Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Know Your Enemy: Boston University

It's something more than a new era on Commonwealth Avenue. It's a separation from a 40-year legacy left by one of the greatest coaches in the history of college hockey. While there was BU hockey before Jack Parker (they won their first two national championships before his tenure began), it does feel odd for the Terriers to be moving on without the coach with the most career wins with a single program leading the way.

Boston University
Nickname: Terriers
Location: Boston, MA
Founded: 1839
Conference: Hockey East
National Championships: 5 (1971, 1972, 1978, 1995, 2009)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2012
Last Frozen Four: 2009
Coach: David Quinn (1st season)
2012-13 Record: 21-16-2 (15-10-2 Hockey East, 3rd place)
Series: BU leads, 34-29-3
First Game: March 14, 1953 (Colorado Springs, CO)
Last RPI win: December 11, 2010 (Troy, NY)
Last BU win: January 4, 2013 (Boston, MA)

2013-14 game: October 18, 2013 (Boston, MA)

Key players: F Sahir Gill, sr.; D Patrick MacGregor, sr.; D Garrett Noonan, sr.; F Cason Hohmann, jr.; D Alexx Privitera, jr.; F Evan Rodrigues, jr.; D Matt Grzelcyk, so.; F Sam Kurker, so.; G Sean Maguire, so.; D Ahti Oksanen, so.; G Matt O'Connor, so.; F Danny O'Regan, so.; F Robbie Baillargeon, fr.; F Brendan Collier, fr.; F Kevin Duane, fr.; D Doyle Somerby, fr.

Previous KYE installments:
There's practically nothing that could be more apparent in terms of change than in a program having its first new coach in 40 seasons. That's what the Terriers now have with Quinn taking control of a program that has had continuity in the captain's chair since 1973, when Parker replaced former RPI coach Leon Abbott early in the 1973-74 season.

Changing coaches can result in a change in direction for a program, even programs used to being among the best in the nation on a regular basis like BU. With Quinn, however, the chances of a precipitous fall seem low. Once a highly-touted defenseman drafted in the first round of the 1984 NHL Draft by Minnesota, Quinn was diagnosed with Christmas disease, a type of hemophilia, in 1987, which cut short his hockey career (although with medication, he played in the minors in the early 1990s). Quinn has been coaching since the 1990s, spending time as an assistant at Northeastern, Nebraska-Omaha, and BU over the years - he was an assistant on the 2009 national championship team. He also worked in development at USA Hockey.

In 2009, following the Terriers' crown, he gained his first head coaching gig in the AHL as the coach of the Lake Erie Monsters in Cleveland, where he spent three seasons before becoming an assistant coach with the Monsters' NHL team, the Colorado Avalanche, in 2012. Quinn's announcement as Parker's replacement was swift following BU's season, and there was little turbulence in the first transition of power in 40 years.

On the ice, the Terriers will look very similar to the team that just barely missed out on both a Hockey East championship and an NCAA tournament bid. Eight of the team's top 10 scorers from last season return, though the losses of Matt Nieto, who will forgo his senior season for an NHL contract, and Wade Megan, who graduated, will hurt a little, as they were the top two goal scorers last year.

Still, there's plenty of firepower to be had: Rodrigues did everything but score against RPI last season as part of a breakout sophomore year, and big things are expected from O'Regan, Hohmann, and Gill this year. Defensively, the Terriers should be in good shape as long as Privitera  who was shut down late last season for disciplinary reasons, can return. In net, BU platooned their freshman goaltenders last year, neither standing head and shoulders above the other. Expect that to continue into this season unless O'Connor or Maguire can firmly establish themselves as the top choice.

And, of course, BU being BU, they've got a few solid recruits coming into the program as it turns the page. Baillargeon, Somerby, and Collier were all drafted in 2012, and figure to be solid contributors out of the gate.

Whether the long-time RPI/BU non-conference series will continue without Parker (who was fond of playing RPI regularly) is unknown, but the "tradition" continues this season with a second consecutive year playing at Agganis Arena. Last year's 3-2 overtime victory for the Terriers was the first for BU over the Engineers in the building, but RPI played tough as they always do against their friendly rivals from Boston. The Tute will be without goaltender Bryce Merriam, who frequently gave BU fits, but this should be another outstanding edition of this long-running set given what both teams return to the equation this season. It should be a tough game for both sides that will likely mete out trouble spots for either team early in the campaign.

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