Boston University has been on the hunt for a new head coach ever since David Quinn left for the New York Rangers. Although they considered Boston Bruins assistant Jay Pandolfo, former NHLer and current head coach at The Rivers School Shawn McEachern, and Union College head coach Rick Bennett, the team ended up deciding to promote assistant Albie O’Connell. The school announced O’Connell as their twelfth head coach in program history and another in a long line of alumni who have filled the role. O’Connell played four seasons at BU under legendary coach Jack Parker from 1996 to 1999, winning four Beanpot titles and a Hockey East Conference championship and captaining the team as a senior. A fifth-round draft pick of the New York Islanders in 1994, O’Connell never reached the NHL and eventually transitioned into coaching with stops at Colby, Niagara, Holy Cross, Merrimack, Northeastern, and Harvard. He joined Quinn’s staff at BU in 2014 and was instrumental in the recruiting and development of several stars such as Jack Eichel, Charlie McAvoy, and Jordan Greenway. O’Connell inherits a team that was a win away from a Frozen Four berth this year and is set to add potential first round pick Jake Wise to the mix among others.
- Given the success of the Big Ten Conference this year, in particular how well the relatively new Penn State performed, it’s not surprising that Big Ten members in other sports are now beginning to consider adding hockey. University of Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman acknowledged today that he is “increasingly confident” that the school will field a team in the near future. While the scholarship and roster management and Title IX compliance challenges alone are overwhelming, Illinois would also have to raise an estimated $50-60MM to build an arena for the team. However, interest is high and donations are already coming in earmarked for a hockey program that doesn’t yet exist. Whitman feels that the chance to jump into an elite conference and immediately attract high-end athletes is too much to pass up and hopes that the Champaign would be quick to embrace a team. It sounds like it’s only a matter of time before the Fighting Illini are the newest NCAA Division I team.
- Speaking of Penn State, the team got some good news recently when forward Will Cuylle announced his commitment to the program. The 16-year-old Toronto native was recently selected third overall by the Peterborough Petes in the OHL Priority Selection Draft and has great upside as a player, but appears to have chosen against pursuing the major junior route in favor of the college game. The big winger already plays a strong power forward game, equipped with checking ability and a howitzer shot, but seemingly feels that he can develop better outside of the OHL. Cuylle is not eligible for the NHL Draft until 2020 and will not join Penn State until at least 2020-21, so there is time for him to change his mind, but right now it seems like an incredible acquisition for the upstart program.