April 23, 2024

Boston College, Boston University on Frozen Four collision course


BOSTON — It’s a feud that dates again to 1918, one full of as a lot mutual animosity as aggressive spirit.

It’s Boston University vs. Boston College. An NCAA hockey custom like no different.

“I mean, obviously there’s a lot of hatred there,” BC ahead Will Smith mentioned. “Off the ice, there’s a sort of a respect for one another. But once we get on the ice, we’re enemies.”

Smith was born in 2005, however he is aware of. They all know. Putting on these jerseys and looking out throughout the ice at their metropolis rivals creates some type of hockey alchemy, whereby all of the battles and brackets and Beanpot tournaments are downloaded into their hearts.

“It’s pretty special just being able to be a part of something that’s been going on for so long and the history of the guys who played in those games,” BU defenseman Lane Huston mentioned.

The Terriers have gained 5 nationwide championships, their final one coming in 2009 with a staff that featured Kevin Shattenkirk and Nick Bonino. The Eagles even have gained 5 nationwide titles, their final one coming in 2012 with a staff that included Johnny Gaudreau, Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes amongst others.

“It’s Alabama vs. Auburn or Michigan vs. Ohio State. It has that feel to it,” BC coach Greg Brown mentioned. “Just two schools that have been very successful programs and they’re so close together, so the kids are usually very familiar with each other before they even get to the school. It just sets up for a great rivalry.”

Within the context of the rivalry, it is clear all losses aren’t created equally. BC’s lone actual blemish on the season was a crushing one — an opening-round loss to BU within the Beanpot, Boston’s hallowed school hockey match. For BU, falling quick on this season’s Hockey East championship recreation was a disappointment. Getting smoked by BC, 6-2, was an entire totally different degree of anguish for coach Jay Pandolfo.

“We’ve got to get past it,” he mentioned. “It’s not the end of our season. Can’t dwell on it. Can’t feel sorry for yourself. But this will hurt for a bit.”

Pandolfo understands all this. He performed for BU for 4 seasons. He’s coached the Terriers for the final two seasons. He performed within the NHL for 15 years and watched how shortly the rivalry may flip teammates into antagonists when the school hockey postseason arrived.


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“It’s always been a great rivalry no matter where the teams are at,” he mentioned. “This year is special because of how good both teams are, the level of talent on both teams, so I think that brings it up another level.”

Boston College (31-5-1) is the No. 1 seed within the NCAA Division I match, which begins Thursday. The Eagles, whose first recreation is towards Michigan Tech on Friday at 2 p.m. in Providence, Rhode Island, are a deeply proficient squad powered by ahead Cutter Gauthier, who achieved NHL notoriety by refusing to signal with the Philadelphia Flyers after being drafted by them, and a exceptional freshman trio led by Smith.

Boston University (26-9-2) is ranked No. 2 within the nation and has the following NHL franchise participant on its roster in Macklin Celebrini, the 17-year-old consensus first total alternative on this summer time’s draft. The Terriers’ first-round opponent in RIT (Thursday, 5 p.m., at Sioux Falls, South Dakota).

They’re seeded on reverse sides of the bracket, like two kaiju stomping by the countryside en path to a possible showdown within the remaining. It can be the primary time the archrivals have met for the nationwide championship since 1978, when the Terriers got here out on prime.

“It’s there. It’s always been there,” Pandolfo mentioned of the rivalry. “I just think this year it’s elevated again, just with the amount of talent that’s there.”


The phenom

Macklin Celebrini is the type of NHL prospect for whom groups deconstruct their rosters in an effort to maximise their draft lottery odds. If he would not fairly have that “generational talent” tag utilized to the likes of Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, scouts have uniformly known as him a franchise-altering participant whereas making him the No. 1 rated draft-eligible North American skater.

“It’s been a pleasure to have the opportunity to coach him,” Pandolfo mentioned. “Just his mindset being around him every day, understanding why he’s as good as he is.

“It’s due to the preparation. It’s how laborious he competes. Never takes a drill off in follow, by no means takes a rep off, by no means takes a shift off. He involves the rink every single day attempting to enhance on one thing. He’s by no means simply going by the motions. He’s by no means going on the ice simply to go on the ice. He’s going on the ice to get higher.”

That work ethic and intense preparation tracks back to Celebrini’s childhood.

“I believe Macklin’s had two components since he laced up skates. The first is his hockey IQ: That at a younger age he is so conscious of his environment and the sport,” his father, Rick Celebrini, said in 2022. “The different is compete. Since he was a toddler, he is been relentless.”

Macklin credits his father with developing him as a player: how to prepare for games, how to stretch, when to sleep. The advice wasn’t just parental, but professional: Rick Celebrini has been a well-regarded physiotherapist for 30 years, assisting everyone from the Canadian Olympic team to the Vancouver Canucks to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, for whom he is vice president of player health and performance.

