By: Matt Dresens
The waiting, guessing and prognostication in regards to filling the vacant Boston University head hockey coaching position is finally over as Associate Head Coach Albie O’Connell has been promoted as the new bench boss of the Terriers.
O’Connell joined the staff before the 2015 season and has been instrumental in building the current roster, past rosters, and pipeline. According to many in the hockey circles, O’Connell has been BU’s head recruiter, using a relentless style, but yet is still very relatable to the players. The recruiting classes simply speak for themselves.
While the transition will be pretty seamless, there will be a few tweaks here and there from O’Connell.
“I think the penalty kill,” mentioned O’Connell after the press conference. “I think I might make that look a little bit different. I think overall we have had a pretty good team. I don’t think there’s a lot you have to change. I would just like to do things in some areas a little bit different.”
What makes O’Connell so relatable is that he has been there himself. Starting in the Fall of 1995, he played four years at BU, amassing 42 goals, 66 assists for 108 career points in 149 games as a Terrier and was captain his senior year in 1999.
Albie does lack experience as a head coach. In fact, the former NY Islanders draft pick has no previous experience as a head coach. Including his time at BU, O’Connell has been an assistant coach at seven different colleges, including three different Hockey East schools.
Other coaches reported to have been in the running included all the usual suspects: Joe Sacco, Shawn McEachern and Jay Pandolfo. There also was one “off the board” candidate in Union Head Coach, Rick Bennett. According to College Hockey News’ Mike McMahon, the job came down to Bennett and O’Connell in the end.
Bennett, at first look, seemed like a decent candidate, coaching the 2014 Union squad to the National Championship. But since then, Union has plateaued and the majority of the team that won in 2014 was constructed by Nate Leaman, who left Union after 2011 for Providence’s head coaching vacancy.
Now that O’Connell has been promoted, the search for a new assistant coach is in full swing. O’Connell is in charge of selecting his assistants and fully plans to keep the staff intact.
“I’m looking to add just one guy,” said O’Connell. “I want to do that as quick as I can and I have a couple of ideas.”
When asked if the candidates were BU guys, O’Connell simply said, “they could be.”
Much like with the head coaching search, the assistant position comes with some obvious fits. First up would be Shawn McEachern, who was in the running for the head coaching position and is the current head coach at The Rivers School.
It would be completely understandable for McEachern to decline on the assistant position after not being named head coach.
Some others candidates inside the “BU family” would include Freddy Meyer, who has run the East Coast Wizards junior program since 2014. Before that, the nine-year NHL veteran was an assistant coach with the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL. The one thing Meyer may lack, which is pivotal for a college assistant coach, is recruiting experience.
Possibly the most intriguing candidate is current Connecticut assistant coach and former Terrier captain Joe Pereira. Pereira played at BU from 2007-2011 and was the lone senior on the 2011 team. He has been the assistant coach at UConn since 2014.
BU was last in the market for an assistant coach prior to last season and Pereira’s name was mentioned, but he remained with UConn. The Terriers hired Len Quesnelle, a former college assistant at a number of schools and area scout for the Detroit Red Wings.
At the time, Pereira was said to be in a very good place with UConn and wasn’t looking to leave the program. With O’Connell seen as a long-term hire, there doesn’t seem to be much room to move up for Pereira at BU.
While many inside the BU program seemed reluctant to hire “outside the BU family” in regards to the head coaching position, the assistant vacancy maybe different. Just looking at it, Quesnelle was an “outsider” with no ties to BU prior to being hired. This could very well happen again.