By Patrick Donnelly
BOSTON — As the Boston University men’s hockey team begins to prepare for its 101st season of action, the Terriers began a new chapter in its lengthy history, introducing Jay Pandolfo as the program’s 13th head coach in a press conference at Agganis Arena on Monday.
“This program means a lot to me. I’m proud and humble. It’s a privilege to be named head coach at Boston University,” Pandolfo said. “To finally have it, where it feels like it’s real, it’s great. So it’s a really good feeling. Looking forward to getting started.”
The university officially announced Pandolfo as coach on May 5. Athletic director Drew Marrochello said May 1 was the athletic department’s targeted date of appointment, but the search was concluded before then.
“I think sometimes, searches go really quickly … then there are some searches that go nine months long. I think you can strike a happy balance,” Marrochello said, “I would say that when the players said to me, ‘We’re not leaving. We’re committed here.’ … it gave me the luxury to dive in a little bit more.
“I had it in the front of my head that this is a 10 to 15 to 20-year hire, if it’s done right. It’s not a one-day hire. … I kept saying to guys, ‘This is not even about the past. It’s about the future.’ I wanted to make sure we were set for the next 10 to 15 years.”
Pandolfo served as associate head coach alongside former head coach Albie O’Connell with the Terriers during the 2021-22 season. BU went 19-13-3 last season and captured the program’s 31st Beanpot title before falling to UConn in the Hockey East quarterfinals. The Terriers had a second-half surge that saw them go 14-1-1 without a regulation loss from Nov. 27 to Feb. 27. That run included the Beanpot.
“When [Pandolfo] came in, we found out right away he is so dedicated, and he always wanted to get us better. Every time he was talking, we gravitated towards him because he’s got so much knowledge about the game,” rising senior captain Dom Fensore said. “I think in the second half, we kind of just gelled together, and he was a big part of it, you know. So, you can definitely say that [he played a role in that run].”
Pandolfo takes over for O’Connell, who was announced to not be returning as head coach on March 30. Under O’Connell, the Terriers skated to a 58-49-16 record. Over the last four seasons, BU made the NCAA tournament once – where they lost to St. Cloud State in the 2021 Northeast Regional semifinal – won one Beanpot, and advanced beyond the Hockey East quarterfinals once in three tries after the pandemic canceled the 2020 tournament.
Pandolfo had an illustrious career on Comm. Ave, winning a national championship in 1995, making it to another national championship in 1994, appearing in four Frozen Fours, claiming two Beanpots and two Hockey East titles. He stressed the high expectations the program has.
“The BU Hockey program isn’t broken. What we need to do is just everything a little bit better,” the two-time Stanley Cup champion said. “BU Hockey to me is about commitment, it’s about attitude, attention to detail, and holding ourselves and each other accountable on and off the ice. We’re gonna have high expectations, so we have to have high standards.
“The central theme of this program is to compete at everything we do. Everything matters. It’s not simply about the wins and the losses. It’s about striving to be the best we can be day in and day out. We’re gonna buy into this mindset, and the results are going to take care of themselves.”
Marrochello echoed the sentiment.
“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. This is a program that’s defined by Frozen Four appearances and national championships,” Marrochello said. “That continues to be our goal. I think it’s lofty and difficult, but it’s very attainable and remains an expectation.”
Prior to returning to BU as a coach in 2021, Pandolfo was an assistant coach in the NHL with the Boston Bruins for five seasons from 2016-17 to 2020-21, helping guide the team to the playoffs each year he was with the team, including a run to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, and four appearances in at least the second round.
“I think last summer, Albie had reached out to me and gauged my interest on it. It was a tough decision, but I wouldn’t have left the Bruins just for any jobs. It was Boston University hockey, which means a lot to me,” the Burlington, Mass. native said. “It took some convincing, but I thought at the time, for me it was the right move. If I ever did want to get into college hockey coaching, to be in and around it on a daily basis was going to help me moving forward.”
Pandolfo believes having experience coaching at the college ranks will aid him in handling the responsibilities that come at this level.
“I think if I came from the outside, not having any college experience, it would have been a lot more difficult just understanding how all the recruiting works – we talked about the transfer portal, all these little things,” he said. “It would have been tough on me, but to be here and kind of learn it over the course of the year. I think it’s gonna help me moving forward and make the transition a lot easier.”
Fensore said the team will appreciate the comfort level of already knowing Pandolfo when he steps behind the bench.
“It’s definitely nice to see that, you know, a familiar face. We’re just excited,” the defenseman said. “We’re ready to go, and I can’t wait for Oct. 1.”