Not every 16-year-old prospect has Draymond Green cheering for him at junior hockey games.

Whether it was the Warriors, Canadian basketball legend Steve Nash or the Canucks’ Sedin twins, Rick Celebrini wanted his sons to see first-hand how elite athletes prepare.

“The manner they method coaching is one thing each younger athlete ought to see,” he said.

Pandolfo said Celebrini prepares like an all-star.

“He pushes our group in follow with how aggressive he’s, every single day,” he said. “In the primary few practices, I believe guys may inform immediately that this man’s not going to present you an inch. He’s going to push it. And I believe it is helped our staff.”

Celebrini has 59 points, including 31 goals, in 35 games for BU. He is a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the top Division I men’s player, not only because of his offense but the totality of his game.

“It’s his competitiveness all around the ice. I believe plenty of occasions with youthful gamers which can be that proficient offensively … I’m not saying they cheat the sport, however generally they don’t seem to be as accountable defensively at that younger an age,” Pandolfo said. “He’s simply so detailed on each side of the puck. He defends simply as laborious as he desires to go on offense, and I believe that is why he is nearly as good as he’s.”

Celebrini has surpassed expectations for his freshman year. It was a season of scrutiny, as the hockey world wanted confirmation the consensus No. 1 pick was the real deal. That he handled the pressure with aplomb was a sign of the 17-year-old phenom’s remarkable maturity.

“I believe that comes from his upbringing, from his dad and mom being round professional sports activities,” Pandolfo said. “Being across the Golden State Warriors and that championship. Being round that surroundings and watching how they do issues, studying that manner. I believe he realized lots by these guys’ eyes. It’s been very spectacular.”


The freshmen

The Terriers have the fourth-youngest roster in the country this season, with an average age of 21 years, 4 months old.

“Yeah, Macklin makes us fairly younger,” Pandolfo joked.

Their inexperience goes beyond their star player. BU’s roster boasts 10 freshmen, including Macklin’s older brother Aiden and Tom Willander, two 19-year-old defensemen drafted by the Canucks.

Pandolfo said the balance between his veteran players and the freshman class has worked to the Terriers’ advantage.

“For essentially the most half, our core group of men from final 12 months are again,” he said. “They have that have, so I believe they may also help the freshmen class which can be making an impression for us this 12 months.”

The Eagles are even fresher: 20 years, 9 months on average, making Boston College the youngest team in the nation.

“They know playoff hockey is a step up in depth,” said Brown, who like Pandolfo is coaching at his alma mater. “They’ve performed in plenty of massive video games over their careers, so we do not have to remind them an excessive amount of. I believe they’re going to be prepared.”

Like, for example, one of the best trios in all of hockey over the last year.

Will Smith, 19, was drafted fourth overall by the San Jose Sharks in 2023. Ryan Leonard, 19, was taken eighth total by the Washington Capitals. Gabe Perreault, 18, was chosen twenty third total by the New York Rangers.

They’ve been frequent linemates since clicking together with the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-17 squad in 2021. They’ve since starred in the U-18 world junior championships, winning gold in April 2023, and the U-20 world junior championships, winning gold again in January.

They were reunited at Boston College, thanks to a little courtship.

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Greg Brown credits youth, well-rounded play for Boston College’s success

Boston College coach Greg Brown attributes the Eagles’ 1-seed in the NCAA men’s ice hockey tournament to the team’s all-around play and poise of their freshmen.

“Smith and Leonard have been dedicated right here and so they labored laborious to get Gabe to hitch them and he did,” Brown said. “We’re very blissful that all of them got here collectively and that chemistry … they did not have a break-in interval once they received to highschool as a result of they’d been collectively on the program. So I believe they hit the bottom operating proper from the beginning and so they’ve continued to generate offense all through the season.”

Smith said by having his longtime linemates with him at BC, the chemistry has stretched off the ice as well.

“We’re in school collectively all day, after which to get to come back to the rink and play in entrance of all these followers,” he said. “I get to dwell with Gabe. We’re all very tight, so it is fairly cool.”

Smith said there was no awkwardness in having freshmen walk into the locker room and earn the opportunities they have.

“Obviously, there is a respect for the upperclassmen. Our captains have been nothing however unbelievable this 12 months and simply supporting us,” he said. “When they should rise up and say one thing, they do. They’ve been superior to us.”

Brown said the trio had the proper amount of humility when joining the team this season.

“They carry themselves in a humble manner, so the locker room was no drawback regardless that they’ve, clearly, the expertise degree,” he said. “But I believe it was an adjustment on the ice. You may see within the early video games, which have been heavier than they have been used to whereas taking part in in junior hockey. So they’d some changes. They knew they needed to play faster simply getting used to taking part in towards plenty of older guys.”

