Thursday, June 2, 2016

Masters in Chemistry: Keller and Bellows Set to Bring Unique On-Ice Connection to BU

By Neal E. Boudette, BU '84

In the bronze-medal game at this year’s U18 World Championships, Team USA was leading Canada 2-1 in the middle of the first period when the puck came to Clayton Keller in the left circle.

Many Terrier fans are hoping that what happened next is a preview of what’s coming to Agganis Arena this fall.

Keller, a BU recruit, had his back to the net. Glancing over his left shoulder, he spotted Kieffer Bellows, his teammate on the USA National Team Development Program this past season and also a Terrier recruit, drifting down from the blue line on the other side of the ice.

Rather than continue to his left, Keller suddenly spun around the opposite other way to his right, and in one motion whipped a blind pass across the ice. The puck threaded through three Canadian players caught off guard by the unexpected move, but the recipient wasn’t surprised in the least. Bellows reached the puck in full stride and one-timed it into the Canadian net.

You can see the play here at the 1:10 mark. If you haven’t seen it, it will make your jaw drop.

“That was probably our coolest,” Keller said when I sat down with him and Bellows in May, after an off-ice workout at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich., where the NTDP program is based.

It was by no means their only head-spinning play during the 2015-16 season. Asked to recall a few highlights, their conversation mirrors their on-ice play. Keller to Bellows and back to Keller. It’s Keller who starts, and Bellows who finishes.

“The Youngstown one, “ Keller said.

“Yeah!” Bellows responded. “Our very first USHL game. Was it my first goal?”

“Your second goal.”

“Yeah, my second goal, where you kind of wrapped it around. Kells did this play behind the net where he fakes like he’s going around and he passes to me and the goalie’s already on the other side and I just shoot it in a wide-open net. Something we talked about doing, but didn’t’ know it would actually turn out.”

Keller is a likely top-15 pick in this month’s NHL draft while Bellows is seen as a middle to late first-rounder. They’re also considered sure-fire linemates when they arrive in Comm Ave. this fall.

They haven’t heard anything specific from Quinn about lines for next year, but Keller said he thinks the chances are pretty high it will happen.

Come October, you can bet Bernie Corbett will know their names and numbers by heart.

Keller and Bellows are part of a monster in-coming class of eight recruits that includes their NTDP teammates Chad Krys, a defenseman, and goaltender Jake Oettinger, as well as Canadian defenseman Dante Fabbro, another projected first-rounder.

This influx of talent will join a talented core featuring skilled forwards like sophomores Jordan Greenway and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and a loaded blueline featuring NTDP alum (and yet another possible first-rounder) Charlie McAvoy. The combination should again have BU in the hunt for titles next season.

For Coach Dave Quinn, could there be a more obvious no-brainer than to keep Keller and Bellows? Keller racked up 37 goals and 70 assists this year for 107 points, becoming only the third NTDP player to break the century mark in a single season. The others? Auston Matthews, the likely No. 1 pick this year, and another guy, name of Kane. Pretty good company.

Here’s what I think is the most impressive stat about Keller: He scored 9-12-21 in 12 games against D-1 teams this past season. So he averaged 1.75 points a game against college-level competition -- as a 17-year old. The kid doesn’t turn 18 until July 29.

Bellows, the son of former NHLer Brian Bellows, merely led the NTDP U-18 squad in goals with 50, and added 31 assists. His 81 points were second only to Keller.

Bellows spent a year with the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede before jumping to the NTDP U-18 team last fall. He hoped to play with Keller, who was a teammate once before in a Bauer Selects tournament in Russia.

“I knew he’d be very complementary to me,” Bellows said. “I came in [to NTDP] and Coach [Danton] Cole said I would be playing with Joey [Anderson, a UM-Duluth recruit] and Kells. It worked out pretty well. It’s worked our really well and we’ll see what the future holds at Boston.”

After the first couple games, “we started to realize what all three of us can do,” Keller explained. “I’m a passer. [Kieffer] is a shooter. Joey can do everything. Kiefer’s always getting open when I get the puck. It makes it easy for me. It’s just a matter of playing our game. So it’s pretty special.”

