BOSTON — For the first time in five seasons, the Boston University Terriers will have a different face behind the bench.
With David Quinn leaving Agganis Arena for Madison Square Garden and the New York Rangers, BU tabbed assistant coach and former player Albie O’Connell as the man to lead the talented Terriers into the future.
O’Connell, who played under legendary BU coach Jack Parker for four seasons, is known as one of the top recruiters in college hockey and served as Quinn’s assistant for four seasons. He continues the BU tradition of having former Terriers lead the program, as a former player has coached the team in 72 of 73 seasons since World War II.
The Watertown, Mass., native and BU alum is excited about the opportunity to coach his alma mater, but hasn’t been overwhelmed by his new role at the head of the program.
“It’s a little surreal, but at the same time, it feels like it’s just another day there, too,” O’Connell said Monday at Hockey East Media Day. “My office is a little bigger, and my role is different, but you’re still, all in all, trying to make the program better everyday whether you’re head coach, assistant coach, trainer (or) equipment manager. Everyone is pulling in the right direction.”
The Terriers, who have made the NCAA Tournament in each of the past four seasons, are expected to once again be a force in Hockey East, and O’Connell will be tasked with making sure they live up to the lofty expectations set by both Parker and Quinn. Boston University was picked to finish third in the Hockey East preseason coaches poll, but the Terriers have an opportunity to surpass all expectations if O’Connell can get the talented group on the same wavelength.
“We have high hopes for the team,” O’Connell said. “We’ve got a good group, good leadership, we’ve got a veteran goalie. A lot of our top players are guys that have played a lot of minutes, so we’ve got some experience. Even though we don’t have a lot of seniors, we’ve got a lot of juniors and sophomores that have played a lot of minutes, we’ve got a good freshman class so the key is to get everyone on the same page and get them to play at the highest level possible.”
O’Connell will make his head coaching debut Oct. 12 when the Terriers travel to Minnesota to face Minnesota State. While some might expect the first year as a head coach to provide some challenges, to the 42-year-old there hasn’t been much of a change.
“For the most part, the hockey piece is the same,” O’Connell said. “You know it’s different as an assistant coach you’re preparing, recruiting, getting these guys ready to play on the weekends. So I’ll have more of a voice obviously, but I think its always the goal of a staff to make sure there’s a lot of communication and make sure everyone is on the same page.”
Thumbnail photo via Screenshot via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyKqF33xBhc