Game Previews, Off-Ice News

NOTEBOOK: Frozen Four practice and media day

Photo by Gracie Davenport.

The Terriers’ quest for a national championship has landed in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

The Boston University men’s hockey team will take on the University of Denver Pioneers Thursday at 5 p.m. ET for a bid to Saturday’s title game. 

The Frozen Four teams practiced at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday before speaking to the media. A notebook on BU’s mindset, lineup adjustments and keys to success ahead of the national semifinal, below: 

Potential personnel change in the bottom six

Freshman forward Doug Grimes joined the third line with seniors Nick Zabaneh and Dylan Peterson during Wednesday’s practice. While head coach Jay Pandolfo said he hasn’t finalized his lineup – and did not confirm whether or not Grimes would reenter the rotation – the 6-foot-3 winger would give a heavier look to the Terriers’ bottom six. 

“We’ve looked at some different guys in different spots – we’ve had some time to do that over the last week and a half. But no decisions yet have been made on the lineup,” Pandolfo said.  

Sophomore forward Jeremy Wilmer was the odd one out on some rushes as sophomore forward Devin Kaplan moved back down to the fourth line with senior Luke Tuch and graduate Sam Stevens.

“They’ve been very good together, they can play against anyone,” Pandolfo said of the fourth line with Kaplan. “They’re heavy, two big guys on the wing. Sam Stevens is one of our most responsible players, so they’re a very effective line for us.”

Wilmer, who has been one of BU’s best playmakers this season with 30 assists, has struggled in the past month, partially because of his size. In the NCAA Sioux Falls Regional, Pandolfo shortened his bench against both RIT and Minnesota which saw Wilmer lose a significant amount of ice time. 

It’s a big decision at a momentous point of the season for Pandolfo. Grimes had a steady slotting on the fourth line in first semester but hasn’t played since March 7 and didn’t dress for any of the Terriers’ high-stake matchups – namely, the Beanpot, Hockey East playoffs or regionals. 

“Grimes is a big forward, he’s long, he skates very well,” Pandolfo said. “He brings some size. You have Zabaneh who has a ton of speed, and then you have two big wingers with him to create some space for him.” 

Wilmer, on the other hand, has shown what he’s capable of, but it just hasn’t been clicking lately – is that enough to keep him out of the lineup? Perhaps the Terriers could opt for an extra forward instead of seven defensemen? 

Photo by Gracie Davenport.

Leaning on experience 

No matter how much a team says it quiets the outside noise, the Frozen Four is a spectacle. From the welcome party, skating in an NHL rink, heightened media and peaking pressure, it’s a lot to juggle while keeping focus on the 60-plus minutes of hockey in front of you. 

The Terriers, in their second consecutive trip to the Frozen Four, now know that, and they’re leaning on their experience from the 2023 run to better prepare them this time around. 

“We know what to expect with all the media stuff and how big the stage really is – now no one’s caught off guard by that,” sophomore defenseman Lane Hutson said Wednesday. “I think we’ve got a group here that can find a way to win, and find a way to win different ways.” 

In last year’s national semifinal against Minnesota, BU was thoroughly outplayed in the first period. The group was put on its heels by the high-flying Gophers and found its footing too late in the game to rally for a comeback. It’s something that the Terriers will remember – and aim to not let happen again – against Denver. 

“It was good today to get out and practice and kind of take everything in – the experience, the rink, all the media. But tomorrow it’s a business trip,” graduate defenseman and captain Case McCarthy said Wednesday.

“We came here to win hockey games, and it starts at the drop of the puck. There isn’t any time to kind of get used to the game, we have to be ready from puck drop. I think it will help to have all the experience from last year.” 

Part of last year’s experience, too, was the heartbreak of losing on the national stage, of coming to terms with the season ending, of saying goodbye to teammates who entered the next stage of their hockey careers. As sappy or cliche as it may sound, these guys are playing for each other – for one more practice, team meal and game – and that’s a motivator. 

