Boston University has seen its ups and downs on the ice this fall under first year head coach David Quinn, but there are positive signs for the team's development.
The progression of freshmen defensemen Doyle Somerby and Dalton MacAfee is one obvious point that Quinn can point to when talking about his team's play so far.
"They've made great progress. The kids work hard and move the puck well. Those two guys are certainly giving us a lot of valuable minutes on the blueline," said Quinn, an assistant coach with the Colorado Avalanche last season before taking over for Jack Parker at his alma mater.
Somerby, the more heralded prospect of the two, came to Boston University by way of Kimball Union Academy, a prep school in Meriden, NH. The Wildcats went 27-3 last season under current Brown assistant Mike Levine. Somerby captained the squad that also featured current Terriers freshman Nick Roberto, Niko Rufo of Providence, and several other Hockey East recruits.
The New York Islanders selected the Marblehead, Mass. native in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL Draft.
Somerby has played in all but one of the Terriers' 11 games so far this season. Watching him maneuver around the ice, it is evident how much more comfortable the hulking six-foot-five-inch blue liner feels with some collegiate games under his belt.
"Somerby, for a guy his size, has got a lot of coordination. Usually a guy that big at that age can be a little awkward or a little gangly," said Quinn, a former defenseman himself. "He has quick hands and skates well. I think his best hockey is ahead of him. He's a really good player," he added.
Dalton MacAfee, a St. Sebastian's alum, didn't come to BU with quite as much fanfare, but has plenty of potential. He skated for four seasons at the Needham, Mass. prep school and also played some split season midget hockey with the Cape Cod Whalers organization. One of his high school teammates was fellow BU rookie Tommy Kelley, a forward who has played in nine games.
MacAfee, who stands at six-feet-one, isn't as big of a presence on the ice as Somerby, but has his strengths and can still play the physical game. He has been a healthy scratch for three games, but is making tremendous improvements as he adjusts to the college game.
"Dalton MacAfee has really come a long way in the last six weeks. I thought he had his best game of the year up in Maine on Friday night," said Quinn.
"Those two guys are going to be a big part of our success," said Quinn, whose team entertains perennial power North Dakota next weekend for a pair of nonconference games at Agganis Arena.
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Jeff Cox covers college and junior hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.