ST. PAUL, Minn. — After the No. 8/10 Boston University men’s hockey team saw its season end in a 7-3 loss to the No. 6 University of Minnesota, junior assistant captain Alex Chiasson did not want to talk about the number of penalties BU took in the game or the turnovers the Terriers made. After all, he said, it did not really matter at that point. BU will not play another game this season, and it will not have a chance to fix its mistakes.
Instead, Chiasson opened up about his teammates, about the trials the Terriers went through during the 2011-12 season, about the adversity BU faced all year but refused to ever use as an excuse for poor play. Chiasson spoke about how for this Terrier squad, the season was more about the soul of the team than the actual results on the ice.
“Right now, it doesn’t matter what hockey means,” Chiasson said. “It’s about becoming a team and how guys grew up and how guys became leaders, how many character guys we had in this locker room. That’s what you have to look at.”
Chiasson does not have much else to look at from this season. BU will not go back to Boston with any trophies in hand, and no trophies won earlier this season will await the Terriers’ return to Commonwealth Avenue.
But a trophy cannot prove how a team that made a name for itself through bad press on the news and in the police logs somehow found a way to also make a good name for itself and earn respect on the ice. A trophy does not prove how much it means for a team to make the national tournament and finish second in Hockey East after losing three draft picks in the middle of the season and playing most of the year with seven walk-on players in the regular lineup.
Many things went wrong for the Terriers this season, but at the end of the day, they still made it further than any Terrier team since the national championship-winning 2008-09 squad. BU’s 23 wins were the third-most by any BU team in the last nine years. None of those eight other teams faced anything like what BU went through this season.
“I would say it was a rewarding season, to see what we went through,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “There was turmoil and there was sadness and kids’ roommates missing, kids they went to class with every day, and, ‘My best friend’s missing,’ ‘The guy I ate with five days a week at lunch is missing.’
“Those type of things were hard for these guys to swallow. For the most part, they had more fun coming to the rink than any place else because they were allowed to smile there. I think they felt uncomfortable otherwise.”
For many, former Terriers Corey Trivino and Max Nicastro were only known as misbehaving young men who were out of control. But for the BU players, Trivino and Nicastro were friendly faces they saw each day, people they woke up to each morning. Charlie Coyle was not just a top-end talent who turned his back on the team in the middle of the year; he was a roommate who spent almost all of his time with the rest of the team.
“For the guys who are still around, we really stuck together,” said redshirt junior forward Ross Gaudet. “We grew real close as a team over the year and being through so much really helped that. For the guys who aren’t here this weekend and who weren’t with us the second half, we were always thinking of them and we always kept them in the back of our minds.”
The Terriers had a difficult task in replacing missing players not just on the ice, but also in the locker room. According to Chiasson, that task was one of the most difficult challenges he has ever faced.
“Nobody knows how hard it was for us to go through this stuff, and from a player’s perspective, it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever faced,” Chiasson said. “Everything that’s been going through, it was definitely hard for us to get in the public. This team is all about hockey and there’s a bunch of guys whose passion is hockey, just like mine.
“The only place where I could find myself comfortable was around the guys and at the rink.”
The environment at the rink this season will never return. BU will continue with a task force investigating the culture of the team in the aftermath of Trivino and Nicastro’s arrests, but future Terrier teams will not live in the same shadow of those events that this BU team did. Players will graduate, and others will turn pro. But at the end of it all, the BU players said they were proud of this team and will treasure this season forever.
“This year is something I’m equally proud of as something I was part of as a freshman in the national championship year for a bunch of different reasons,” said senior captain Chris Connolly. “The memories from this year are something I’m not going to forget, not unlike what we went through in the championship year.
“There’s a lot of resilience, a lot of good character and attitude in that locker room that easily could have folded up and packed it away at Christmas, and this team was able to get [to] the national tournament. There’s just no quit in that team and I enjoyed being a part of the entire season.”