Pandolfo’s Culture Change Already Evident at BU : College Hockey News
October 25, 2022
by Belle Fraser/CHN Reporter
BOSTON — Boston University has a new coach that is again energizing the program, with a new-found recognizable pride.
Jay Pandolfo, in his first season at the helm, has headlined accountability as a core theme for the Terriers and ignited a roster that underperformed in the 2021-22 campaign under Albie O’Connell.
The culture shift inside the BU locker room has been evident just four weeks into the season. Whether it’s an exhibition game against Waterloo or a grinding comeback win over Michigan, Pandolfo’s persistance about his group’s preparation is paying off.
“Our team motto this year is, ‘No matter who, no matter when,’” senior defenseman John Copeland said. “That kind of just talks about (how we) don’t care who the opponent is, don’t care where we’re playing — you show up to play the Terriers and we’re going to run you out of the building.”
The scarlet and white have 17 upperclassmen on the roster, 10 of which are seniors who made the choice to play out their fourth year at Agganis Arena in lieu of potential NHL contracts. They’re here to fill the trophy case, exhibiting a believability in the BU program that had dwindled at times last season.
“It speaks to how much we care about this program, how much we care about this university,” senior forward Jay O’Brien said. “A bunch of us kind of sat down at the end of the year and felt like we had a lot of unfinished business here at BU and the bottom line is we just weren’t done yet. We want to make a mark here.”
Pandolfo’s devotion to the team — and his extensive hockey resume — has fueled this determination from his players. He has reinstated an expectation of excellence because the two-time Stanley Cup champion has the experience to back him up.
During his time as a Terrier, Pandolfo held captaincy, won two Hockey East titles, two Beanpots and garnered the 1995 NCAA championship. Before being named the 13th head coach in program history, Pandolfo played 15 seasons in the NHL and served as assistant coach for the Boston Bruins for five years. The bench boss is a living example of the careers these collegiate players dream of.
“He’s a coach you want to play for because of the passion he shows at the rink every day,” captain and senior defenseman Domenick Fensore said. “It’s 6:00 am and he’s working out, we’re walking in and he’s on the bike — it’s just awesome. That’s a guy you want to play for, and you’d do anything for that guy.”
The freshman class, most of whom were recruited by O’Connell, have found an early purpose in the lineup. While the Terriers are heavy veteran, Pandolfo has made space for his young guys to be leaders. The six first-years have a combined 21 points in five games after sticking to their BU commitment through the coaching change.
“If it would’ve been a different coach, there were a lot of options on the table (for me) to not go here anymore,” freshman forward Quinn Hutson said. “But obviously Jay was a good fit.”
Pandolfo has brought out the depth of his squad in the freshmen and older players alike. Fourth-line senior forwards Sam Stevens and Jamie Armstrong were a major part of BU’s 3-2 victory over Michigan last weekend, and their head coach made it a point to mention them in the post-game press conference.
The desperation for loose pucks, attention to detail in all three zones, physicality and speed are proof of a coaching staff that’s covering all their bases. Junior forward Dylan Peterson said Pandolfo’s adjustments have been apparent.
“My freshman year and sophomore year we had great teams as well, but there’s definitely a culture shift and a shift in the way everyone thinks now compared to my first two years at BU,” Peterson said. “Everyone’s all hands on deck, ready to help at any time — it’s pretty cool.”
There’s a long way to go, of course, and this is only Pandolfo’s first year. No matter your background, being a head coach at this level is very new, and something that will take time to fully learn. But early results are quite positive , not just in the intangibles, but on the ice. Coming back from a blowout loss to win at Yost last Saturday was one. Then again a bounceback after losing in OT to Connecticut this past weekend, before dominating in a win Saturday.
The Terriers have been booted from the first round of the Hockey East playoffs for two consecutive years and had a quick exit in the 2020-21 NCAA Tournament, while not receiving a bid last season. It was time for a change in Boston.
The record-breaking opening night crowd of 5,504 at Agganis Arena showed that the Terrier faithful were as excited for the fresh start as the players were.
“He’s a true professional, he does everything just the right way,” Copeland said of Pandolfo. “This is the best coaching staff I’ve ever had in my life.”