It turns out it wasn’t just one bad game.
An underwhelming season opener at Bentley University snowballed into a disjointed showing at University of New Hampshire, with a grand finale of getting blown out 8-2 on home ice against the U.S. Under-18 team on Saturday night.
Before the puck dropped for the 2023-24 season, the Boston University men’s hockey team was prematurely labeled a college hockey powerhouse – and hey, we were part of that noise – but after the first two weekends, BU’s storyline has drastically changed.
It’s three games in, one of which was exhibition, so the Terriers have the luxury of time on their side. But the product put on the ice against the Wildcats and U18 wasn’t a call for small fixes. Instead, it was a glaring reminder that individual success does not equate to team success and that last year’s accolades mean very little if you can’t defend them.
“I just think we’ve got to get back to, just getting back to playing the right way,” head coach Jay Pandolfo said postgame Saturday. “I guess the good thing is we have a lot of stuff to work on this week, so I guess that’s a positive. There will be a lot of video clips from the last two games on how not to play, so we’ll start there.”
Apart from freshman forward Macklin Celebrini’s consistent production, freshman defenseman Tom Willander’s poise on the blueline and senior forward Luke Tuch’s heightened responsibility on the first line, BU is fishing in a shallow pool for positives and did nothing to build its team play.
“We’re getting in our own way right now, our group,” Pandolfo said. “We’ve got to find a way out of it. I know this is an exhibition game, but it’s still in front of your home crowd and you want to have a better performance than that.”
While the current BU roster gave the Agganis Arena faithful little to cheer about on Saturday, future Terriers Cole Eiserman, Cole Hutson and Kamil Bednarik dazzled with a combined 10-point night for the U18 team.
Cole Hutson – younger brother of Quinn and Lane Hutson – opened scoring at 4:25 on an up-ice rush sparked by Bednarik who pushed the puck to Eiserman on the left wing. Hutson picked up Eiserman’s dish in the slot and snapped it past netminder Henry Graham for his first of an eventual two-goal game.
It was quite the arrival to Comm Ave from the Terrier trio which – if you’re trying to stay optimistic instead of doom scrolling on Twitter through all the ‘overrated’ comments – is the biggest and best thing to take away from Saturday.
Eiserman, who announced his commitment to BU on Sept. 27, exploded for a five-point performance, netting a hat trick and tacking on two assists while skating on the top line with Bednarik at center and Max Plante (University of Minnesota Duluth commit) on the right wing. Bednarik had three assists and really commanded play out there, leaning on his speed to catch BU lagging in the neutral zone.
The U18 team played how the Terriers probably drew up their own game ahead of the night; they put together a tight-checking, detail-oriented 60 minutes that emphasized quick transitions and a smothering forecheck. What’s more, the U.S. squad’s defensemen remembered to not only play defense, but sacrifice the body and buy into their support role on the back end.
Pandolfo routinely preaches for his team to ‘play the right way,’ and it seems they’ve got no tape from this season that displays what exactly that means.
“It looks like when you come back in your own zone to stop, to finish checks, to have your stick on the ice,” Pandolfo said. “I mean, I can go on all night with some of the stuff we aren’t doing right now. It’s kind of endless right now.”
The Terriers will figure it out, they will, but it’s going to take a change in mindset from a lot of the guys. BU was flat out embarrassed this weekend; how, morale wise, do they rebound? How, on the ice, do they prove they’re still the ones to beat?
It’s an early season gut check for the Terriers and the answers can only come from within.