Ice Hockey, Sports

O’Connell start of new era for men’s hockey in 2018-19 season

Defenseman Cam Crotty and forward Max Willman celebrate after Willman scored a goal in Saturday’s game against Acadia University. MADDIE MALHOTRA/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Gone are the days of former Boston University and current New York Rangers head coach David Quinn. Climbing up the ranks and taking over as the patriarch of the Terriers is Quinn’s former associate head coach and former BU captain, Albie O’Connell.

O’Connell spent the last four seasons on Quinn’s staff. Prior to joining BU, O’Connell built up a decade of coaching experience, and he is currently continuing the Terrier tradition of having alumni lead the program.

Going into his first year at the head, O’Connell focused on the team’s culture.

“You want to be successful, we want to get better every day, we want want to make sure things are going well in the classroom, in the community [and] our guys are doing the right thing away from the rink,” O’Connell said. “… We can develop each individual every day to get better and then collectively as a group, hopefully playing our best hockey at the end of the year.”

Saving its best hockey for the end of the season would be no new strategy for BU — despite preseason rankings putting the Terriers at No. 2, the team ended the first half of last season with a record of 8-11-1.

Despite the early season struggles, the then-No. 13 BU squad still found itself a game away from the Frozen Four, the same ending as the year prior.

Junior defenseman and co-captain Dante Fabbro saw it all unfold firsthand and spoke to the work ethic necessary for the team to push forward.

“It obviously sucked the last two years [with] the way it ended,” Fabbro said, “but I think if we just keep doing the little things right and come to work everyday and take care of our school and everything at the rink, I think those things go a long way.”

This freshman class is highlighted by two draft picks in forwards Joel Farabee (14th overall) and Jake Wise (69th overall), selected by the Philadelphia Flyers and the Chicago Blackhawks, respectively.

Forwards Jack DeBoer, Mark Cheremeta, Matthew Quercia, and defensemen Hugo Blixt and Dominic Vidoli round out the freshmen class for the Terriers. The Terriers also added a graduate transfer in forward Max Willman.

However, Quinn is not the only notable early departure. Despite having NCAA eligibility, forwards Brady Tkachuk and Jordan Greenway — two-thirds of BU’s top line a season ago — both signed entry-level contracts with the Ottawa Senators and the Minnesota Wild, respectively.

“They’re obviously great players, but I don’t think it’s hurtful to get new guys to have opportunity,” O’Connell said. “We’ve got a lot of good freshmen and a lot of great players currently on our team. It’s like every year. You’re going to lose good players, and other good players are going to have to fill that void and play those minutes and make an impact.”

Starting the season, now-No. 8 BU can look forward to the return of junior forward Patrick Harper, who missed most of the second half of the season due to a respiratory illness.  

Harper, despite missing 20 games during the second half of the season, finished seventh in points on the Terriers squad with 21.

The New Canaan, Connecticut native currently has a point-per-game career with 58 points in 58 career games.

Another top-scoring return from last season is senior forward and co-captain Bobo Carpenter.

Carpenter’s 35 points not only tied Greenway for the lead for the Terriers last season, but also tied Northeastern University’s junior defenseman Jeremy Davies in the highest total points among returning players in Hockey East.

For the third straight season, BU looks toward junior goaltender and assistant captain Jake Oettinger in net.

2017-18 was a tale of two seasons for the Lakeville, Minnesota native.

During the first half of the season, the Dallas Stars prospect sported a .902 save percentage and a 2.91 goals-against average. Through the second half of the season, Oettinger saw improvement in both categories to a tune of a .924 save percentage and a 2.05 goals-against average.

Oettinger saved his best for the Hockey East Tournament, where he recorded a 1.84 goals-against average and .945 save percentage en route to winning MVP honors, while the Terriers won the tournament for the ninth time.

He recorded a 30-shot shutout in the championship against then-No. 9 Providence College, the first in the title game since 2014.

They will all be part of a talented group of returning players for BU, and despite the coaching change, Carpenter noted that the expectations have not changed.

“It’s the same every year,” Carpenter said. “You want to be a national championship team, but we’re going to be a hard-working team that keeps it simple and really pushes the other teams. We want to be that fast team that really get things done.”

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