with its own game instead of overly scouting the competition and will work to get going right from puck drop.
“I just think getting to our game right away. Just playing fast, playing with good structure. We’ve worked on all areas of our game, so you want to see our guys execute in-game,” Pandolfo said. “I’m sure, beginning of the season, we’re going to make some mistakes and you got to learn from those, but the biggest thing for us is playing with pace and getting to our game.”
Five things to know about Bentley ahead of Saturday:
- The Falcons have an entirely new staff, led by head coach Andy Jones, this season after Ryan Soderquist concluded his 21-year stint with the team in April. Jones spent the last eight years at UMass Lowell as an assistant and then associate head coach.
- Bentley finished the 2022-23 season with a 11-21-2 overall record and 8-16-2 Atlantic Hockey record.
- Junior defenseman Nick Bochen is one of 18 returning players this season and led the Falcons in points last season with 20 (five goals, 15 assists).
- Bentley is also returning sophomore forward Stephen Castagna who topped the roster with seven goals in his freshman season.
- It’s yet to be seen if Bentley is going to stick with one goaltender this season. Last year, senior Nick Grabko and sophomore Connor Hasley split time between the pipes (Grabko started in 16 games and Hasley started in 18).
Saturday night’s game starts at 7:05pm at Bentley Arena. The Boston Hockey Blog will have full coverage of the matchup so be sure to follow along on Twitter (X) @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog.