8-11-1. That was the record the No. 13 Boston University men’s hockey team began the second half of the season with — a far cry from the expectations for the team that found itself No. 2 in the national polls to start the season.
Despite the lackluster first half of the 2017-18 season, the Terriers (22-14-4, 12-8-4 Hockey East) still ended up in the same place they have found themselves the previous three years: the NCAA Tournament.
“I said this before. I thought we were playing some pretty good hockey, we just weren’t playing winning hockey and there’s such a fine line between that,” BU head coach David Quinn said. “I felt our goaltending was a little bit better, our defensemen were a little bit better and our forwards were a little bit better [in the second half]. When you add all of that up, all of a sudden you go on the tear we went on because we weren’t that far off.”
In spite of the slow start, Quinn said that neither the coaches nor the players lost a sense of optimism.
However, the Terriers had to overcome another setback in their season.
While he played in the first game of the second half, sophomore forward Patrick Harper did not appear in a game for the remainder of the season. Quinn officially ruled him out for the year following a 1-1 tie against the University of Vermont on Feb. 24.
Although Harper played in his final game of the year on Jan. 6, the Nashville Predators prospect still put up 21 points, a mark good for seventh on the squad.
“He just had a respiratory issue. Again, I don’t even know the name of what he had,” Quinn said. “It was a respiratory issue and the recovery was to take the rest of the year off. He’s progressing well and is going to be fine for next year.”
The Terriers had trouble finding consistency at the center position due to the early departure of sophomore forward and assistant captain Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson at the end of last season.
Quinn noted that losing “JFK” hurt the Terriers in terms of figuring out who would be in the middle.
Over the course of the season, BU had the likes of junior forwards and assistant captains Bobo Carpenter and Jordan Greenway, graduate transfer forward Drew Melanson and freshman forwards Shane Bowers and Ty Amonte in the center position.
One player who will not be back next season is Greenway. The Canton, New York native signed his entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild and has forgone his senior season.
Following the double overtime victory in the Beanpot opening round over Harvard University, Greenway found himself playing for Team USA in the 2018 Winter Olympics, where he lit the lamp one time.
Over the course of the second half of the regular season, the Terriers only lost twice — even with Greenway being in Pyeongchang.
Quinn added that “no final decision has been made” in terms of other potential flight risks among the roster and “we will know sooner rather than later” about who will be back next season.
Quinn declined to mention which players he was referring to.
While he lost one of his leading scorers in Greenway, Quinn said he feels that he has some players currently on his roster that can fill the void of his former first line center and continue to improve their game
“You hope every guy makes that jump,” Quinn said. “I think Bobo Carpenter has another level to get to … Harper, [sophomore defenseman Dante] Fabbro and [Chad] Krys, all those guys. The freshmen this year should be better sophomores … We’ve got a good core coming back.”
Even with the second half run BU had, the Terriers still found themselves needing to win Hockey East in order to get a bid to the NCAA Tournament and have a chance at winning the national championship.
“The only way to win a national title is to keep going back and keep putting yourself in these positions,” Quinn said.
The Terriers did in fact run the table. For the second year in a row and the third time in four seasons, BU found itself in the NCAA Regional final.
In order to get there, the Terriers upset the then-No. 14 Boston College in the Hockey East semifinals, then-No. 9 Providence College in the Hockey East championship and then-No. 4 Cornell University in the NCAA Northeast Regional semifinal.
Unfortunately, for the second consecutive season, BU saw its season come to a close in the NCAA Regional final as the Terriers fell to the No. 10 University of Michigan 6-3.
“The last two years [and] the last two losses hurt,” Quinn said. “We lose in overtime to Duluth, and then its 3-3 with 12 minutes to go and you feel like you have all the momentum and boom it’s 4-3.”
Looking to next season, the incoming freshman class features forwards Jake Wise, Tyler Weiss and Jack DeBoer, who rank 65, 71 and 197, respectively, among North American skaters for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
The Terriers will also bring in defenseman Ryan O’Connell, who was drafted last year in the seventh round by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Quinn said the coaching staff is aware of players who will potentially be four-year players during the recruiting process.
“It’s a good class, [a] really good class,” Quinn said. “There’s a little bit of everything. We’ve got some speed, some size [and] some skill.”
The incoming freshman class will look to help BU continue its recent success and get the Terriers over the hump and back into the NCAA title game for the first time since 2015.
“We felt like we had all the ingredients,” Quinn said of this season. “By the end of it, we felt like there was a swagger to us that you need to win a championship. Obviously we won the Hockey East title and we thought we were in a position to win the next title, unfortunately it didn’t work out.”