Monday, September 26, 2022

Q&A with Head Coach Jay Pandolfo

 Photo credit Kyle Prudhomme

On May 5, Jay Pandolfo was named the 13th head coach of Terrier Hockey. A former BU captain—like predecessors Jack Parker, David Quinn and Albie O’Connell—he’ll lead the Scarlet & White into the program’s 101st season beginning Saturday. He recently spoke to THFB about his coaching philosophy and plans, his heavily upper-classman squad and more.

Q. While this is your first head coaching job, you said recently that Albie O'Connell gave you a “ton of responsibility last year” and that you did “a lot of stuff that a head coach would do.” Please expand on that.

A. I ran most of the meetings, the pre-scout meetings, the meetings on our structure, the way we wanted to play. Having that responsibility on a regular basis is what a head coach does. I changed the forward lines, although Albie had some say in that. Over the course of the game, I’d be the one to put our forwards out there. Typically, the head coach will run the forwards and change the lines. The helped me a lot with bench management and prepared me to be head coach.

Q. Last season, following the loss to Cornell, BU went on a 15-2-1 run. What factors enabled that turnaround and did it coincide with your taking on an enhanced role?

A. I think our group started understanding that to have success, we had to play more as a team. Also understanding some of the structure and systems in our game and getting used to it. We also started playing faster as a team, using our strengths. Guys started believing in themselves a little more after a tough start to the season.

Q. A commonly stated goal for coaches is to build a team that is “difficult to play against.” How will that manifest itself in BU’s style of play? What else do you want to define BU Hockey?

A. Being hard to play against means a few things. It isn’t just being physical. It’s being hard on the puck, playing the right way, getting in the other team’s faces, getting on top of them quickly and not giving them any time and space. Going back to my playing days, BU hockey was about being competitive and hard to play against. The biggest thing for us this year is to have that identity, not just sometimes, but all the time.

                                    Photo Credit Matt Woolverton
Q. Puck possession has increasingly become an important metric for success. How will BU’s style of play enhance puck possession?

A. For us it will be supporting the puck in all three zones. You have to use hockey IQ and hockey sense at times because it’s still a read and react game. We have our structure where you support the puck not only in defensive zone but also in the neutral and offensive zones. You need all five guys nowadays. When you’re coming out of your zone, you need your Ds ready to join the rush. In the neutral zone, you need all five guys working together and the same in the offensive zone. Ds now have a lot more freedom to roam and interchange with the forwards. When you have that kind of movement, you’ll have more possession. Whether you’re an offensive defenseman or not, you still have to be involved in the offense to have a puck possession team.

Q. Last year BU had eight games go to overtime and three to a shootout. Do 3-on-3 play and penalty shots require the same level of attention in practice as the power play and penalty-killing?

A. Maybe not as much as power play and penalty-killing, but you definitely have to practice them on a regular basis. We practice shootout and 3-on-3 the day before every game. You want to gain those extra points in close games. It’ll make a difference at the end of the year.

Q. How will having an upper-class heavy squad with 10 seniors and seven juniors impact your initial season as a head coach?

A. It’s been really helpful to because these guys are mature and know what the expectations are and that they have to lead by example. The big thing for this group is it can’t always be the coach holding them accountable; they have to hold themselves accountable and they’ve bought into it. That makes our job easier.

Pandolfo spent 11 seasons with the Devils, winning the Stanley Cup in 2000 and 2003.


Q. BU has six incoming freshmen—4 forwards and 2 defensemen—and is the only Hockey East school that hasn’t added a portal transfer. What does that decision say about the roster for your first squad?

A. It says a lot about the depth of our team. And especially when there are so many upper classmen, it’s difficult to add through the portal. This group came here with a goal to win as a group that has stuck together for three or four years.

Q. Your team is particularly strong in goal with two-year starter Drew Commesso and Vinny Duplessis who has excelled in his 13 starts. With back-to-back games being the norm, what goes into deciding when to stay with the starter and when to go to, let’s say, option 1B?

A. It’s a game-by-game decision. Drew is our starter and Vinnie is competitive, always ready to play. You go off how the game goes the first night to see what you’ll do the next night. One game at a time.

Q. Have you determined the assignments of your assistants, Joe Pereira and Kim Brandvold—who will focus on defense, offense, special teams?

A. Joe and Kim will work together on the penalty kill. To start the season, Joe will run the D because he knows the league so well. Kim will be doing more coaching during the games individually with players on little things.

The skill development piece on the ice will be Kim’s major focus, not only with the forwards but also with the defense. We’ll all work together in that area. Player development is really important, so adding Kim to the staff is huge. He understands how I want our team to play. He was a high school head coach too, and plenty of bench experience, too. So that factored in as well [in bringing him aboard].

Q. You have a former teammate and another BU captain in Doug Friedman as director of hockey operations. Will he also have a role in coaching and development?

A. Yes, he is limited (by rule) with what he can do with the players, but he certainly can help the coaching staff. He’s a great resource for us because he’s really good with the little details that go on during a game.  Doug will let me know what he sees and what we need to get better at. He was good at that last year and will continue in that role.

Following BU’s 11-4 win against Northeastern in the 1996 Beanpot title game, Pandolfo brings Travis Roy’s jersey through the handshake line as he did every game. That season, Pandolfo was a First Team All-American and a Hobey Baker finalist.

Q. At a recent alumni golf event, you encouraged greater Involvement in the program by BU Hockey alums. Why is that important and how can it enhance BU Hockey?

A. The history and tradition of this program is about the current player and about the past players. Its about the current players taking pride in the jersey just like the guys before them did—trying to leave the jersey in a better place, as some would say. So, want the alums to be involved. They’re the ones who built the tradition and made history.


Boston Hockey Blog The Seniors Are Here to Stay


Looking ahead  

                                    Credit Rena Laverty, USA Hockey

2023 or 2024 recruit Kai Janviriya fired home the game-winner in the NTDP U18s' 3-2 win against Waterloo. The 5'8", right-shot defenseman had 12 points last season with the U17s.

2023 recruit Shane Lachance assisted on the power-play game-winner as Youngtown edged Des Moines, 2-1.


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