There are some new faces on Commonwealth Avenue this season for both women’s and men’s hockey. With the addition of Kerstin Matthews and Mollie Fitzpatrick at Walter Brown Arena and the entry of Jay Pandolfo at Agganis Arena, the Boston University hockey program has gained some real talent behind the bench.
Matthews and Fitzpatrick fill the shoes of Tara Watchorn and Liz Keady Norton, who left their positions with the women’s team this summer for head coach roles at Stonehill College and Dartmouth College, respectively.
It’s somewhat of a homecoming for Matthews who, with current head coach Brian Durocher, transitioned the women’s team to a Division I level program during her time at BU from 2003-08. Thirteen years later, she’s back for more.
“One of the main reasons I wanted to come back to Comm Ave. is the support that BU puts into its hockey program,” Matthews said. “There’s nothing better than being at a school that supports hockey the way Boston University does.”
Matthews has another full-circle moment coming up on her calendar. As a Providence College graduate and senior year captain of the hockey team, she’ll be returning to her alma mater as a Terrier instead of a Friar Oct. 31. Reflecting on being back in Hockey East, Matthews expressed an appreciation for the history of the league she once played in and now coaches in.
“Having that tradition with you every day reminds you of how far the women’s game has come and how far we’ll continue to push it,” she said.
Fitzpatrick, the new women’s assistant coach, is seeing BU with a fresh set of eyes as she comes to the program after six seasons with Norwich University, where she helped lead her squad to four straight NCAA tournaments. Following that success, Fitzpatrick said she was in a place in her life where she was ready to take the next step in her career.
“BU is a place that I know can be super successful. For me, it was like ‘Okay, how can I take what I’ve done at the college level, at the Division 3 level, and see if it can transfer over to the Division 1 level,’” she said, “and I was fortunate enough to be given this opportunity.”
In terms of her coaching style, Fitzpatrick said she is a “player’s coach.” She said she believes players have to be supported in all capacities of the game and life to succeed.
“I put my head on the pillow and go, great,” Fitzpatrick said, thinking of how she aims to feel at the end of every day. “I did everything to the best of my ability for them, whether that’s advocating for them, whether that’s pushing them, whether that’s having those hard conversations.”
Durocher expressed excitement for his new coaching staff during an Oct. 1 postgame press conference. He spoke specifically about how Fitzpatrick’s past is going to positively impact the future of BU women’s hockey.
“Mollie [Fitzpatrick] is somebody who’s got eight or nine years of experience and has been successful wherever she’s been,” he said. “Having that success and being with other good coaches who have taught her is only going to help us, and I see a good karma, good chemistry with the team.”
On the men’s side, they had a big hire in the absence of associate head coach Paul Pearl, who left this summer to take the leading position at Cushing Academy. Joining head coach Albie O’Connell behind the bench this season is Pandolfo, the former captain of the 1995-96 Terrier team who has spent the past five years as an assistant coach for the Boston Bruins following a successful career playing in the NHL.
Pandolfo could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
Having an NHL veteran and a former leader of the hometown favorite Bruins brings new excitement to the BU men’s locker room.
Additionally, having played for and captained his team, Pandolfo knows a thing or two about Terrier pride and what it means to put on the scarlet and white sweater night in and night out. The new associate head coach now gets to be on the other side of things.
O’Connell only had good things to say about Pandolfo in an Oct. 2 postgame press conference.
“He’s professional in everything he does,” O’Connell said. “He has a good mind for the game, he’s a very good coach. He’s pretty light, too. Guys really like him, and it’s pretty exciting to have not only Jay but Doug [Friedman] on the bench too.”
Friedman is the men’s director of hockey operations and was also hired this summer. Friedman, who was a BU team captain in ‘94 before graduating, was teammates with Pandolfo as a Terrier.
Matthews, Fitzpatrick and Pandolfo will all see regular-season action with the Terriers this weekend as the men’s team opens its season against the University of Connecticut, and the women’s team looks to keep its winning streak going against Northeastern University.