What a difference a year makes.
Last year at this time, Burlington, Mass., native Jay Pandolfo was preparing for the NHL playoffs as assistant coach of the Boston Bruins. This year, he will spend the summer preparing for his first head coaching job at his alma mater, as the storied Boston University Terriers hockey program announced his hiring on Thursday.
The former NHL forward who won a national title at BU under coach Jack Parker (Somerville, Mass.) in 1995 and went on to raise the Stanley Cup twice with the New Jersey Devils in 2000 and 2003, takes the reins at Commonwealth Ave. after Albie O’Connell (Watertown, Mass.) was fired March 30. Pandolfo, who was hired to replace Paul Pearl (Winthrop, Mass.) last summer as O’Connell’s associate head coach, becomes the latest former Terrier to try and restore the program to its once lofty heights, as BU made it official in an announcement Thursday.
“This is truly a great day for the Boston University men’s hockey program,” BU’s director of athletics Drew Marrochello said. “Jay was an elite player during his four years at BU and then proved to be a consummate professional during a decorated NHL career. He understands the tradition of BU hockey and how important it is to our university, our alumni and our fans. Our student-athletes learned a lot from Jay during his first season here and we look forward to having him prepare them for future success while guiding us to championships. He certainly knows what it takes to win and we’re excited to keep him home at BU, leading our program for years to come.”
New England Hockey Journal identified Pandolfo as the likely candidate to succeed O’Connell last month, and he will be officially introduced at a press conference on May 9.
Pandolfo, 47, starred at Burlington High before arriving at BU in 1992. After winning the NCAA championship as a junior, he captained the Terriers in 1995-96 when he won the Walter Brown Award and was a Hobey Baker finalist. He went on to play 899 NHL games with New Jersey, the New York Islanders and Boston Bruins before retiring in 2013.
He joined the Bruins as a player development coach in 2014, and headed up the team’s player development effort for a season before becoming an assistant in Claude Julien’s final season with the B’s. Bruce Cassidy replaced the Stanley Cup-winning coach midway through 2016-17, and Pandolfo remained on the staff until last summer.
A visible presence in the rinks as part of BU’s recruiting efforts, Pandolfo inherits a team largely made up of players brought in under the previous regime.
O’Connell had just one sub-.500 season at BU, his first, and went 19-13-3 last season. It was an uneven start, but by early 2022, the team hit an upswing, with O’Connell leading the Terriers to their first Beanpot trophy since 2016. A lack of success in the postseason, including a Hockey East quarterfinals loss to UConn March 12, ended BU’s rebound and essentially sealed his fate.
O’Connell replaced David Quinn (Cranston, R.I.) in 2018 after the latter moved to coach the New York Rangers. Let go by the Rangers after the 2020-21 season, Quinn recently told New England Hockey Journal that his desire was to remain in the NHL. With his four-year contract expiring, Quinn could be in play for head coach openings soon.
Which brings us back to Pandolfo.
With no interest from Quinn in reprising his BU coaching career, the door was open to one more former Parker player to embrace that legacy and build one of his own.