Brown said there’s a unique challenge in trying to manage freshman phenoms. They’re all wired differently. There’s a delicate balance between being patient with them or pushing them — and then, in the latter case, how hard to push them.

“It’s a distinct adjustment. Some of them, it is their first time away from dwelling, a few of them, the classroom may be very laborious. They’re again in a classroom after being on-line for some time, so that you by no means know what the adjustment is and the way shortly it will occur,” he said. “But in the event that they’re good children and so they work laborious, then they do make that adjustment and the most effective hockey does come out. You simply do not know if it will be instant or not.”

Suffice it to say, the Eagles’ freshmen trio figured it out. Entering the NCAA tournament, Smith leads the team with 67 points in 37 games, including 23 goals. Perrault is third with 57 points in 32 games, while Leonard has 54 points in 37 games.

“They’re a giant a part of our staff, regardless that they’re freshmen,” sophomore forward Cutter Gauthier said. “They’re younger, however they have been clearly massive contributors. We would not be the place we’re with out these guys.”


The outcast

Under normal circumstances, the focus this season would have been on Gauthier leading the nation with 32 goals in 35 games, nine of them game-winners, as a Hobey Baker finalist. It would have been on his contributions to the U.S. winning world junior gold and his critical role in trying to help Boston College to a national championship.

But this season has been anything but normal for the 20-year-old after he riled up Philadelphia fans by saying he wanted to play for the Flyers, then changed his mind.

“He checked out us on the draft and informed us that he was constructed to be a Flyer, wished to be a Flyer,” Philadelphia GM Danny Briere said. “A number of months later, he informed us that he did not need to be a Flyer.”

The entire saga between Gauthier and the Flyers remains mysterious. Briere claims the team never got a clear answer from him about no longer wanting to play in Philadelphia. Gauthier said the reasons are between “myself, my household and my agent.” The finish consequence saw the Flyers trade Gauthier to the Anaheim Ducks for defenseman Jamie Drysdale and a second-round choice within the 2025 NHL draft in early January.

The response to Gauthier’s change of coronary heart was something however sympathetic. Fans confirmed up in Flyers jerseys to Boston College video games. Comcast Spectacor chairman and Flyers governor Dan Hilferty provided a vitriolic farewell, saying, “I don’t really feel bad for Cutter when he comes to Philadelphia. It’s gonna be a rough ride here and he earned it.”

When requested about Hilferty’s feedback, Gauthier mentioned, “Kind of tough to see. But that’s on them. That’s not on me.”

Gauthier mentioned he obtained “thousands and thousands” of direct messages on social media, together with some loss of life threats. Nearly three months after the commerce, Gauthier is blissful to report the noise has quieted, one thing for which his coach is grateful.

“It was dicey there for a little while. Fortunately, it’s died down,” Brown mentioned. “The stuff that was going around online was insane. We understand that some Philadelphia people have animosity or some venom toward him because they want him to be on their team. But we know he’s not a bad person. He’s a great kid. So you have to separate their misunderstanding of him not wanting to be in Philadelphia to the person that he is.”

Gauthier mentioned support from his coaches and teammates helped him immeasurably.

“The guys have been nothing but the best,” he mentioned. “They knew it was a personal matter and they’ve been nothing but supportive since day one. They asked me if I’m doing OK with all the hate and all the stuff that was going on. It was truly special of them to take the time out of their day to reach out to me and see if I was doing OK and I really appreciated that.”

As the stats and accolades point out, Gauthier has thrived regardless of the controversy. Brown believes that is a testomony to his character, irrespective of the opinions of Flyers followers.

“The impressive part with Cutter is his hockey stayed at an extremely high level,” Brown mentioned. “He did not let that affect his game in any way. So even though he was getting bombarded online, he was able to separate himself and play excellent hockey during that time.”

It’s all about staying centered. Remembering the duty at hand. Closing out the surface noise.

The similar issues, Gauthier mentioned, Boston College has to do because the No. 1 total seed in search of an NCAA championship, a feat achieved solely as soon as within the final 10 tournaments (Denver, 2017).

“It’s tough to think about. Obviously, it’s right in the near future, but the only thing we can do now is control what we can control. We can’t get too ahead of ourselves,” he mentioned. “If we don’t play the way we’ve been playing all season long, we won’t get there. Still a lot of hockey left.”

And an archrival ready on the opposite facet of the bracket, prepared so as to add to varsity hockey’s most legendary feud.

“Both teams are having a great season this year, so if it happens, then it’ll be another chapter between them,” Brown mentioned. “It’s an intense rivalry, but there’s also a lot of respect.”



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