Men’s Ice Hockey Season Wrap-Up: Questions Answered, Questions Remain

By: Dan Shulman and Jake Reiser

Unfortunately, the Boston University men’s hockey season has come to an end. A 7-2 thrashing by the Denver University Pioneers leaves the Terriers without any hardware this year, losing their hold on both the Beanpot and the Hockey East Championship.

However, that doesn’t mean this season was all for naught. The season saw several exciting moments, and many questions asked and answered. Let’s go back to the beginning and go through what was the 2015-16 men’s hockey season.

BU’s 2015-16 campaign saw a team facing several questions: who would be the starting goaltender, Connor LaCouvee or Sean Maguire? Who would step up to replace the production of Jack Eichel and Evan Rodrigues? Would the defense provide the same stoutness as it has last year?

A 5-3 loss at Union to start the regular season didn’t provide much confidence for Terrier nation, and a 7-4 loss at the hands of the U.S. Under-18 team, four BU prospects in tow, had everyone scratching their heads as to how this team could be any good.

The next night proved this team was indeed watchable, a 4-1 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers for Agganis Arena’s regular season home opener. The next Friday, the Terriers pushed past the UConn Huskies at home on the back of their power play, freshman Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson tallying his first goal in a Boston University sweater.

The team’s road record would take two more big hits with losses to UConn in Hartford and Merrimack in North Andover – games that the Terriers feel thay should have won.

Two victories at Agganis Arena, one against Denver in overtime by way of an Ahti Oksanen rocket and another against Northeastern kept the Terriers record in good shape.

Finally, for the first time, BU was able to claim victory on the road, or in essence the road, at Matthews Arena against Northeastern, 4-1. It took almost a month for the Scarlet and White to find success away from the home crowd.

Then came probably one of the biggest and most hyped weekends of the season: a home-and-home series with the Providence College Friars. A rematch of the national championship game, BU was looking for revenge against what was ranked first in the country.

While there were no wins to be found, two ties made the Terriers look incredibly competitive against such a highly ranked team, and that momentum was taken into the team’s 3-2 comeback win the following weekend over the Michigan Wolverines at home.

Unfortunately, that momentum wouldn’t last, as Red Berenson’s Wolverines took a 4-2 decisive victory on Saturday, leaving the club reeling as they barreled towards Red Hot Hockey.

A 3-0 victory on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving over the Bentley University Falcons set up a showdown at Madison Square Garden on the Saturday after Turkey Day.

Yet again, a comeback was in order, as Bobo Carpenter, A.J. Greer and Jordan Greenway got the Terriers to a shootout, where Matt Lane and Connor LaCouvee prevailed to keep the Kelley-Harkness Trophy in Boston.

It was Greenway’s first goal of the season. At that point, it seemed like LaCouvee was Coach Quinn’s man in net.

A 4-2 loss for Sean Maguire against the University of Vermont Catamounts and a 5-3 win for LaCouvee the next night almost assuredly sealed the deal in what had become one of the narratives of the first half.

Then, to end the first half of the season, the sophomore couldn’t handle Yale at Ingalls Arena in New Haven, a 3-2 loss, Coach Quinn turned to Maguire for a game against the top ranked Quinnipiac University Bobcats, a team undefeated heading into the last game of the first half.

Stunningly, Maguire and the Terriers handed Quinnipiac its first loss of the season, 4-1. Suddenly, the senior was right back in the goaltending race, leaving yet another question mark still over Coach Quinn’s head.

Who would finally claim the starting role in net? Could BU replicate their successes from last season? How would the team replace A.J. Greer?

Prior to the start of the second half, the latter was answered. BU signed Oksar Andren as a freshman in late December to replace Greer. The Swede wore the same number 26 sweater as Greer, and played on the third line.

With college hockey’s shortest road trip – a game at Harvard – as the first one on the docket for the season’s second half, BU would need to step into gear quickly. Harvard bolstered the nation’s top power play along with a goaltender who was unbeaten in his career.

Down 5-3 with five minutes remaining in the third, it looked like the Terriers were heading in a downward spiral. But three late goals and some grittiness behind the net from Greenway led BU to a huge win over their rivals from Cambridge.

After a 7-2 win over Massachusetts, BU headed into the most anticipated weekend of the season. A home-and-home with Boston College was an opportunity to defeat their archrival. But with a 5-3 loss and a painful 1-1 home tie, it was not in the cards for BU.

The Terriers took out their frustrations with a sweep of Maine and a win over Merrimack. Flying high, BU headed into the Beanpot against the nation’s hottest team in Northeastern. With two early goals and a 200-foot empty-netter, BU earned a date with BC in the Beanpot Final.

Following a 6-3 thrashing of Massachusetts, it was on to TD Garden. After 60 minutes of hockey, there was a power outage, a couple near brawls, a goaltender injury, and no goals. Just two minutes into overtime, BC ended the hopes of the Terrier faithful with an Alex Tuch wrist shot that found its way into the back of the net.

Heartbreak was evident, but BU senior goalie Sean Maguire was awarded the Eberly Award for Top Goaltender in the Beanpot along with tournament MVP honors. Hard as it was, BU would rebound. BU had found its starting goalie and was in the midst of becoming quite the defensive juggernaut.

The following Friday, UMass-Lowell came to town and the Terriers stole an overtime victory from the Riverhawks thanks to a Greenway deflection. The next night in Lowell was a different story. A 6-3 thumping left BU in a state of doubt.

Despite taking three points from UNH the following weekend, the Terriers relinquished the lead on multiple occasions, playing with a startling lack of confidence.

A final series on the road in South Bend, Indiana against Notre Dame was vital, as the Terriers needed a pair of wins to ensure a playoff bye. On Friday, BU played arguably its best game of the year, winning 3-2. But the next night they were blanked in a 1-0 battle, dropping to the fifth seed in Hockey East in the process.

The first round of the playoffs saw BU hosting Massachusetts, a team which had lost 20 of its last 22 games. A 2-1 overtime victory on Friday night was followed by an exhilarating 5-4 series clincher on Saturday, and the Terriers were onto the quarterfinals.

Unfortunately, the win over Massachusetts would be the Terriers last.

Emphatically swept out of the playoffs by UMass-Lowell, BU still earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament against familiar foe Denver. The Pioneers were on a hot streak, but had cooled off considerably. BU had also already beaten Denver earlier in the year.

A touchdown of Pioneers goals later, the Terriers offseason had begun with a 7-2 loss. The disappointment across Terrier nation was palpable. In a year where BU felt they could make a run at another National Title, they were eliminated much earlier than planned.

So where does this leave the Terriers for next season?

Andrén fills one of the key slots of the roster left by the many departing senior forwards. Charlie McAvoy shows promise to replace the graduating Matt Grzelyck as the puck-moving, power play leader on the blue line.

The four prospects from the U.S. Under-18 team – Clayton Keller, Kieffer Bellows, Chad Krys and Jake Oettinger – provide stability for every facet of this team, forwards, defense, and goaltending.

Boston University has a history of being a strong program. This season was not so different and Terrier fans will have plenty to look forward to next season.

Author: Dan Shulman

A New Englander at heart, Dan is a sports contributor for covering the New England Patriots primarily among other sports. He has written for the Boston Globe since 2014 with a focus on local sports, and has contributed to SB Nation, FanSided, Inside Hockey, New England Soccer Journal, and WEEI. Follow him on Twitter @DanielRShulman.

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