The conclusion of the Boston University men’s hockey team’s 2011-12 season ended the college careers of the remaining players from the Terriers’ 2008-09 national championship team. As these players leave the team, BU fans lose the only remaining members of the last successful BU hockey season.
The loss of such talent as goaltender Kieran Millan, who earned Hockey East Tournament MVP that season, as well as a spot on the NCAA Frozen Four All-Tournament Team, or captain Chris Connolly, who scored the opening goal of the national championship game and assisted the game-winner in overtime, has to leave the BU faithful wondering who will replace their production and leadership in upcoming seasons.
While the Terriers will lose five players to graduation, lost three players during the season and lost junior assistant captain Alex Chiasson after the season because he signed a pro contract with the Dallas Stars, the future for BU hockey remains bright thanks to a strong returning defensive core and a deep, promising recruiting class.
The main area of concern for the Terriers next season is between the pipes, as the Terriers are graduating Millan and fellow goaltender Grant Rollheiser, who were both NHL draft picks. To replace the duo, BU coach Jack Parker is following a trend of bringing in two freshmen goaltenders to lock down the position just like he did with Millan and Rollheiser.
“It’s a little bit easier because we’ve already been through that ‘We have two rookie goaltenders; I wonder how we’re gonna be?’” Parker said. “Actually we were pretty good. So we have a little track record there.”
Incoming freshmen Matthew O’Connor and Sean Maguire will battle for the starting job next season for the Terriers. O’Connor is coming off of a season in which he recorded a 3.04 goals against average and a .902 save percentage in 50 games with the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League. Maguire posted a .913 save percentage and a 2.33 goals against average in 31 games with the Powell River Kings of the British Columbia Hockey League last season and is ranked the No. 28 North American goalie in the NHL Draft Central Scouting rankings.
“We are really happy with these two guys with the years they are coming off of coming in here,” Parker said. “Will they be Kieran Millan and Rollie right off the bat? In a few months, we will find out.”
After the goaltending issue, the next area to focus on is the offense. Of the top nine forwards in the lineup for its 2011-12 season opener against the University of New Hampshire, only three remain with the team for next season.
BU lost its top two centers in the middle of the season in then-senior Corey Trivino and then-sophomore Charlie Coyle, which depleted its depth at the position and took away two of the top forwards in Hockey East. Those losses, the departures of two of the team’s top three point scorers this season in Connolly and Chiasson and the loss of depth in forwards Ross Gaudet and Kevin Gilroy leaves BU’s offense thin.
While the team still has talented goal scorers in junior Wade Megan and sophomore Matt Nieto, who led BU in goals with 20 and 16, respectively, it will need some of the younger players like redshirt freshman Yasin Cissé and true freshmen Cason Hohmann and Evan Rodrigues to take on more offensive responsibility.
Along with the forwards on the roster, a large group of incoming freshmen forwards will help the retooling of the Terrier offense. At least five freshmen forwards will wear a BU jersey next season, including Matt Lane, who played for the United States National Team Development Program last year and was ranked No. 150 of North American skaters in the NHL Draft Central Scouting rankings.
“We know we have a real good class,” Parker said. “Some of them are going to have to play on the first couple of lines. . . . They’ll have an impact in that they’re going to get that ice time.”
The class also includes two forwards who are both listed as 5-foot-7 or smaller: Robert Polesello and Jarrid Privitera. The 5-foot-7 Polesello totaled 31 points for the Indiana Ice of the USHL last season.
Meanwhile, the 5-foot-6 Privitera will join his brother, freshman defenseman Alexx Privitera, when he laces up next season.
The elder of the two Priviteras will be a part of what should be the strongest aspect of Parker’s squad next season: the defense. Barring any pro signings, BU will be returning three of the top defensemen in Hockey East in junior Sean Escobedo and sophomores Garrett Noonan and Adam Clendening.
Noonan and Clendening were among the top offensive defensemen in the league last season, combining to score 20 goals and 60 points for the squad. However, while that pair was in the limelight for its impressive offensive production, Parker noted that Escobedo will be an integral cog to the BU defense next season.
“Even if we have everyone else back, he’s the guy that you have to build off of,” Parker said of Escobedo.
Because BU will return five starting defensemen from a year ago, the team only needs to fill one spot on the blue line. Incoming freshman Matt Grzelcyk, who played with Lane on the USNTDP squad, could be an option to fill that hole. Grzelcyk was ranked the No. 177 North American skater in the NHL Draft Central Scouting rankings.
Despite experiencing unexpected departures throughout the season, Parker pointed out that the team expected to lose Trivino, Coyle and defenseman Max Nicastro at the end of the season to the pros anyway, and recruited players to replace them for this upcoming season.
“Right now nothing’s different from what we had planned for next year,” Parker said. “We had already given their scholarships up. So it’s not like we had to scramble and find new replacements for these guys.
“From our point of view, obviously it has to be considered a rebuilding year. . . . Whether [the recruits are] going to be terrific or whether they’re going to be okay is up to them, but we think we’ve got a real good class coming in.”