Ice Hockey, Sports

For small Class of 2015, an increased role on young BU team

David Quinn has only occupied Jack Parker’s old office for a handful of months, but the Boston University men’s hockey coach has already adopted one of his predecessor’s favorite phases.

“This is a meritocracy,” Quinn said, sitting in his new office last week. “Those who play well will be rewarded with further play.”

Cason Hohmann and Evan Rodrigues learned this firsthand.

Just 12 months ago, the then-sophomore forwards were coming off of largely unremarkable rookie campaigns, two question marks on an offense — and a team — chock full of them. Hohmann put up only eight points in 35 games in 2011-12, while Rodrigues had 12 in 36. Were the 5-foot-8, 178-pound Hohmann and 5-foot-10, 175-pound Rodrigues going to be viable college hockey players? After getting muscled around at times, occasionally to the point of frustration as 18-year-olds fighting for spots in a Hockey East lineup, were they going to make the all-important freshman-sophomore jump?

The answer, it turns out, was a resounding yes.

The pair blossomed, finishing tied for third on the team with 34 points apiece, with Rodrigues (14 goals, 20 assists) edging Hohmann (10 goals, 24 assists) in terms of scoring. They assumed significant roles on special teams, while helping solidify the top two lines for a team that made it all the way to the Hockey East championship. The big season culminated in the two of them, along with former Terrier Ben Rosen, participating in the New York Islanders development camp in July.

Now, on a team that features 17 freshmen or sophomores and just five seniors, two of whom will probably not play regularly, these two juniors — the only members of the Class of 2015 — are the models of success in more ways than one.

“Your team’s success is always tied to the returning players,” Quinn said. “Last year’s freshmen have got to be better sophomores, and last year’s sophomores have got to be better juniors, and last year’s juniors have got to be better seniors. You always need people to do what Cason Hohmann and Evan Rodrigues did last year — make that big jump.”

“But it’s hard. It’s a big jump for a lot of them.”

For players like Matt Lane (seven points as a freshman last year) and Sam Kurker (five points), who had a limited impact in 2012-13 but are said to have much higher ceilings, Hohmann and Rodrigues represent the best-case-scenario of what they can turn into. Rodrigues and Hohmann are fully aware of the prominent role they will have on this year’s squad, and they are adjusting their expectations for personal growth accordingly. Not all of those expectations have to do with on-ice production.

“This year we have more of a role in getting the team ready to win, so that’s huge for us,” Hohmann said. “Last year I remember juniors and seniors got us ready to go for the game. I think this year it’s our turn to get everyone ready to go, get everyone in the right mindset before the game.”

Both juniors referenced the same former teammate who they will aim to emulate: Matt Nieto.

According to Rodrigues, who spent most of 2012-13 on Nieto’s line, Nieto didn’t need a letter on his chest to teach his forward underlings how to conduct themselves.

“One of the biggest things I learned from him [was] his attitude toward all of us,” Rodrigues said. “He never got down or in a bad mood. He stayed level-headed and just played his game, and that’s something hopefully I can put into my game this year.”

Of course, there used to be a third member of the Class of 2015. Alexx Privitera’s tumultuous tenure as a Terrier was well documented. An offensive-minded defenseman, Privitera tallied 26 points across most of two seasons before a series of on-ice discipline issues resulted in him being suspended for the final month-plus. Over the summer, news broke that neither Privitera nor his brother, Jarrid, a forward who had committed to BU, were affiliated with the program any longer.

“Obviously I was involved in [that decision],” Quinn said. “When there is change, sometimes it is for the better for some people and not for the better for others. … Alexx obviously had his issues here last year. I have known Alexx a long time and he just kind of felt like maybe a new start somewhere else would benefit him. He is a good player and he is a good kid and he is going to do well for himself.”

So now, there are two. And with Quinn’s crew as young as it is, and as much as a clean slate is a theme this season, Hohmann and Rodrigues will likely be mainstays — on the ice, as well as in the dressing room.

Those expectations aren’t lost on the impactful forwards.

“The biggest jump this year will be leadership-wise. … It’s almost necessary [given] how many upperclassmen we do have,” Rodrigues said. “We’re going to be two go-to guys on this team.”

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