There were plenty of questions surrounding the No. 4 Boston University men’s hockey team heading into its first exhibition of the season on Saturday.
The most burning question was just how good the freshman class would be. It was well known that the nine newcomers recruited for 2016-17 had talent, but that doesn’t mean talent always translates on the ice and in games.
After just one exhibition game, however, it’s safe to say that the freshmen are as good as fans anticipated.
Led by a seven-point performance from forward Pat Harper and a hat trick from forward Clayton Keller, the Terriers handled the University of Prince Edward Island with ease Saturday night, lighting up the scoreboard en route to a 10-2 victory. Freshmen Terriers accounted for 15 points on the night.
Harper, a product of Connecticut’s Avon Old Farms school, was a surprise member of the first line for the exhibition contest. Given the chance to showcase his skill alongside sophomores Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Bobo Carpenter, the 5-foot-9 winger didn’t disappoint.
Just over three minutes into the game, Harper scored on an unassisted wrister to notch the Terrier’s first goal of the year. He then scored about seven minutes later from the right slot on assists from senior defenseman Doyle Somerby and freshman defenseman Chad Krys.
After the game, Somerby had nothing but positive things to say about his newest teammate.
“His play speaks for itself, he’s extremely skilled as you guys saw,” Somerby said. “Five goals is tremendous, but it doesn’t surprise me with the work ethic that he puts in and the skill level that he has and how elusive he can be.”
Harper would go on to score twice more in the second period, his fourth goal pushing BU’s lead to six. He would then find the back of the net for a fifth time on a breakaway in the third period. The five goals were the most that the New Canaan, Connecticut native has ever scored in a competitive game.
“I think you just got to approach each shift like it’s a new one, have the same mentality,” Harper said when asked if he took a moment to appreciate his dominance during the game. “It’s an exhibition game so it doesn’t really mean much, but it was just good to get to know my linemates and the players I’m going to be with all year. It was a good night, good first game at Agganis.”
Selected by the Nashville Predators in the fifth round of the 2016 NHL Draft, Harper was somewhat overshadowed by the likes of classmates Keller and Kieffer Bellows, despite leading Avon Old Farms with 59 points last season. After Saturday’s win, that isn’t likely to be the case anymore.
As far as adjusting to the collegiate level after playing at a prep school, Harper said it was difficult to get into the flow of the game thanks to 39 total penalties between both teams.
“I think today was a little bit of an unorthodox game as to how many penalties [there were], not really much of a flow to it,” Harper said. “Hopefully the game on [Thursday] will be a little bit more flow and less penalties to get adjusted to. I thought today was a pretty good first game to get used to my linemates, there’s just so much talent on this team that you just really [have] to find the open ice and you’re going to get the puck. Just got to keep on in the right direction.”
Harper, however wasn’t the only freshmen that shined bright in the blowout. Keller, who was drafted seventh overall by the Arizona Coyotes in the 2016 NHL Draft, tallied a goal in all three periods. After totaling 107 points with the U.S. NTDP last season, it seems as though the Swansea, Illinois native will pick up right where he left off.
Not to be outdone, freshman defensemen Dante Fabbro and Krys combined for five points in the win. Fabbro scored the Terriers’ final goal of the first period on a one-timer right in front of the net. Harper credited the team’s togetherness as the reason for the freshmen fitting right in.
“We have a really tight-knit group,” Harper said, “Everyone just puts the team first and we’re all working real hard, and I think that showed on the ice tonight. We just want to keep it going next week versus USA and then our first official game versus Colgate [University]. We had a pretty good start tonight, just have to keep it going throughout the week.”
One game doesn’t define a whole season, but Saturday’s win is a good indicator of what’s to come. This Terrier team is loaded with young talent, and it was on full display in the win.
Also on full display was the Terrier faithful’s excitement for the future. After Harper notched a hat trick in the second period, the fans in Agganis began to chant “Hat Trick Patrick,” much to the surprise of the star of the night.
“That’s definitely pretty funny,” Harper said. “It’s sort of a nice change of pace from my brothers telling me that I’m a terrible hockey player all the time. It was definitely fun to hear.”