It’s been 12 years. Twelve years of endings in places like Worcester and Grand Rapids.
Twelve years of watching the big dance get real big without us.
Twelve years of helmets facing iceward, sticks resting across the knees and faces etched in frustration watching their opposition celebrate, as players wearing scarlet and white slowly glide toward the crawl of the handshake line.
Since losing to North Dakota in the 1997 NCAA Championship game, the Boston University men’s hockey team has seen its season end before the Frozen Four 12 straight years.’
To make matters worse, Boston College has been to the Frozen Four eight times in that span, winning the championship in 2001 and 2008.
For any BU fan, it is painful to see the Terrier program lack national relevance while the kids on the hill continually peak in March and April, shaking off any problems that plague their regular seasons to play cohesive, dynamic hockey.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing is the ignominious way Terrier seasons have ended. Four seasons closed without an NCAA Tournament berth, and BU has managed just a single goal in its last six season finales, covering four NCAA second-round games and two Hockey East Tournament semifinals.
Listless final efforts and empty scoresheets have become the hallmark of a team that had it so much better not so long ago. Even the 2005-06 team ‘-‘- ranked No. 1 in the country heading into the NCAA Tournament ‘-‘- fizzled in a 5-0 loss to BC, despite a strong group of senior leaders and John Curry in the net.
Last year’s hot stretch was full of false hope. BU played its best when it played bad teams. In a bad year for Hockey East, BU took advantage of the dregs of the league, going 9-1 in a 10-game stretch that began after its opening-round Beanpot loss to BC.
Taking a look at the results, however, shows that against the two truly good teams in Hockey East ‘-‘- BC and New Hampshire ‘-‘- BU went 0-5-1, with the lone point coming in a 2-2 tie with the Eagles.
Underneath it all, 2007-08 was a collection of strong individual seasons but a failure as a team as BU struggled to replace John Curry with any kind of effective netminder and, with the midseason suspension of four upperclassmen, showed a significant lack of leadership.
So with all of this, is there hope for this year’s bunch? Is there a reason for BU fans to continue to keep the faith? The Beanpots are great ‘-‘- and anyone who thinks the Beanpot isn’t a big deal just doesn’t get it . . . it’s that simple ‘-‘- but they haven’t been enough.
The 2006 Hockey East regular season and tournament titles provided exhilaration and hope ‘-‘- easily the team’s greatest accomplishments since I started my Terrier fan journey as a 19-year-old freshman in the fall of 2000. But they now seem almost fleeting, two years removed from the moments.
Despite a laundry list of negatives held over in my mind from two difficult years in a row, despite a growing worry that Jack Parker ‘-‘- someone I admire and respect even more as a human being than as a hockey coach ‘-‘- is no longer the best option to lead the program, I still have hope as the 2008-09 season dawns.
I see in Colin Wilson the most talented player I’ve seen in a BU uniform since Ryan Whitney and a guy who can lead with both his production and his effort. I see leadership potential in a pair of captains who couldn’t be more different as players. Matt Gilroy is flash with substance to back it up, a blueliner with more ability to go coast-to-coast than anyone in the league.
John McCarthy is a grinder and penalty killer, the kind of sandpaper player any team needs to succeed. Nick Bonino has sick hands and a sick shot, and I fully expect him to inspire a torrent of joyful obscenities as I wonder how he pulled off a toe drag or top corner snipe.’
Then there’s always the hope of youth. In limited time, the youngsters (guys like David Warsofsky, Corey Trivino and Chris Connolly) were impressive on Sunday. I see two freshmen goalies in Kieran Millan and Grant Rollheiser who have already inspired more confidence than last year’s departed duo.
But what I really hope to see is fire and passion from a team that needs to know how much doubt there is. Because for the last 12 years, players who have worn the scarlet and white have fallen short of the winning standards established by players like Stirling, Cahoon, O’Callahan and Drury.’ ‘
In the last 12 years, there have been some good seasons, but they haven’t been good enough. Boston University hockey is not what it was. It’s up to the guys who take the ice Friday night to remedy that.
Nick Cardamone, a 2005 graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences, is a former sports editor and the current office manager for The Daily Free Press. He can be reached at [email protected]