When the Boston University men’s hockey team started the 2021-22 season 4-9-2, there were rumblings that coach Albie O’Connell’s job might be in jeopardy. BU rallied to go on a 14-1-1 tear, including the program’s first Beanpot title since 2015.
But that apparently was not enough to save his job, with the school announcing Wednesday that O’Connell would not return as head coach after finishing 19-13-3.
“We’re in big boy hockey and expectations are always high,” said O’Connell. “So I think it’s a great game. It’s a crummy business at times, but that’s kind of how it goes.”
O’Connell, 45, went 58-49-16, having led the Terriers to one NCAA tournament appearance. The 2021-22 season came to an end with a loss in the Hockey East quarterfinals to a UConn squad that would go on to defeat Northeastern before losing to UMass in overtime in the conference championship game.
“This was obviously a difficult decision as Albie worked hard towards putting our team in a position to contend for championships,” athletic director Drew Marrochello said in a statement. “We recognize that he was part of several successful teams during his time as a student-athlete and coach here, and I wish him and his family nothing but the best.
“We have very high expectations for our men’s ice hockey program and we are determined to have our team compete at the highest level of college hockey. After the conclusion of our regular year-end assessment, we believe that a new direction is needed for our program to achieve our goals.”
After playing for the Terriers from 1995-99, O’Connell returned to the program in 2014 and served as associate head coach for four seasons under David Quinn. He was promoted to head coach in 2018 when Quinn departed for the NHL to coach the New York Rangers.
“Obviously, you would like to be there longer, but I enjoyed my time,” said O’Connell. “We’ve had some pretty good success as a player and a coach when I’ve been involved in the program, so I’m pleased with the way our team has progressed over the last few years.”
O’Connell’s first head coaching job in the college ranks came in less than ideal circumstances, as two of his four seasons on the job were shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Terriers qualified for the NCAA tournament in the 2020-21 season but lost in the first round.
O’Connell talked about his personal growth in his time as head coach. When he returned for the 2021-22 season, he was noticeably slimmer, and was at ease when dealing with the media.
“This year was the first time I felt fully comfortable with the position, like it was a normal year, and settled in,” said O’Connell. “I was also hitting the weight room a little more, and getting a little bit more worried about myself and my personal situation, as well as the team.
“I think it all came together. I thought the personal growth was really good. The growth of our culture, our program, from where it was my first year to now, it’s night and day. I’m pretty happy with the stamp that I’ve left on BU.”
This year also brought the return of spectators, as well as the Beanpot, after a one-year absence, with the Terriers claiming their 31st title. Throughout the year O’Connell appreciated the return of the gameday atmosphere, and did so again Wednesday.
“I’d just like to give a shout out to the BU band, the fans, all of the supporters in the BU community,” said O’Connell. “They were terrific towards me. They always have been, through ups and downs. I was pretty happy for them and our team to give them a [Beanpot] championship this year.”
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.