By: Jake Reiser
Just 129 days since their disappointing 5-2 loss to Denver in the NCAA West regionals, the Boston University Men’s hockey team will kick off their 2016-17 season with an exhibition game versus Prince Edward Island. The offseason has seen a lot of turnover with the Terriers, the likes of Matt Grzelyck, Danny O’Regan and Ahti Oksanen out and Clayton Keller, Kieffer Bellows and Dante Fabbro, and company.
That being said, BU was ranked #1 in the Hockey East media poll. New captain, senior defenseman, Doyle Somerby sees both the positivity of being ranked first but also sets his expectations realistically. “Since I’ve been here, I don’t think we’ve had the top spot., it’s really nice to have that honor, but at the same time, it’s something that if you’re not working hard throughout the season, you saw a team like Northeastern go on a long unbeaten streak, they took a run with it,” Somerby said. “It’s a long season with a lot of things that can happen in the league.”
Head coach David Quinn believes that while the polls do have a purpose, he needs to keep his guys focused in the short term. “As a group, you don’t really put any stock into it. Our guys certainly understand what’s in front of us, the challenges we’re going to face just like every other team in our league,” Quinn said.
Like two years ago, the Terriers will be one of the youngest teams in the NCAA. Coach Quinn believes in the leadership his team has in its new captains’ squad and seniors to set the example early on. Quinn said, “We certainly feel like we’ve got great leadership in Doyle Somerby, Nick Roberto and Tommy Kelley as our seniors, and JFK and Nik Olsson as underclassman, assistant captains. Those guys have certainly led by example the first three weeks.”
Somerby’s assistant captains will be sophomore Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and junior Nikolas Olsson. “JFK”, as he’s known by fans, is expected to step up as a mature leader of the forwards corps, possibly centering the top line again. Quinn said, “He’s matured beyond his years. We’re really anticipating him to make the next step as an all-around player.”
“I was a little bit surprised,” Forsbaka-Karlsson said on being named an alternate captain. “I wasn’t expecting it, but especially since it’s coming from the guys, I think it’s a really big honor.”
Where JFK is making strides in playing, Olsson is just happy to be on the ice. His Terrier career thus far is marred with injuries, most recently a shoulder surgery in early February shutting down the final month of his 2015-16 season. Olsson said, “It’s been a really long time since I’ve been 100% and fully healthy, so I’m really excited to see what I can do just full go, no restrictions, I’m just very excited.”
While not present at media day, Clayton Keller and Kieffer Bellows will arguably be the two biggest additions to the lineup for Boston University. Coach Quinn said, “They’ve proven themselves at high levels. There’s a familiarity, they’ve had success against a college schedule. You’re talking about two elite players who work hard, compete and they’re going to suffer the usual peaks and valleys of a freshman, but hopefully not too many of the valleys.”
Quinn knows sophomore Jordan Greenway got off to a slow start last season, but expects him to contribute right from the get-go this year. “Physically, there’s no one like him in college hockey. He’s athletic, he can skate, sees the ice extremely well, makes plays, he can shoot it, so everything’s there,” Quinn said. “At the end of the day, a lot of guys have the talent, but they have to get it done night in and night out, there’s other characteristics you need to be successful, he’s working on those, he’s getting better and better and I’m really excited for him.”
Another sophomore that Coach Quinn expects to produce right away is Charlie McAvoy, the Long Island native who got drafted 14th overall by the Boston Bruins in the 2016 NHL draft.
Connor LaCouvee is the only returning goaltender to have had playing time last season, but Coach Quinn says he’s liked what he’s seen not only out of LaCouvee, but sophomore Max Prawdzik and freshman Jake Oettinger. “It’s early and it’s a small sample, but we like what we’ve seen out of all three of them. With goaltending, there’s not much subjectivity. You stop [the puck], you play.”
Trips early to the University of Denver, the team that knocked them out of the NCAA Playoffs last season, and the University of Michigan will prove to be early tests and bonding moments foe a young team in the month of October. “I think it gives your team a chance to bond and get away, spend some time with each other that you normally wouldn’t spend, We’re going to be on the road, playing some tough games. Team unity, togetherness, work ethic, leadership, all that important stuff can improve when you travel as often as we are early in the year,” Quinn said.
The Terriers first preseason game is at 7:00PM on Saturday, October 1st at Agganis Arena vs Prince Edward Island.