O'Regan Shoots for Another 'Pot
Last Year's MVP Leads Terriers
Something funny happened to the winning tradition of Boston University hockey about four years ago.
It quickly became a losing tradition.
And that was hard to accept for the Terriers' Tom O'Regan, who enrolled at B.U.--about four years ago--because the "didn't like to lose."
"It finally chose B.U. became B.U. hockey meant winning." O'Regan says. "All of a sudden, it meant losing."
But times have changed for the Cambridge native. After three years of many nights and lows, the senior center has emerged as one of the nation's premier hockey players.
Tommy really came into his own last season. B.U. Coach Jack Parker says. "During the second half of the season, he was the player the rest of the team looked to for offense. He began to concentrate on the little things and that was a key season why his game improved so greatly."
And perhaps O'Regan, the co-captain of this year's Terrier squad, is the key to B.U.'s newfound success. The Terriers posted their first winning record in three years last year, have compiled a 12-9-0 record far this year and enter this year's Beanpot as the defending champions.
O'Regan's fellow players and coaches once a connection between the team's fortunes and the play of the stocky Business Management major.
"The team certainly seems to play up to the way he's playing," Parker says. "If he's on, the team seems to be on. This team has certainly played some great games when he's been on."
These may be no better example of that than what O'Regan calls the greatest moment of his life--last year's Beanpot final against Boston College. In that game, the local hero scored two goals and had one assist. His efforts earned him tournament MVP honors.
"Scoring the final goal to ice the game was perhaps the greatest feeling I've ever had," he recalls. "I had grown up watching the Beanpot and it was something I had always dreamed about. As soon as I scored that goal I was tackled by my teammates. By the time I got up. I realized there were 15,000 people there all screaming for me. That moment is something I'll always cherish and remember."
Times have not always been so easy on the ice for the Matignon High graduate. Heralded as the Terriers top recruit in 1979. O'Regan found the transition from high school to the college game a difficult one.
"I came in expecting to win and to play," says O'Regan, who was named the Eastern Massachusetts MVP his senior year at Matingnon. "I had played high school hockey for three years and in all that time we only lost five games. We won the state title when I was a junior and were state runners-up the other two years.
"So losing was a new experience Looking back. I really can't pinpoint what happened. We had so much talent, won our first three games, were ranked third in the country, and then we fell apart. No one was used to losing and we really didn't know how to react."
But the high school football and baseball standout began to show promise as his freshman year slid by. That year, he finished in a fifth-place tie for team scoring honors while playing on the Terriers' fourth line.
With his aggressive style of play quickly developing. O'Regan eagerly awaited the start of play during his sophomore year. But then came the bombshell.
O'Regan was suspended from the team for the first half of the season that year. "The suspension had nothing to do with anything. I did on the team, O'Regan says. "I had some problems in the dormitory and Coach [Parker] felt he needed to take some action."
"Actually, I couldn't believe he was doing it at the time," he adds. "I just couldn't understand why he was taking hockey away from me. But now that I look back at it. I realize I was 17 years old and had some growing up to do Coach was telling me I had to settle down and mature a little. And you know, the man was right."
"I really learned a lot from the whole experience," O'Regan says. "I ended up coming back and playing a lot and I don't think either Coach or myself held any grudges."
In fact, as soon as he came back. O'Regan resumed his powerful play. He ended the year with a one point per game average.
"He responded well to the suspension," Parker says. "Ever since that problem there's been no problem. He's matured not only as a player but as a person. We certainly have no qualms with him about what happened."
And O'Regan certainly has no qualms about what has happened to his game since that trying experience. After a slow start this year. O'Regan rose to the top of his game and displayed the scoring punch that the Terriers had been lacking the past four years. At year's end both his assist and point totals were B.U.'s highest in four years.
"The team certainly seems to play up to the way he's playing," Parker says. "If he's on, the team seems to be on."
His efforts earned him the role of co-captain on this year's squad, a position he shares with Jerry August. Both he and August served as co-captains of the Matignon squad during their senior years in high school. "Being co-captains then and now is something we look at today and say it's great, it's really special."
"I'd really been looking forward to this year," O'Regan says. "We had the entire nucleus from last year's squad back, and we felt pretty confident. But then we had another real bad start. We weren't creating any offense and I was a big reason I wasn't playing well. But recently we've had some big wins and as we head into the Beanpot both the team and myself are playing with a great deal of confidence."
Parker attributes O'Regan's confidence to his play the past three summers in the National Sports Festival, which brings together the nation's top 80 amateur hockey stars.
"He's learned a lot playing in the Festival," Parker says. "He's not only a great player offensively, but he's become a great defensive player."
His future in hockey after college is still clouded, says O'Regan, who chose B.U., over B.C., UNH and Harvard. "I'm a free agent and I'd certainly like to give professional hockey a shot. I'd also like to give a shot to the Olympic squad," he says.
As for the immediate future, though, only one thing is on O'Regan's mind--winning the Beanpot. For O'Regan, who took up hockey when he was six years old "because my older brothers were playing and it was the glory days of Bobby Orr and the big, bad Boston Bruins," last year's Beanpot championship would mean little without a victory this year.
"We won it last year and we want to hold onto it," he says. "It was nice during my junior year, but it certainly wouldn't mean anything unless we win it during my senior year. I'd say it's probably my biggest aspiration to get the championship back. It would be a fitting ending."
Scoring the winning goal in the finals before 15,000 screaming fans might be even more fitting.