It isn’t possible to discuss Boston University hockey without first addressing the elephant in the room, namely the sexual assault charges against two Terriers players last year and the resulting task force report that found a celebrity culture among players.
“Every kid on every campus who’s an athlete should have the idea that they’re looked at a little differently than the regular student and they have more responsibility for that,” BU coach Jack Parker says. “Some kids are great at that and some aren’t that good at it. We’re hoping that we’ll continue what we’ve done over 40 years and for the most part have kids who represent ourselves, our university, our coaching staff, and our team in the right way.”
Assuming, then, that BU hockey will get mentioned for only the right reasons this season, what will be the keys to on-ice success?
The biggest one will be how well the two highly regarded freshmen goaltenders, Matt O’Connor and Sean Maguire, replace Kieran Millan. Arguably, the two find themselves in the same position as Millan and Grant Rollheiser did four years ago. Initially planned as a rotation, Millan took over when Rollheiser got injured and backstopped the Terriers to a national championship.
“We think they’re going to be terrific at this level,” Parker says. “We’ve proven that we can win with freshman [goaltenders] in the past. Other schools have proven that they can win with freshmen in the past.
“These two guys will probably go every other game and see how they do for a while. They’ll push each other, but they’ll also support each other.”
In front of them will be returning defensemen Garrett Noonan, Alexx Privitera, Sean Escobedo and Patrick MacGregor. Freshmen Matt Grzelcyk and Ahti Oksanen will fill the offensive defensemen roles of Adam Clendening and Max Nicastro, both of whom left early for the pros.
“We have a good crew coming back, but we also have [to replace] the two really important guys who left,” Parker says. “Matty Grzelcyk and Ahti Oksanen are very talented. I’m sure they’ll be in the lineup every night. I’m sure that one or both of them will be running the power play for us.”
Up front, the team will be led by Matt Nieto, Sahir Gill and senior captain Wade Megan. Although talented forwards are part of every incoming freshmen class, Parker sees returning players as the keys to more production.
“[Cason] Hohmann and [Evan] Rodrigues have to take a step up from their freshman years,” Parker says. “We’d like to get more production out of those two.
“We have a couple of seniors [who can do more for us], Ben Rosen and Ryan Santana. Those type of guys are going to need to step up as well. It will be the upperclassmen and not the freshman class that makes this team.”
The talent is there, but two factors from last year could trip up the Terriers if they are repeated.
“Our overall team defense has got to get better,” Parker says. “We were confident in our goaltending and we gave up too many shots.
“We also led the league in penalty minutes. We were great killing penalties, [but] we spent a third of every game in the penalty box. We’ve got to make a drastic change in that.”
About the Terriers
2011-12 overall record: 23-15-1
2011-12 Hockey East record: 17-9-1 (tie, second)
2012-13 predicted finish: Jim: fifth; Dave: fourth
Key losses: G Kieran Millan, F Alex Chiasson, F Chris Connolly, D Adam Clendening
Players to watch: F Matt Nieto, F Sahir Gill, F Wade Megan, D Garrett Noonan
Impact rookies: G Matt O’Connor, G Sean Maguire, D Matt Grzelcyk, D Ahti Oksanen
Why the Terriers will finish higher than predicted: They finished tied for second in the league last year and have the talent to repeat. If the freshman goaltenders come close to delivering what Kieran Millan did in the same situation four years ago, BU will contend.
Why the Terriers will finish lower than predicted: If the freshmen goaltenders both flop, BU will go no further than other teams with problems in net.