March 26, 2017 PRINT Bookmark and Share

BU's Fountain of Youth Runs Dry

Now What For Star-Studded Terriers?

 (photo: Russ Hons)

(photo: Russ Hons)

by Dane DeKrey/CHN Reporter

See all of CHN's Tournament coverage: articles, brackets, history and more.

FARGO, N.D. — Ever since June 24, 2016, Boston University has had a big bullseye on its back.

That’s because that day, at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the Terriers joined the University of Minnesota as the only programs in college hockey history to have four players selected in the first round.

They were:

* Clayton Keller, 7th overall, Arizona Coyotes

* Charlie McAvoy, 14th overall, Boston Bruins

* Dante Fabbro, 17th overall, Nashville Predators

* Kieffer Bellows, 19th overall, New York Islanders

Since that day, nobody has felt and understood the weight of that bullseye more than BU head coach, David Quinn.

“Obviously we won draft day, and we won the summer accolades contest,” Quinn said. “Our biggest concern as a staff when the season started was, were we going to think we were better than we actually were? We were reading our press clippings and taking for granted that we’re just going to be able to show up and win hockey games?”

Quinn, however, was quick to answer his rhetorical question himself: “That never was the case.”

Bolstered by freshman phenom, and CHN Rookie of the Year, Clayton Keller, and a core group of seniors including Nick Roberto, Tommy Kelly and Doyle Somerby, the Terriers met or exceeded the high expectations set for them throughout the regular season and into the playoffs. There were ups and downs for sure, and some head-scratching moments, but there they were, on the cusp of the Frozen Four.

But, as is far too often the case in the “one-and-done” format of the NCAA tournament, BU’s once-in-a-generation season come to an abrupt and heartbreaking close Saturday night as Minnesota-Duluth put an overtime dart directly into the bullseye the Terriers had been carrying around all year.

“We won (Friday) night double OT against North Dakota, and then losing in overtime here, it’s just unfortunate the way it ended,” said Fabbro, one of the four Terriers first-rounders. “There might be a lot of scrutiny with the kind of players we have on our team, but it’s tough to win these single game knockouts, and it’s such a great league that any team has a chance to win.”

BU’s loss on Saturday night, despite dressing 11 NHL draft picks, exemplifies the proverbial double-edged sword of draft pick-heavy college hockey programs. While it’s obviously a great problem to have a team full of future NHL players, the youth and immaturity that comes with it often leads to unsatisfying end-of-season results, a fact which Quinn acknowledged in his post-game press conference.

“Our immaturity showed throughout the season, but as Charlie (McAvoy) said last night, you’re asking an 18-year-old to act like a 22-year-old and that’s hard to do,” Quinn said. “It’s hard enough for a 22-year-old to act like a 22-year-old, let alone an 18-year-old to act like a 22-year-old.”

And that might just have been the difference on Saturday night, as the Minnesota-Duluth team that took the ice was a far older and more experienced team than BU.

A penalty in overtime, by BU's Bobo Carpenter, opened the door for UMD. Neither the Bulldogs nor BU had lost a game in overtime this season, but Duluth kept the magic going, with Adam Johnson firing a wrist shot into the top corner to win it.

With the Bulldogs moving on to the NCAA Frozen Four, the fate of a Boston University team that nobody could stop talking about is up in the air. Who will go and who will stay is still to be determined, but no matter what happens and who lands where, the postgame mood of the Terriers’ 2016 draft class was exactly the same: no regrets.

“I’ve never been more proud of a group of teammates and there’s a lot of kids on our team that have bright futures for sure,” Fabbro said. “Being at BU was such a fun place to be. There was never a day you weren’t happy to come to the rink. I had an opportunity to go to the Western Hockey League (in Canada), and now that I look back, it’s honestly mind blowing that I didn’t decide to come here (to BU) quicker.”

Kieffer Bellows, a fellow first-round pick, echoed Fabbro’s praise for the Terriers program.

“This year meant a lot to me and we couldn’t have asked for better seniors,” Bellows said. “We had a special team this year. We were close like a family. And no matter who leaves and who stays, this team will always have a special place in everybody’s heart.”

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