“Our team really is a brotherhood. I come to the rink, and Quinn’s my teammate but he’s also my brother – that’s how I feel about everyone. Everyone here is my brother,” Hutson said.  

Photo by Gracie Davenport.

Focus on Denver 

It’s no secret the Pioneers know how to score. Denver has had the top offensive production in the nation this season with an average 4.7 goals per game – and have potted six or more goals in 13 contests. For a more in-depth scouting report on the Pioneers, click here

What’s more, junior forward Massimo Rizzo is set to make his return from injury Thursday against the Terriers, per Denver head coach David Carle. Rizzo has been sidelined since mid-February with a lower-body injury and has missed 14 games. Prior to the injury, Rizzo logged 44 points (10 goals, 34 assists) through 28 games while averaging 1.57 points a night.

Rizzo will no doubt be on BU’s radar, but beyond the matchup, the Terriers are focused on sticking to their game. 

“I think for us, it’s dictating the way we want to play. Worrying about ourselves, minimizing our mistakes,” McCarthy said. “I think when we are playing our style, we are hard to deal with. We have speed, we have some physicality aspects. We just have to stick to our game and stay patient for a full 60 minutes.” 

Pandolfo, who is appearing in his sixth consecutive Frozen Four (four as a player, two as a head coach), echoed a similar sentiment to his team’s captain. In his five previous trips to the Frozen Four, Pandolfo only won once – he understands just how hard it is to make it to the top of the heap, and that’s not lost in the room. 

“The margin for error is very slim. The biggest thing is you can’t beat yourself,” Pandolfo said. “We’ve got to make sure that we are staying above the puck, that our reloads are really good, make sure our gaps are good for our D so they don’t have a lot of time and space.” 

Freshmen acting as leaders

Photo by Gracie Davenport.


Macklin Celebrini is the obvious headliner of this year’s freshman class. The 17-year-old forward and Hobey Baker finalist has 64 points (32 goals, 32 assists) through 37 games and has made everyone around him better. Celebrini’s offensive numbers speak for themself, but it’s his 200-foot, grinding defensive details and desire to win that have been all the more impressive. 

“His competitiveness is second to none…He doesn’t give anyone an inch, and he’s like that every day,” Pandolfo said. ”For a 17 year old to push a group of older players like that, it’s pretty impressive and it says a lot about him, his character and how much he cares.” 

Celebrini’s linemates, freshmen Shane Lachance and Jack Harvey, have also stepped up to the task of being leaders on and off the ice – especially down the stretch. Since entering the lineup in second semester, Harvey has 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) through 20 games, and Lachance’s versatility has made him a weapon with 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists). 

This weekend is Lachance’s first trip to the Frozen Four as a player, but not as a Terrier. Lachance’s dad and uncle – Scott and Bob Lachance – as well as grandfather, legendary coach Jack Parker, all played for the program and raised the standard of excellence in their own ways. 

Lachance was on the ice as a five year old in 2009 when BU clinched its last national title, and now has the chance to win it himself.

“He takes so much pride and cares so much when he puts that jersey on. He’s a leader on our team as a freshman,” Pandolfo said. ”He has so much respect for the program, I think the players feel that, and they have so much respect for him.” 

Lachance has grown into his own throughout his freshman campaign, owning his net-front identity, but not being confined by it. The 20-year-old is quick on the rush, physical and has a sneaky wrister that was showcased against Minnesota. He – and his freshmen first line – will be key to the Terriers’ success against Denver. 

“I can’t say enough good things about Shane Lachance,” Pandolfo said. “There’s a lot of things that go unnoticed about Shane Lachance. He means so much to our team.” 


The national semifinal between BU and Denver is set for 5 p.m. ET at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The Boston Hockey Blog will have full, on-the-ground coverage, so be sure to follow along on Twitter (X) @BOShockeyblog and Instagram

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