When I talked to them, both players expressed enthusiasm for putting on the scarlet and white, and getting the chance to skate with the top-end talent BU has.

“I’ve gotten to know Charlie from my official visit. I’ve gotten to know Jordan because his younger brother, JD, is my roommate. I know JFK pretty well. He’s a good guy. I got to play against him a lot my first year in juniors,” Bellows said. “From going there on my first visit – I don’t know if Kells feels the same way – but I felt they were a really close team, and they made us feel really comfortable, so I feel like we’ll fit right in.”

In pro hockey circles, speculation continues that Keller might defect to the OHL, where the Windsor Spitfires owns his rights. He recently told that he thinks the chances of him going to Windsor are “slim,” adding that BU is his “top choice” and “the best fit” for him.

When he spoke to me, he gave no indication of second thoughts to becoming a Terrier.

“We’re both headed to the [NHL] combine, then the draft, and then it’s off to BU in July for a month or so to get classes done,” he said.  “I know Jordan and Charlie from playing with them last year. So I’m just looking forward to meeting all the guys and getting to play and practice with them.”

Here are other highlights from my conversation:

Q: What was your first contact with BU and what convinced you that was where you wanted to go?

Keller: I can’t remember the exact date but it was the Select 15 festival in July 2014. That was my first get-to-know. They reached out to my family advisor and then I went on a visit that same year. I just really liked the facilities and Coach Quinn and Steve Greeley, when he was there, really made me feel comfortable, and just seeing all the great players who have come out of BU. It seemed like a good spot for me.

Q: Kieffer you mentioned a few weeks ago you wanted to go to a school where hockey was the main sports.

Bellows: I wanted to go to a school that’s mainly focused on hockey and you see that with BU. Their fans just love the game. They’re very passionate about it. My first contact with BU was right before the tryouts to come here to the U-17 program [in April 2014]. I took a visit out there and I just fell in love with it. I just knew it was something that I’d really be comfortable with, if I wanted to go there. Then I took my time and made my decision. I felt like it was the best decision because I knew if I went there I’d have a better shot at playing in the NHL one day, with the coaching staff of Quinn and Coach Young and Albie O’Connell.

Q: Did you have any influence on each other?

Keller: I didn’t know they were talking to [Kiefer] that much, but obviously I’m looking forward to playing with him. Last year Chad Krys wasn’t committed and I had a little bit of influence on him, just trying to get him to go to  BU, too. And obviously Jake Oettinger, too. I tried to get as many guys as I could who would help our team next year.

Q: What has NTDP meant for you?

Keller: Just being able to represent your country every day is something that is really special. Not every kid gets the opportunity to do that at such a young age. And everything they offer you here, with the weight training, the ice time, the nutrition, is really special. I think it was a great two years. I was really thankful I got to play here.

Bellows: It was a little different coming in during the second year. I can tell I really improved as a player with all the off-ice training. You have to learn to really respect everybody around with representing your country every day. It’s something you may never get the opportunity to do again, so you have to take advantage of every opportunity.

Q: How much have you gotten to know the college hockey scene in Boston?

Bellows: The first thing that pops into your head when you hear college hockey in Boston is the Beanpot. This year we got to see their first game and it was really cool to see what it’s actually like. Last year I watched it on TV, but to see it in person was really cool. To see the student sections and the fans and how much they love the game.

Q: And the BC rivalry? There are four NTDP players headed to BC, including a guy you may be shooting on, goalie Joe Woll.

Keller: Obviously they have a big rivalry and it’s just a battle.

Bellows: It’s funny. Each goalie from our [NTDP] team is going to each school. We chirp Joe how we’re going to score on him, and the guys going to BC chirp that they’re going to score on Jake next year.

Q: Why did you pick the college hockey route?

Keller: Just playing against older, stronger players is the biggest thing. Also the weight training in college is really good, and obviously you get your education. You grow as a person. I think those are the main things why I chose college.

