When Boston University junior assistant captain Garrett Noonan speared his stick into University of Massachusetts-Lowell goaltender Doug Carr last Saturday at Agganis Arena, he did more than just hurt his team’s chances of coming back from a 4–3 deficit in the final five minutes of the game.
Noonan will also miss the next two games due to a league-issued suspension that he earned on the play, weakening the No. 10/11 Terriers in a crucial home-and-home series against Providence College.
While it was the league that officially added a second game to the initial one-game suspension he earned with the penalty, BU (12–9, 9–6 Hockey East) coach Jack Parker said he had already told Noonan he would be benched for an extra game.
“[Noonan] knows it hurt his team,” Parker said. “Then, and this weekend too. He doesn’t want to do that.”
Noonan’s absence comes amidst the first BU losing streak of the season, as the Terriers dropped contests with No. 12/15 UMass-Lowell and Northeastern University last weekend. After finishing the first half with a strong 10–5 record, BU has gone 2–4 since coming back from winter break.
Parker has pointed to frequent defensive lapses in front of his two freshmen goaltenders as one of the main reasons for his team’s struggles as of late. To help the defense come together, the team worked on stopping the initial rush and controlling gaps this week in practice.
“Playing defense is being alert and hard work. Playing offense is fun,” Parker said. “You have got to really be more dedicated to be a good defensive player. And that means everybody.”
BU’s defense will look to bounce back this weekend against a Providence (10–9–3, 8–5–2 Hockey East) squad that is coming off a 6–5 win over No. 4 University of New Hampshire.
The Terriers came out on top 4–2 in their last matchup with the Friars, which was the first game of the regular season on Oct. 13, 2012. After falling behind early in the second period, Noonan and sophomore forward Cason Hohmann responded late in the frame to give BU a lead it would not surrender.
While Parker was happy to have won his team’s first meeting with Providence, he knows there is not a lot he can take out of the early-season win.
“They’re playing some similar stuff that they’re doing now but not a lot of similar stuff,” Parker said. “What we saw this weekend of them against Lowell and against UNH is probably what we’ll see against us.”
Providence has gotten good production out of forwards Derek Army (10g, 7a) and Ross Mauermann (8g, 8a) so far this season. While Providence has skilled forwards in its top two lines, Parker said he would not identify the Friars as a team that beats their opponent with highly skilled plays.
“Their MO is ‘We’re going to outwork you guys. We’re not going to out-pretty you; we’re going to outwork you,’” Parker said. “They’ve been very successful with that over the last couple years.”
BU will play both of its freshmen goaltenders this weekend, and will start Sean Maguire Friday at Schneider Arena. By starting Maguire on Friday and fellow freshman goaltender Matt O’Connor on Saturday, Parker is going back to a game-to-game rotation of his goalies.
One of the Terriers who is looking to climb out of his recent slump to start the new year is O’Connor, who has posted a 5.33 goals-against average and a .848 save percentage in his last three starts. Maguire did not fare much better in his last outing, allowing six goals in 38 shots in a loss to Northeastern.
After this week of practice with goalie coach Mike Geragosian, Parker said it looked like both of his goalies were back on track to lead the team out of its slump.
On the other end of the ice, BU’s offense will be facing one of the top goaltenders in the league in freshman Jon Gillies. The 6-foot-5 netminder leads Hockey East with a .930 save percentage this season, and his 2.12 goals-against average only trails Merrimack College goaltender Sam Marotta.
With Providence and BU tied for third place in Hockey East entering the weekend, both games are crucial in terms of the final standings.
“We would like to get some points and stay with or ahead of Providence,” Parker said. “It’s more important for us to play well again. It’s more important for us to come out of that game Friday night knowing we left everything we had out on the ice, we played really hard, we played really unselfish.
“You can’t control the outcomes but you can control what you’re doing out there and how hard you’re playing.”
BU’s Friday lines:
Wade Megan – Cason Hohmann – Sahir Gill
Matt Nieto – Danny O’Regan – Evan Rodrigues
Matt Lane – Ben Rosen – Sam Kurker
Mike Moran – Ryan Santana – Jake Moscatel
Sean Escobedo – Alexx Privitera
Matt Grzelcyk – Patrick MacGregor
Ahti Oksanen – Ryan Ruikka