By: Jake Reiser
Coming into this season, the Boston University hockey team was a team of less. Jack Eichel-less, Matt O’Connor-less, National Championship-less, Max Letunov-less, after complications in the admissions process let the UConn Huskies snatch him up. The squad that entered 2015-16 was a vast departure from the one of just a year past. But still, fans held out hope, with touted recruits Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Jordan Greenway, and two goalies to tend net in sophomore Connor LaCouvee and senior Sean Maguire, returning from a season lost due to injury. The best news of all came in the form of captain Matt Grzelyck, a Boston Bruins draft pick, announcing his return to the Terriers blue-line to have his senior year hopefully end on a much higher note than the year before. Now, with winter break ending, we look back at the first half of the Terriers schedule to see whether there’s a bright future ahead.
After a preseason 4-2 victory over Acadia, BU traveled to Schenectady, Dutchmen, to fafw the Union Dutchmen. Ryan Cloonan and Charlie McAvoy, both freshman, earned their first collegiate goals, but the Terriers couldn’t pull out a victory in front of Maguire, that night’s starter, the final score 5-3. Another loss lied in wait back at Agganis, fortunately a preseason one vs the US U-18 Development team, and less than 24 hours later, Boston University started its first regular season home game against the Wisconsin Badgers. With LaCouvee in the blue paint, the Terriers overcame a very early deficit with goals from Matt Lane, Brandon Fortunato, Chase Phelps and freshman Bobo Carpenter, and won 4-1.
UConn was the Terriers first home-and-home series, the top half on Comm Ave. While Max Letunov put up two goals, surely a stinger for the Terriers, Maguire held strong in net, while Cloonan and Fortunato tacked on another goal each, and Forsbacka-Karlsson, affectionately known as JFK by scarlet and white adorned fans, bulging the twine for his first collegiate goal. The following Tuesday at the XL Center in Hartford, BU would fare a much tougher challenge and with four unanswered goals, the Huskies came out on top 5-2. Another tough loss came that Friday in a short week, this time at the hands of Merrimack University. Down two goals twice, the Terriers mounted one full comeback but didn’t have the gas for another one.
Facing adversity, could BU end the weekend on a more positive note against the Denver Pioneers? The answer was yes, on Halloween night, as despite a third period comeback by Denver, Ahti Oksanen, snake-bitten, tallied the overtime winner, his second of the night, in a 5-4 victory. Next came Beanpot rivals in the Northeastern huskies for only the Terriers second home-and-home of the season. On November 6th at Agganis, the Terriers charged ahead late, with two goals by Brandon Hickey and Oksanen, 5-4 the final score. It as also Matt Grzelyck’s first game of the season, having surgery in the offseason on his knee, and he tallied a goal as well. The next night and across town at Matthews Arena, LaCouvee played 59:04 of shutout hockey, while goals from Grzelyck, Somerby, Oksanen and O’Regan gave BY their first weekend sweep of the year.
Boston University’s seemingly toughest challenge was up next, a home-and-home rematch of the 2015 Frozen Four Championship game against the Providence College Friars. Ranked No. 1 in the nation as well, this weekend was no easy feat for the Terriers. At Schneider Arena, Ahti Oksanen scored late to send the game to a 1-1 OT draw. Back at Agganis the next night, another comeback was in order, this time at the hands of JFK, as BU and PC skated to another OT tie, 3-3. Momentum on their side, the Michigan Wolverines rolled into town for two games at home. Down early, Boston University rallied to tie the game in a 12 second span, with tallies from O’Regan and Robbie Baillargeon. With 2:54 to go, Doyle Somerby wristed a shot from the left point past Michigan netminder Steve Racine, putting BU up for good, 3-2. The next night, however, the Terriers did not have their game losing 4-2. In a short week, the Scarlet and White hosted the Bentley Falcons, a team surprising in the rankings due to their road warrior status, undefeated away from their Waltham campus. Maguire notched his first shutout in more than two seasons, and goals from O’Regan, Somerby and JFK cemented a 3-0 win.
To NYC, where Black Friday would herald a bi-annual tradition between the Terriers and Cornell Big Red at Madison Square Garden in Red Hot Hockey. There, the teams fight for the Kelley-Harkness trophy, which had been residing in Agganis after their win 2 seasons ago. Cornell goalie Mitch Gillam entered the game with an unprecedented shutout streak, and looked to keep it up when the Big Red went up 2-0. With goals from Carpenter and A.J. Greer, BU would tie it, and after going down one again, Jordan Greenway notched his first collegiate goal to re-tie it. The trophy-winner would be determined by shootout, LaCouvee making a big stop to bring the trophy back home.
Back at Agganis, there was one last series before the winter break to play at home against the Vermont Catamounts, a speedy team, yet low in the standings. The Terriers clearly underestimated them in game 1, losing 4-2. The next night, BU would have to climb out of another two goal deficit, and did, leaving their home fans with a good taste in their mouths, by a 5-3 final. There were two more games left before a much needed break, both in New Haven, Conn.
First, the Terriers would take on a highly ranked Yale Bulldogs, led by Alex Lyon. The last time these two teams played was in the Northeast Regional semifinals, where Danny O’Regan potted the OT winner. This time, it was the Bulldogs who skated away with the last laugh, a 3-2 win for the Ivy League school. In their last game, BU would face even stiffer competition against the undefeated and No. 2 ranked Quinnipiac Bobcats. In a surprising and adverse twist of fate, BU would skate away victorious, 4-1. Like the game against Cornell, the Terriers ran into a shutout streaking Michael Garteig, but were able to secure a win.
Coming into the second half of the season, the Boston University Terriers still have a lot of questions to answer. Is there a definitive starter between Connor LaCouvee and Sean Maguire? What will come of the loss of A.J. Greer to the Rouyn Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL? What can we expect out of newcomers Erik Udahl and Oskar Andrén? Can BU break out of the streak of needing to overcome adversity in the third and play all three periods? Those answers will come in the second half of what should prove to be an exciting season, and for now, the No. 11 Terriers will take their 9-6-3 record, looking for a much higher success rate in their immediate future.