Boston University battled COVID-19 before taking on Hockey East opponents

Boston University senior forward Max Kaufman controls the puck in a game against UConn this season. (Photo courtesy Boston University Athletics)

Boston University senior forward Max Kaufman controls the puck in a game against UConn this season. (Photo courtesy Boston University Athletics)

It’s been a long season for the Boston University men’s hockey team, even though it played only 15 games this season.

The Terriers were hit with positive COVID-19 tests Dec. 3, two days before they were set to drop the puck on the season against UConn. BU didn’t get started until Jan. 8, the latest of any men’s college hockey team in the country. Still, they were able to post a 10-4-1 record, including a 10-3-1 mark in Hockey East that placed them second behind Boston College.

The Terriers earned the third seed for this weekend’s NCAA men’s hockey tournament Northeast Regional at Times Union Center. BU will face second-seeded St. Cloud State (17-10-0) of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference at 1 p.m. Saturday, and the winner will play in Sunday’s regional final against top-seeded Boston College, which automatically advanced to that game after its scheduled opponent — Notre Dame — had to withdraw Thursday from the tournament due to COVID-19 protocols.

The regional final winner heads to the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh.

For BU head coach Albie O’Connell, it has been a challenging season.

“We were, like, a week behind everyone,” O’Connell said in a Tuesday interview, two days before it was announced that Notre Dame was out of the tournament because of COVID-19 protocols. “I think everyone was starting around Thanksgiving, and were around the 4th of December. I got a phone call on December 1st, filling me in on some details. As we went on, we were not able to play those games. We had a couple of guys not able to go to the World Juniors because of being in contact with some others. It just became a whole little bit of a mess for the next couple of weeks

“No one was extremely sick. But at the same time, we were trying to take as much precaution as we could.”

It was frustrating for the players not knowing if and when they would be able to start their season.

“At the time, it was what it was,” BU senior forward and team captain Logan Cockerill said on Wednesday. “We were just trying to focus on getting better at practices and then whenever we were able to play, we’d be happy to play.

“I think our coaches did a good job right from the start of the season when we got on campus in September, just preaching that you can get too affected by the pauses and the shutdowns because you know they’re going to come at some point. They just said to take it in stride and roll with the punches, just like everybody else did.”

Meanwhile, St. Cloud State (17-10-0) had few problems with COVID-19 and has played 27 games thus far.

“It affected us a little bit early,” St. Cloud State coach Brett Larson said in a Thursday interview. “I’m no expert, but we had a couple of positives in the early fall, late summer. I’m kind of hoping that maybe we got through it.”

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