Jack Parker has coached the Boston University hockey team for 40 years, but this is the first season he has welcomed the son of a former player into the Terriers’ fold.
Freshman center Danny O’Regan is the youngest son of Tom O’Regan, who racked up 130 points in 105 games from 1979-83 before going on to play in the National Hockey League and in Germany.
Danny O’Regan, who was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie team Wednesday, goes into Friday’s Hockey East semifinal against Boston College at TD Garden as BU’s leading scorer with 36 points (14 goals) in 37 games, 1 point ahead of linemate Matt Nieto.
O’Regan, who has a seven-game scoring streak in progress with 10 points in that span, is vying to become the first freshman to finish the year as BU’s top scorer since Tony Amonte in 1989-90.
“Playing with Danny is really easy,’’ said Nieto, who combines with O’Regan and Evan Rodrigues to make up the hottest line in the country with 73 points since Jan. 9. “He makes all the right plays.
“He is a complete player. He knows how to pass the puck, he has a good shot, he is the whole package. He has so much knowledge for hockey.’’
Nieto, a junior, said O’Regan’s transition to the college game was seamless.
“He made the adjustment look really easy,’’ said Nieto. “Others might struggle with the speed of the game but he came in here and made an impact right away.’’
Parker said O’Regan and his father are similar players.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,’’ said Parker, who once had Mike Eruzione’s son, Mike Eruzione Jr., on the team for a few weeks, though the younger Eruzione never played in a regular-season game.
“[Tom] was a great puck handler, he was a great goal scorer. He had an unbelievably deceptive stride. He could really skate but he didn’t look like he was going fast.
“I remember when I went to see Danny play for St. Sebastian’s, my buddy said he wasn’t sure about his skating. I said, ‘There is nothing wrong with it. Danny goes just fast enough.’
“Danny would beat you to the puck, and that’s just how his father was. He could slip by people.”
Parker ranks O’Regan, 19, among the top freshman centers he has ever coached.
“From the day he got here, he’s been really good with the puck and really good without the puck,’’ said Parker. “Sometimes freshmen have a hard time without the puck, especially talented guys. But he’s been good in his own zone and on the backcheck. He’s a very, very smart player.’’
Brothers cross paths
Danny O’Regan’s older brother, Tommy, plays for Harvard.
“He is having a great year, I’m really happy for him,’’ said Tommy, a sophomore who turns 21 on March 30. “He is really comfortable out there. He is playing with some good players and they have some good chemistry.’’
Even though just two years separate them in age, the O’Regan brothers didn’t play together at St. Sebastian’s, or on any other team except for informally during summers. And this season, when Harvard and BU squared off Jan. 9, it was the first time they had played against one another.
Each had 3 points in the game — Danny had two goals and an assist and Tommy a goal and two assists — as the Crimson won in overtime, 6-5.
“We both treated it like a regular game,’’ said Tommy. “It’s always weird when you’re out there and you look across and see you’re playing against him. It’s just kind of weird and a little surreal. It was definitely cool and fun being out there against each other because it had never happened before.
“We gave each other a couple of fun chops on the ice but you have to go out every shift and play like you normally would. Sometimes we made eye contact with each other and smiled.”
Danny said they just did their own thing and didn’t even really talk about it afterward.
“It was weird but it was a lot of fun,’’ he said. “He’s always been a good older brother. He’s never really made fun of me.’’
To Berlin and back
Tom O’Regan has been a major influence on his sons, as he has in the lives of their younger sisters, 17-year-old twins Courtney and Carolyn.
“He has been the No. 1 reason for both me and Danny’s success,’’ said Tommy. “He’s never been too harsh on us. He has criticized us when the time is right — constructively, of course. He has always had the right amount of criticism and he’s been supportive all the way through.
“He was a really good player himself, so growing up, we didn’t really realize how lucky we were to have his advice every day. It’s definitely got us to where we are today.’’
All four children were born in Berlin while Tom was playing there. A few years after they moved back to the US, the family made a return trip so the children could appreciate their roots and the historical significance of the Berlin Wall.
“We loved it there,’’ said Tom. “We went back because when we were first there, the Berlin Wall was up. The city itself went through a major transformation.
“We were back here for four or five years and we wanted to get the kids back at an earlier age to give them an appreciation for where they were born. They were probably 5, 7, and 9 at that point.”
He is excited about Danny playing for the Terriers.
“I think it’s a great program, it’s something I’ve been part of for 35 years,’’ said Tom. “For our family, it’s very special to watch him play there and play for Coach Parker and take part in the pride and the tradition the program offers and be going to the Hockey East [tournament].’’
When asked if Parker has changed over the years, Tom chuckled.
“Jack coached me when he was in his mid 30s,’’ he said. “Jack has changed and the game has changed — everything has changed since the late 1970s.
“I think the key to his success throughout all those changes is he has been adaptable. He has adjusted to the changes in the game very well and he’s surrounded himself with some great associate coaches and assistant coaches.
“He’s a tremendous coach but he has always maintained that competitive edge and passion for the game and that same fiery personality. Although he has gotten a bit older, he hasn’t lost his passion for the kids and his passion for the game.’’
Peaking at right time?
Despite being around the BU program for most of his life, Danny knew it would be a challenge to compete for a spot on the team. But he impressed coaches and teammates early on.
“Coming in, I didn’t really know what to expect playing-wise,’’ he said. “Personally, I was happy enough to land on the top two lines and play with Nieto and Rodrigues for most of the year, which was a lot of fun.
“As a team, it was kind of an up-and-down, roller coaster year. I think we’re really looking good right now. The team is really coming together at the end of the year. Hopefully we will continue this season for a few more weeks.’’
He credits his father with helping prepare him for the transition.
“He’s been everything really, hockey-related,’’ said Danny. “I’ve looked up to him my whole life and I strive to do what he did and hopefully make it. After every game, he always has some feedback.
“But he’s never been a crazy hockey dad. He’s down to earth. He always says we’re pretty similar, which is perfect because that’s what I am kind of going for.’’
Given that this is Parker’s last year as coach, O’Regan hopes he and his teammates can keep their run going.
“It’s definitely cool to be able to play for Coach Parker, having had my dad play for him,’’ he said. “He’s not going to be here next year but I’m happy I got to play for him for one year because I think he’s the best coach.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.