By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff
During the winter break, the No. 9 Boston University men’s hockey team suffered one of the most high-profile player departures in recent history when sophomore forward Charlie Coyle chose to leave BU for brighter pastures with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
In a recent interview, BU coach Jack Parker expressed his disappointment in Coyle’s decision to leave BU at the end of the first semester. Coyle informed Parker before leaving BU for the break that he would not be returning. According to multiple sources, Coyle had some academic issues at BU, but Parker said that while he cannot comment on Coyle’s academic situation, he hinted that it was Coyle’s choice to leave the school.
“One of the major problems was it would be one thing if we lost a right wing and a left wing, but we lost two centers,” Parker said. “It would have been better for us and maybe better for him if he had decided to leave at the end of last season.”
Had Coyle left before the season and not in the middle of it, BU would have been able to bring in another center to replace Coyle. Parker said that while it is always an option to bring in a recruit a semester early, he chose not to do so in this case because he had an abundance of forwards (although not necessarily centers) on the team to replace Coyle. BU did add another forward, albeit not a recruited player, in walk-on Jake Moscatel - who most recently played for BU’s club hockey team - for depth in case of injury. Moscatel is not expected to see much ice time.
Coyle leaves BU in the midst of a season where he had only scored three goals but assisted on 11 other tallies. Parker said that while the team will suffer from the loss of a player of Coyle's skill level, he believes the team will miss dismissed senior forward Corey Trivino’s (13-4-17) total output more than Coyle’s.
“Coyle had three goals and Trivino had 13 goals, so you tell me who we’ll miss more,” Parker said. “Coyle has been a really good player for us, there’s no question about it, but it’s not as if we’ll miss his total output. He was on the first line since he’s been here. He was on the power play since he’s been here. He couldn’t have possibly gotten more ice time than he had. We can replace him with a lot more guys in that ice time and get a lot more goals than just his three.”
Parker was then asked whether he was disappointed with Coyle’s production over the course of his BU career.
“Not as much as he was, I guess,” Parker said. Parker then denied that Coyle left BU because he was unhappy with the way he was developing. He said instead that Coyle told Parker he chose to leave BU because he wanted to focus solely on hockey rather than both school and hockey.
After Coyle’s departure, reports emerged saying sophomore defenseman Adam Clendening was also a risk to leave the team, but Parker said Clendening plans to return to school. Both Clendening and sophomore forward Matt Nieto, like Coyle, have been hounded by Canadian Major Junior teams throughout their collegiate careers in an attempt to get the players to leave college to play north of the border.
Coyle, a lifelong BU fan, always said it was his dream to play for BU and even used “buhockey03” as his email address before arriving on Commonwealth Avenue. Therefore, it seemed unlikely that Coyle would give in to the pressure from the Major Junior teams and leave his dream school.
Now that he did leave BU, the chances of Nieto and Clendening choosing to leave seemed greater as well. Parker, however, said he was not worried that Nieto or Clendening – who did not grow up as BU fans - would also leave the team.
“Anybody could do it,” Parker said. “Each individual has their own ethical and moral principles. It’s a hard situation, but Clendening has been hounded and he’s not leaving. Nieto’s not leaving.”
While Major Junior teams develop many elite players for the NHL, the league differs from college hockey in that it is for players aged 16-20 years old and is a longer schedule with more games and less of a focus on gym and practice routines. For Coyle, a player who has competed against 18-to-25 year olds in college hockey for the last 18 months, the move to Major Junior is an interesting developmental choice.
“It’s a less than lateral move,” Parker said of the difference in competition level between the QMJHL and college hockey.
Coyle is currently playing in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championships, an annual tournament featuring national teams of players under 20 years old. Coyle has been dominant in the tournament thus far and recorded a hat trick in Team USA’s first official game, a 11-3 rout of Denmark. Coyle’s goal total in that one game matched his output from an entire semester at BU, leading the US national team coach, Dean Blais, to remark that Parker must not have been using Coyle correctly at BU. Parker did not back down from firing back at Blais.
“They’re playing him at center; we played him at center,” Parker said. “They’re playing him on the power play; we played him on the power play. They’re playing him on the penalty kill; we played him on the penalty kill. We used him exactly the same way they are.”
Despite his disappointment in Coyle’s decision to leave BU, however, Parker said he is happy to see Coyle doing well in the tournament.
“Charlie Coyle got much better as a player here at BU,” Parker said. “It’s amazing to see how much better he is now than he was at this point last year. In general, I’m happy to see him do well on that team.”