Bellows: That’s really it. You’re playing against older guys who are possibly stronger than you. It’s good in case anything ever happens to have a [college degree] to fall back on. It’s something that a lot of guys don’t appreciate as much as they should. A degree is something you will need in the world. My dad played the OHL route. Back in Canada, that was the only route you did then. He went to college in the summer for like the first 10 years of his career just so he could get a degree and he’s using that right now. He’s said that’s probably one of the best decisions of his life to do that.

Neal Boudette cover automobiles for the New York Times and writes about hockey any chance he gets.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Q&A With Head Coach David Quinn

Q -When the NTDP U18s visited last season, it was reported that they “loved BU’s style of play” What do you think they meant and why might they feel that way?
A- Hopefully the word spreads. That’s never a bad thing to have people say that, especially the national program, which is the age of players we’re recruiting. One of the things we stress is a puck-possession game. There are times you have to chip a puck in, but that’s not the way we want to play. We kick loose pucks in the neutral zone back to our defense so they can possess it and enter the zone with speed. A lot of teams will post a guy at the blue line and have him chip it in and go get it. That’s not how we want to play. We want to carry the puck into the offensive zone and attack with speed. We need our defensemen to be involved in the attack; so, it’s something we’re constantly stressing.

Q - Let’s look at the Terrier offense.  While there is much returning and incoming talent, BU has lost not just the two top scorers in the nation, but arguably the two most creative forwards from last season.  Do you expect to maintain the up-tempo, pressure offense that made BU such a dangerous offensive team last season—both at even strength and on the power play?
A-If you’re going to create offense, you need to have all five guys involved. Our approach isn’t going to change despite losing three guys who produced offense. We’re really happy with our returning core and feel the freshmen will be able to contribute offensively. On our D corps, they’re all puck-moving defensemen who make good decisions and good plays. That’s how we’ll create offense. In the two exhibitions and regular-season games, we scored four goals three times. If we keep doing that, I like our chances.

Q -What are you and the assistant coaches doing to turn the page on last year’s extremely successful season while retaining the systems that were so effective as well as the team’s swagger?
A- We don’t talk that much about last year. Every team has its own personality and identity, no matter how many guys are returning. Our returning guys learned a lot about what it takes to be successful, especially those who were here for the difficult year before. The seniors have experienced a bit of everything: just missing the national tournament, then having a down year and last year nearly having the ultimate experience of winning a national championship. To have the kind of year we want, you have to have talent, which we do. And you have to have team chemistry, have resilience and mental toughness and not be selfish. We’ll find out during the next few months if we have all those things.

Q -With last year’s four freshman defensemen having a year of experience, including pressure-filled post-season games under their belts, what improvements do you expect to see on both sides of the puck from each of them?
A-They’ll be more comfortable and there is an expectation that they’ll all improve. Everyone talks about our offense last year but our defense had much to do with that. We didn’t spend a lot of time in our own end. We transitioned well and now, with those guys being a bit bigger, stronger and faster, hopefully they’ll continue to make great decisions. Sometimes at this level, a guy takes a step back before taking a step forward; hopefully, we won’t go through that.

Q -You’ve gone on the record as preferring that one goalie take control of the top job rather than employ a rotation. Given that Sean Maguire is returning after taking a medical redshirt last season and Connor Lacouvee’s limited experience, do you see one of them seizing the starting spot?
A-I’d prefer that it be one guy, but if you’ve got two, I’m not opposed to rotating. If both are playing really well, you keep playing both. We have two really good goalies and they’ll both have an opportunity to seize the job. Time will tell.

Q -Your coaching staff has undergone changes, too. How will Scott Young’s role as a coach differ from what Steve Greeley did and what does Chris Dyment bring?
A-Scott is sliding into the role Albie played before he stepped up as associate head coach. One of the things we’re fortunate to have is two guys who love to coach and recruit. Scott has recruiting experience at St. Mark’s and he’ll be a valuable on-ice addition to the staff. Chris has paid his dues, coaching at the junior level, where you’re also the general manager, the equipment manager, even the skate sharpener—a lot of different hats. He was a great player here, he’s well respected and he’ll be a great asset to the program and to me.

