By Patrick O’Rourke
BU News Service
Another year, another Hockey East preseason poll dominated by Commonwealth Avenue.
Boston College and Boston University took the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively, in both men’s and women’s hockey preseason polls. The two programs account for the last six titles on the women’s side, the last four won by BU. On the men’s side, the two teams have won 19 conference championships since the league’s founding in 1985.
The Terriers won its eighth conference championship in 2015, when it beat two-time defending champ UMass-Lowell, 5-3, at the TD Garden, avoiding what would’ve been just the second three-year dry spell of BC and BU not winning Hockey East.
David Quinn’s team returns all but four players from the 2014-15 varsity, when BU made its 22nd Frozen Four appearance, finishing as the national runner-up to Providence. The Terriers will have to replace Hobey Baker Award winner Jack Eichel, who was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in June’s NHL draft after leading the nation with 71 points, as well as 61 points from Evan Rodrigues. Cason Hohmann, who was lost to graduation along with Rodrigues, was one of the Terriers best players in the second half of the season before scoring four goals and eight points in the postseason.
Danny O’Regan (23-27–50) is one of three 50-point scorers from 2014-15 to return this season, while Ahti Oksanen returns after a 25-goal junior campaign, his first at forward. Captain Matt Grzelcyk (38 points in 41 games) will lead a blue line that returns all six skaters.
Goaltender Matt O’Connor left school to sign with the Ottawa Senators as an undrafted free agent. The netminder went 25-4-4 with a 2.18 GAA and .927 save percentage in 35 games for BU. Sean Maguire will take his place after missing 2014-15 as a medical redshirt. A junior, the 22-year-old went 16-20 in his first two seasons at BU, including a 13-8 record with a .926 save percentage, 2.54 GAA, and four shutouts in his freshman season.
Aside from BC, the Terriers defense of the Hockey East crown will be challenged by Providence, UMass-Lowell, Notre Dame and Northeastern.
On the women’s side, head coach Brian Durocher will have to replace top scorer Marie-Phillip Poulin and top defenseman Shannon Doyle. The Terriers returns its top five scorers besides Poulin, who led the team with 54 points, in Sarah Lefort (23-27–50), Kayla Tutino (14-23–37), Victoria Bach (20-14–34), and Rebecca Leslie (14-17–31).
Junior Victoria Hanson is expected to start in goal, and will look to build on a strong sophomore campaign in which she went 16-5-2 with a .910 save percentage and 2.25 GAA in 23 games.
BU’s reign will be challenged by BC, who went undefeated in Hockey East play during the regular season before losing to the Terrier, 4-1, in the conference title game. The Eagles return four of its top five scorers, including Alex Carpenter and Haley Skarupa, who scored 81 and 71 points, respectively.
Katie Burt is back between the pipes following her freshman campaign in which she let in just 38 goals in 35 games.
Northeastern, picked third in the poll, brings back a core that is highlighted by Olympian Kendall Coyne. The Huskies will look to earn its third trip to the conference championship game since 2011, and earn its first title.