After culling roster, Boston University moves forward with heralded freshman class

Matt Lane (left) and Matt Grzelcyk are part of the Boston University junior class (photo: Melissa Wade).

There likely have been few seasons stranger than the 2013-14 hockey campaign on the Boston University campus.

For the first time in 40 years, there wasn’t a man named Jack Parker behind the bench. And on the ice, a 10-win campaign hardly fit into BU’s annuls and its history of success.

But truth be told, it was a season that may have been predictable. Despite just one below-.500 campaign since 2004, the Terriers have hardly been the dragon slayers of yore. Besides the 2009 national championship season, BU has just one other regular season title since 2000, one other postseason title and zero Frozen Four berths.

Not exactly the resume of champions.

But at the same time, there has been built a standard for this BU program, and last year simply didn’t live up to that.

There were bumps in the road. First-year coach David Quinn unapologetically expelled a number of players from the team. At the same time, key players, most notably defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, missed significant time with injury.

With the 2014-15 season rolling around, Quinn is confident that the players he has in the locker room are the ones that belong.

“Nobody wants to go through what we went through last year,” said Quinn. “But some of the changes we made last year, we were going to win less games last year but I thought it would put us in a position to have the success BU is used to have quicker.

“I think if we hadn’t made the changes we made last year, we could’ve won 15 or 16 games. But that’s not BU hockey. We made some tough decisions and asked guys not to come back. No question, it hurt us last year. But it gave us an opportunity to bring in the class we have coming in this year.”

No doubt, the most talked-about part of BU hockey this year may be its freshman class. Without disrespecting the returning players, a recruiting class that is led by one of the top NHL draft prospects, Jack Eichel, needs mention.

Add to Eichel four freshman defenseman in Brien Diffley, Brandon Fortunato, Brandon Hickey and John MacLeod who likely will be in the lineup night in and night out, and there will be a significant reliance on the underclassmen of the Terriers team making it better.

Eichel has, quite possibly, been the most interesting story line of the BU offseason. A year away from being NHL draft-eligible, Eichel was followed by offseason rumors that he might follow the path of a number of other college commits in recent years swayed away from their commitments by Canadian major juniors.

To Quinn, however, it was never an issue.

“This may sound crazy, but I mean it: It never crossed my mind that he wasn’t going to show up,” Quinn said of Eichel. “You hear all the rumors of the best players who aren’t coming. It’s the world we live in right now. If you know his parents, you know why he felt that way. He always wanted to play college hockey. He’s serious about school.”

Eichel may be one of Hockey East’s most touted freshmen since Maine’s Paul Kariya in 1992, but Quinn isn’t worried about the rookie getting too ahead of himself. He knows he was grounded in his upbringing.

“That’s already been handled,” Quinn said when asked about Eichel getting caught up in the headlines of his potential success. “It’s called great parenting.”

Should the Terriers have any major question this season, it may be the goaltender position. Last year’s duo of classmates Sean Maguire and Matt O’Connor will be broken up as Maguire will miss the entire season with a concussion suffered near the end of last year.

No longer enrolled at BU, it’s questionable whether Maguire will come back next year after a medical redshirt.

That leaves O’Connor and rookie Connor LaCouvee, who played for Alberni Valley in the BCHL last season, to handle all duties in net.

Leadership could be interesting, as Grzelcyk will be the team’s captain as only a junior and coming back from an injury. There are not a ton of upperclassmen on this team, which means there could be a youthful exuberance to the club’s play, particularly if the Terriers want to return to their typical position in the upper echelon of the league.

About the Terriers

2013-14 record: 10-21-4

2013-14 conference record: 5-12-3 (ninth)

2014-15 predicted finish (coaches poll): Sixth

Key losses: D Garrett Noonan

Key returnees: D/F Ahti Oksanen, F Danny O’Regan, F Robbie Baillargeon, F Cason Hohmann, D Matt Grzelcyk

Why the Terriers will finish higher than predicted in the coaches poll: There is a lot of talent in BU’s freshman class, most notably Jack Eichel, who carries with him hype that Hockey East probably hasn’t seen since Paul Kariya. Add to that the fact that this is the team that coach David Quinn wants in his locker room and that there were very few losses from last year and you have to believe this team should be in the top four.

Why the Terriers will finish lower than the coaches poll: We saw what happened last season when this team got into injury troubles. Although there should be more depth to this year’s club, you never really know until you step on the ice.