Q - What are three keys to a highly successful season that would put BU back in the Garden next March and back in the NCAA tournament? With his NHL track record, he’ll definitely be a positive influence on our players.
A- Number one, you have to remain healthy. Number two is having a strong work ethic. College hockey is so competitive that you must be ready to play hard night in and night out.  And three, you need to have a true team with guys committed to the cause. We’re at a level where everyone aspires to play in the NHL and fortunately we have players who have the ability to do that or have the possibility to do that. But in the process, they must be committed to BU hockey and our team concept. We had that last year. In any college level sport, when you’re playing for the team, you have a much better chance of success. Those are the ingredients needed to have the kind of season we’re capable of having.

Q –Which returning player is going to surprise Terrier fans, if not his coach, by taking his game to a higher level?
A bunch of guys pop into my head; but I’ll say Matt Lane, who already is off to a great start. He’s a guy who might surprise people because he has really good offensive ability and, going into his senior year, he’ll have more opportunities to be productive.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

2015-16 Game Highlights

Oct. 3    BU 4 Acadia 2 (exhibition)
Oct. 10  Union 5 BU 3
Oct. 16  NTDP U18s 7 BU 4 (exhibition)
Oct. 17  BU 4 Wisconsin 1
Oct. 24  BU 4 Connecticut 2
Oct. 27  Connecticut 5 BU 2 (UConn goals only) BU: O'Regan, Phelps
Oct. 30  Merrimack 4 BU 3
Oct. 31  BU 5 Denver 4 OT  
Nov. 6   BU 5 Northeastern 4
Nov. 7   BU 4 Northeastern 1
Nov. 13 BU 1 Providence 1 OT
Nov. 14 BU 3 Providence 3 OT 
Nov. 20 BU 3 Michigan 2   Extended NESN highlights 
Nov. 21 Michigan 4 BU 2
Nov. 24 BU 3 Bentley 0
Nov. 28 BU 3 Cornell 3 OT (BU wins shootout, 3-2)   
Dec.4    Vermont 4 BU 2
Dec. 5   BU 5 Vermont 3 
Dec. 11 Yale 3 BU 2  (Full Game Video)
Dec. 12 BU 4 Quinnipiac 1  
Jan. 7   BU 6 Harvard 5  (Full Game Video)  
Jan. 9   BU 7 UMass 2 
Jan. 15 BC 5 BU 3
Jan. 16 BU 1 BC 1 OT
Jan. 22 BU 5 Maine 2 (BU goals)
Jan. 23 BU 6 Maine 1  
Jan. 29 BU 4 Merrimack 0 
Feb. 1   BU 3 Northeastern 1 (Beanpot)
Feb. 5   BU 6 Massachusetts 3
Fab. 8   BC 1 BU 0 OT (Beanpot)
Feb. 12 BU 2 Lowell 1 OT
Feb. 13 Lowell 6 BU 3
Feb. 19 BU 3 New Hampshire 3 OT
Feb. 20 BU 3 New Hampshire 2
Feb. 26 BU 3 Notre Dame 2
Feb. 27 Notre Dame 1 BU 0
Mar. 4   BU 2 UMass 1 OT   
Mar.5    BU 5 UMass 4 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Terrier TV Men's Ice Hockey Package Schedule

Terrier TV Men's Ice Hockey Package Schedule   
Click to Watch
vs. Acadia
4:00PM - ET
vs. U.S. Under-18 Team
7:30PM - ET
vs. Wisconsin
7:00PM - ET
vs. UConn
4:00PM - ET
at UConn
7:05PM - ET
vs. Denver
4:00PM - ET
vs. Northeastern
7:30PM - ET
vs. Providence
4:00PM - ET
vs. Michigan
4:00PM - ET
vs. Bentley
7:00PM - ET
vs. Vermont
7:30PM - ET
vs. Vermont
4:00PM - ET
vs. Massachusetts
7:00PM - ET
vs. Boston College
7:00PM - ET
vs. Maine
7:00PM - ET
vs. Merrimack
7:30PM - ET
vs. UMass Lowell
7:30PM - ET
vs. New Hampshire
7:00PM - ET