Boston University defenseman Brandon Hickey might have just been a freshman during the Terriers’ journey to the NCAA championship game in the 2014-15 season, but he was not too young to make his name known throughout the college hockey ranks.
In the Hockey East play of that season, Hickey led the league in blocks while notching six goals and ranking third in plus-minus ratings with +18. The Leduc, Alberta native even pitted a goal in the NCAA national semifinal, helping lead the Terriers to a defeat the University of North Dakota and gain a spot in the title game.
Since that weekend at TD Garden, Hickey has been waiting in for the chance to compete in the Frozen Four. Now, in his last opportunity to do so, he is prepared to lead the Terriers into battle when they host Union College at Agganis Arena in the season opener on Sept. 30.
“[Being a captain] definitely changes up your role [compared to] being an underclassman,” Hickey said. “It is something that you can either take and run with or shy away [from]. I have been trying to really take advantage of it and show the guys the culture around here, get them acclimated to what BU hockey is and what [we] stand for.”
Having served as an assistant captain on the squad in the final half of last season, Hickey has emerged as the premier leader for the Terriers.
His presence in the locker room was rewarded heading into this season, as Hickey was named the team captain following the graduation of defenseman Doyle Somerby.
“I know it has only been three weeks, but I really love our leadership,” BU head coach David Quinn said. “These guys have really set the tone, and they are not letting a lot of the little things slip this early in the season. These guys get a lot of respect from our underclassmen. There are a lot of things that you need to win. There are characteristics that you need to acquire as a group to have success. Leadership is one of them [and] we have that.”
While Somerby will begin his NHL career with the Columbus Blue Jackets this fall, Hickey has one last box to check off before beginning his own professional career.
Although he was drafted by the Calgary Flames at the beginning of the third round in 2014 NHL Entry Draft and his rights were handed over to the Arizona Coyotes this June, Hickey has stayed at BU over the past three years with the hope of hoisting an NCAA championship trophy pushing him every step of the way.
“[The past captains] showed me what BU hockey is about,” Hickey said. “The way you conduct yourself each and every day.”
Last season was arguably the best of Hickey’s collegiate career. He upped his point total from eight to 15, garnering four goals while showcasing his passing prowess with 11 assists.
One of these assists came in a crucial situation in Game 1 of the Hockey East quarterfinals. With the Terriers trailing 2-0 to Northeastern University, Hickey facilitated a critical goal by his linemate sophomore defenseman Dante Fabbro midway through the second period.
This assist landed a surplus of momentum onto the side of the Terriers, who rebounded it to beat the Huskies 3-2 in overtime.
Hickey was also impressive on the road, with three of his four goals coming when he was away from Agganis Arena.
His first goal of the season came on the road in a power play situation against the University of Denver in a narrow 4-3 loss. In Hockey East play, Hickey was a reliable offensive option on the road, putting home goals in road victories against the University of Vermont and the University of Maine.
When BU entered a hostile environment, Hickey remained unfazed and someone who the Terriers’ younger performers could look to for instant stability.
“[Hickey] was my [defensive] partner last year,” Fabbro said. “[He’s] great. He treats everyone so well and he is such as great leader … He is a tremendous person off the ice. He works hard. No matter what day it is, he is leading by example.”
For Hickey, the raucous fan base of the BU program is a major reason why he has decided to keep his talents in Boston for his final season, he said.
“We always have a really good crowd,” Hickey said. “When you go to [the] Beanpot, it shows you how much BU loves hockey. Everyone goes out there and shows their support. Even your professors are supportive too. It has been a really special experience. I am back here because I did not want to leave.”