BU has fresh optimism
Incoming youngsters bring new hope after last season's disappointing finish
Boston University coach Jack Parker looked like he needed an aspirin more than a few times last season. During an eight-day span in early November, the Terriers played three games and tied them all. The team recorded nine ties during the 2006-07 season, eight against Hockey East opponents, and struggled for goals in most of them. Two were scoreless.
Injuries played a factor in BU's up-and-down campaign, and the Terriers relied far too much on outstanding senior goalie John Curry.
Despite Curry's departure, Parker believes the Terriers will be better this season than the team that finished 20-10-9 and lost to eventual national champion Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA Midwest Regional last season. The team is in Alaska and will face Robert Morris in its season opener tonight at the Nye Frontier Classic in Anchorage.
The addition of highly touted freshmen, most notably 18-year-old defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, is reason for optimism.
"Shattenkirk is probably the most heralded guy we have coming in at that position and maybe the most heralded guy in the class," said Parker. "He's a high NHL draft pick [No. 14 overall by Colorado in June]. He was very, very successful on the US Under-18 team. He looks like a guy who's going to contribute a lot from the offensive blue line and also especially contribute from the point on the power play. He's very, very clever and can direct things there."
Another blue line newcomer is Colby Cohen, a strapping 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pound 18-year-old.
"Cohen is a little bit bigger and a little bit more fluid skater [than Shattenkirk], maybe not as thorough in his overall game but a very effective offensive defenseman," said Parker. "He's another guy who could be a point man on the power play for us as the season progresses."
The Terriers are also welcoming four forwards who are expected to compete for ice time right away.
"They all bring a little something different to the table," said Parker. "All are pretty skilled and look like they can contribute."
Nick Bonino and Colin Wilson are the biggest names. They are offensive threats, can play center or wing, and could be used on top lines and on the power play. Bonino is a slick player who moves the puck well. Wilson is known for his physical play. Energetic Joe Pereira is an excellent skater, and Victor Saponari is a similar player.
With Curry gone, senior Karson Gillespie and sophomore Brett Bennett will vie for the role of No. 1 goalie.
"There are a few schools in Hockey East who are in exactly that boat [needing to replace a goalie]," said Parker. "We don't feel we're in as bad a boat as some other people because we've got upperclassmen to rely on, who both know the league. Maybe we'll play both of them for a while and let them fight it out. I don't think goaltending is going to be an Achilles' heel of this team."
A key this season will be playing more consistently at Agganis Arena.
"Last year was frustrating because of the real polarization of how we were at home [9-5-5] vs. how we were on the road [9-2-4]," said Parker. "The guys never were focused at home. Some of them thought they were going to show off in front of the hometown fans, they were trying to get goals in front of their parents, I don't know. It never seemed as if we were anywhere near as good at home as we were on the road. If you asked me to name our top 10 games last year, every one of them would've been on the road. That was a chemistry problem and that was an attitude problem that never seemed to get resolved, but I think that's very much resolved this year."
Parker wasn't surprised that the Terriers were bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
"We lived on John Curry being fabulous," he said. "In the few games John Curry wasn't fabulous, and one of them was the Michigan State game, we struggled. It was not a shock for us to lose because we struggled all year offensively."
Shattenkirk could help ensure that the BU offense doesn't struggle this season.
The New Rochelle, N.Y., native grew up a Rangers fan, idolizing defenseman Brian Leetch. Because of his time spent in Ann Arbor with the US program, he said it was a tough call whether to commit to Michigan or BU.
"In the end, I loved the city of Boston and really loved the coaches at BU," he said. "That was the big thing that caused me to make the decision to come here."
Despite all the fanfare regarding the newcomers, Parker said it's the returnees who will determine where BU ends up.
"I really believe the success will be determined by Peter MacArthur, Bryan Ewing, Brian McGuirk, Chris Higgins, Brandon Yip, Ryan Weston, and Jason Lawrence," he said. "Those are all seniors or juniors and those are the guys who are going to have to play up to their potential if we are to get out of that funk we were in when we were struggling to score goals."