Boston, Mass. -- As this weekend's Hockey East quarterfinal series against Merrimack approaches, fans of the scarlet and white need to redirect some of their praise for this season's successes to the coaching staff of the No. 1 seeded Boston University Terriers.
Freshman forward Jack Eichel has bee heaped with praise all season, and rightfully so. The projected No. 2 selection in the 2015 NHL Draft is a generational talent that has been a game changer for the Terriers. His 55 points, 32 of which have come in the third period and overtime, are remarkable numbers for a true freshman.
His line's possession numbers have helped tilt the ice in favor of the Terriers on a nightly basis, but the improvement in the defensive numbers need to be equally recognized. Last season BU gave up 113 goals in 35 games played. This season the Terrier defense has allowed just 78 in 33 games played. That's almost a full goal less per game from last season.
BU has made this turnaround dressing four freshmen, one sophomore and one junior on a nightly basis. That's a very young defense to be tasked with that big of a turnaround. Matt Grzelcyk, the team's junior captain, has improved leaps and bounds after recovering from last season's shoulder injury.
The Charlestown, Mass. native has always been capable of chipping into the offense and leading the rush, but his defensive capabilities aren't even in the same stratosphere as last season.
Big sophomore Doyle Somerby, a New York Islanders pick, has become more agile and mobile and reined in his physical play.
The four freshmen, led by Brandon Hickey, have stepped in and done an admirable job against a tough schedule.
The talent of the six players is undeniable, but head coach David Quinn's ability to get the most out of defensemen and teach them the game isn't a new phenomenon. It isn't a coincidence that BU's last title came in 2009 when Quinn was Jack Parker's associate coach. It's also no coincidence that all six of the players on the 2009 blue line have played in the NHL.
A few of the recruits were already in place, but Steve Greeley and Albie O'Connell deserve considerable praise as well. The Terriers have been the hottest program by far on the recruiting trail over the past 18 months.
Quinn, the coach who has led the Terriers' resurgence from 10th to first, deserves to be the 2014-15 Hockey East Coach of the Year. It isn't even debatable.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.