All eyes were on the Boston University Terriers at the beginning of this season in the wake of last year’s string of scandals and the subsequent findings of the task force. The team, packed with nine fresh faces and a formidable goalie tandem, has surprised many as it spent the first half of the season climbing up the rankings and unseating two #1’s along the way.
We spoke with Jashvina Shah, beat reporter for WTBU Sports, for a midseason evaluation of the Terriers successes and challenges looming ahead in the second half.
C-LINE: What is the most visible difference between last year’s team and this one, besides all the freshmen?
JASHVINA SHAH: Given what I saw the first half of last season (I was abroad in the spring) I’d have to say the Terriers are stronger defensively and much more disciplined. They aren’t averaging as many penalty minutes as they have in the past and are helping their goalkeepers out a lot more than they helped Kieran Millan last year.
The Terriers still turn the puck over occasionally, but it seems to be a lot less than last year at the midseason point. BU allowed a lot of goals in the first half of last year that resulted from turnovers and just bad plays and bad decisions.
CL: Which of the team’s nine freshmen has made the biggest impact?
JS: That’s a tough question, because freshmen have produced on all fronts — offense, defense and in net. Because Matt O’Connor is one of the starting goalkeepers — and the one who’s beaten the better teams — he’s the obvious choice.
Sean Maguire, Matt Grzelcyk and Danny O’Regan have also been some of the other impressive freshmen.
Grzelcyk and O’Regan have the points, Maguire has a few shutouts, but O’Connor has a 7-3-0 record and victories against North Dakota, BC and UNH.
CL: Grzelcyk is representing the United States in the World Juniors. Are you surprised that BU isn’t better represented?
JS: Not really. A few players who were considered BU’s highly-touted talent have already left, and those were the ones who’d go to World Juniors, like Charlie Coyle and Adam Clendening.
To me BU doesn’t really seem like a team with the names that might be recognized nationally, and Grzelcyk’s is one of the few.
CL: Has Cissé’s departure had an effect on the team?
JS: He wasn’t making too much of an impact before he left — something that prompted Parker to make the decision to sit him before the last UNH game.
Sean Escobedo said it pretty well after Cisse left — it is unfortunate for the team but they’ve been through it before and can bounce back. They’re losing size, but not much other than that. And they’ve proven in the past losing players can make them a better team — look at how they played the first half of last season compared to the second with the departures in mind.
CL: Moving forward, will we continue to see this rotation of goaltenders? Has Coach Parker given any indication of a favorite?
JS: Most likely Parker will continue the rotation. He’s given no indication that he may stop, and every time that question arises he says how lucky BU is to have two good goalkeepers and he’d like to keep it that way.
Other than how adamant Parker has been, I’d have to say it’s likely he’ll stick with the rotation because it’s something he likes. He wanted to have a rotation between Kieran Millan and Grant Rollheiser when those two first came to BU. And he used that rotation until an injury to Rollheiser forced him to stick with Millan.
CL: Speaking of goalies, which is more impressive – Maguire’s shutouts or O’Connor’s performance against stronger teams?
JS: O’Connor. Maguire is a good goalkeeper, but his shutouts have come against teams that aren’t the best in the country. Furthermore, the Terrier defense has helped him a lot through blocking shots. Both goalkeepers have actually benefited from the defense, but it’s hard to argue with O’Connor when he’s helped BU defeat North Dakota, BC and UNH.
CL: BU and BC are the only Beanpot teams above .500 at the break. Will we see a repeat of last year’s tournament?
JS: It might not go down to the same dramatic finish, but most likely the Terriers and Eagles will faceoff in the Beanpot. Harvard has been good this year but they aren’t good enough to make it to a tournament that has been dominated by the Terriers and Eagles in recent years.
The Terriers are good enough to beat the Eagles, but something tells me they won’t win this year’s Beanpot.
CL: Does this team have what it takes to make a deep playoff run? Or does it need time to mature?
JS: I didn’t buy that earlier in the season, but after the Terriers proved they can beat the nation’s top teams like UNH and BC, they have a chance. BU looks a lot better and a lot more mature right now than they did this time last year.
They aren’t underplaying to opponents as they did last season, which is huge. The Terriers would go in and beat teams like Denver and then lose to Holy Cross. They still struggle at times but the freshmen have stepped up in a way that has been very beneficial to BU.
The sophomores have stepped up as well, and the performances of Evan Rodrigues, Cason Hohmann and Alexx Privitera have been very impressive. Granted a few players still need to be a little more disciplined, but it’s doable for the Terriers to dig into the tournament.
It’s possible but by no means certain. Next year — provided there are no major departures or injuries — I’d be more sure of the Terriers being a lock for the Frozen Four.