As he was set to formally Introduce new men’s hockey head Jay Pandolfo Monday morning, Boston University athletic director Drew Marrochello recalled a conversation he had in recent weeks, in which he was asked what the expectations were for the Terriers going forward.
“Being on the outside of the NCAA tournament is simply not good enough for us. Losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament is not good enough for us,” said Marrochello. “This is a program that’s defined by Frozen Four appearances, national championships, and that continues to be our goal. I think it’s lofty, it’s difficult, but it’s very attainable and remains an expectation.”
It also explains why the program decided to move on from Albie O’Connell after four seasons as head coach. The Terriers qualified for the NCAA tournament just once in that time, losing in the first round in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic cut the 2019-20 season short at the end of the regular season, but with a sixth-place finish in Hockey East, BU would have had to win the conference tournament to qualify for the NCAA field.
The announcement of Pandolfo’s hiring last week had been expected, with many in the BU community throwing their support behind the Burlington native who played for the Terriers from 1992-96, appearing in four Frozen Fours and serving as captain his senior year. Colby Cohen, who scored the game-winning goal in the 2009 national championship and serves as a ESPN’s rinkside reporter for the NCAA tournament, openly lobbied for Pandolfo at last month’s Frozen Four at TD Garden.
The support was evident in the turnout for Monday’s introductory press conference at the Francis D. Burke Club room at Agganis Arena, with members of the men’s and women’s basketball team in attendance, including head coaches Joe Jones and Melissa Graves. Former coach Jack Parker and 1980 Olympic gold medalist Mike Eruzione were there as well, seated in the front row just ahead of the current members of the hockey team.
“The BU hockey program isn’t broken,” said Pandolfo, 47. “What we need to do is everything just a little bit better. BU hockey to me is about commitment, it’s about attitude, attention to detail, holding ourselves and each other accountable, on and off the ice.”
Marrochello pointed out that Pandolfo has won at every level, moving on to the NHL after his time with the Terriers and winning a pair of Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils. He finished his career with the Bruins before formally announcing his retirement in January 2014. He would spend the next six years in the Bruins organization, the last four as an assistant coach before returning to BU in 2021 as an associate head coach.
“He’s a great human being with tremendous integrity,” said Marrochello. “One of the most consistent human beings I’ve ever been around. He knows how to win. He’s a great teacher of the game. He’s unselfish.”
Marochello asked Pandolfo to handle hockey operations since O’Connell was let go on March 30, serving as an interim coach at the start of the offseason. Part of that process included selecting the team’s leadership group for next season. Domenick Fensore was named captain, with Case McCarthy and Jay O’Brien serving as assistant captains.
Fensore, a defenseman from Thornwood, N.Y., who was selected by the Carolina Hurricanes in the third round of the 2019 NHL Draft, was one of the many Terriers on hand and talked about what his new coach brought to the team last season.
“He was awesome,” said Fensore. “He came in, and we found out right away he was so dedicated, Every time he was talking, everybody just gravitated towards him. He just has so much knowledge about the game and you can see the passion he has for the game. I think he’s going to do an amazing job as head coach. He’s getting us fired up already.”
Pandolfo, who resides in Wilmington with his wife, Julianne, and their three children, appeared to embrace the expectations his AD set forth. After being away from the college game for 25 years, he appreciated the opportunity O’Connell gave him last summer to get reacquainted with the evolving landscape in NCAA hockey.
“We’re going to have high expectations, so we have to have high standards,” said Pandolfo. “The central theme of this program is to compete at everything we do. Everything matters. It’s not simply about the wins and losses, it’s about striving to be the best we can be, day in and day out. We’re going to buy into this mindset, and the results will take care of themselves.”
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.