Team of the Week: Boston University
by Chris Aliano/CHN Reporter
There were plenty of question marks surrounding Boston University heading into last weekend’s season-opening Warrior Ice Breaker Tournament, most notably how it would replace five of its top six scorers from a season ago, as well as how it would fare with a roster comprised primarily of underclassmen — 17-of-26, to be precise.
After downing Notre Dame in the tournament’s championship game on Sunday afternoon, coach Jack Parker’s squad already has more hardware than it garnered a year ago — a disappointing follow-up campaign that saw the reigning national champs finish a game above .500 while missing out on the NCAAs for the second time in three seasons.
And not to jump ahead, but everyone remembers what happened the last time BU opened up the season with an Ice Breaker title, right?
“Notre Dame is a very difficult team to play against,” head coach Jack Parker said afterward. “It’s a good win for us and good for our league."
It was BU’s third overall Ice Breaker title in four tries — the last one coming at the beginning of the storybook 2008-09 national championship season. But don’t expect Parker to make any similar connection right now, not with one of the youngest lineups in the country and with archrival Boston College still the clear-cut favorite to win the whole thing for the second year in a row.
During Friday night’s 4-3 win against Wisconsin, it was the first line’s time to shine. Senior co-captain Joe Pereira had two goals — including the game winner — while freshman center Charlie Coyle picked up his first collegiate tally and a helper. Junior left-winger and co-captain Chris Connolly had two assists as well, digging the team out of an early 2-0 deficit while setting up a date with the Fighting Irish in the title game.
With Connolly being the lead returning scorer from a year ago, the trio will be expected to produce consistently for a team with holes on the defensive end left by early departures Kevin Shattenkirk and Colby Cohen from last season.
“Last year or a few years before, we would have died and they would have scored two more goals," Pereira said. “We had the right attitude, the right mindset and we knew we weren’t going to give up, and we came back strong.”
The void left by those two was mitigated in a big way by the team’s smallest defender. Versatile blueliner David Warsofsky had himself a five-point weekend (2g, 3a), as the local product from Marshfield, Mass., opened up the season in impressive fashion.
“We think he’s one of the premier defensemen in college hockey,” Parker said. “He’s a great offensive defenseman. He defends very well. He’s a good penalty killer. He’s a good power play guy. ... We expect him to have a big year.”
Sunday saw a much different story in freshman forward Sahir Gill, a Terrace, B.C., native and a product of the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers. Gill, checking in at 5-10, 180 lb., was expected to earn some time on the team’s checking line heading into the season, what with such highly touted recruits as Coyle and forward Matt Nieto headed to campus.
Centering the team’s fourth line, Gill was BU’s hero in the championship tilt, tallying four points on a goal and three assists — including the helper on Sean Escobedo’s game-winning goal with just over a minute to go in the final stanza to give the Terriers a thrilling 5-4 victory. He also had a giant assist in the tournament opener, assisting on the game-winner in that game as well.
“Sahir Gill had a coming-out party for himself,” Parker said. “He was playing on the fourth line where he didn’t get a lot of ice time, and he gets one goal and three assists. It was to the point where we had him playing on the power play a couple of times, and he did a good job. We’re real proud of him.”
With its Ice Breaker trophy in hand and back on campus, BU will now play five straight games against the projected bottom three teams in Hockey East, starting with a home matchup against Massachusetts on Saturday night. The Terriers will not see a non-conference opponent before Brown visits two days after Thanksgiving, meaning BU will have plenty of chances to build an early foundation within the conference.
And on a team notorious for slow starts, especially in seasons past, Pereira saw Friday night’s early deficit as a microcosm of what’s to come in 2010-11.
“I know it’s early in the year, but you can just see we’re going to keep coming, keep coming, keep coming,” Pereira said. “We’re not going to quit. And that’s what we need to do to be successful.”