It has been a tale of two seasons for the No. 13 Boston University men’s hockey team and the University of Maine men’s hockey team. BU (13–12–1, 10–7–1 Hockey East) is in the midst of a second-semester slump after a strong first half of the year, while Maine (8–15–5, 4–10–5 Hockey East) is catching fire after a poor first semester.
The Terriers have a chance to start turning things around Friday in Maine, when they take on the Black Bears at Alfond Arena.
A big part of the turnaround for Maine has been junior goaltender Martin Oullette. Oullette did not start any of the Black Bears’ first five games, and then only held a .894 save percentage through his first four starts of the season.
However, Oullette has picked up his play significantly since his early-season struggles. The St. Hippolyte, Quebec native has a 2.16 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage in 20 starts, including a 1.94 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage in his last five appearances. Hockey East named him Goalie of the Month for his performance in January.
“[The Black Bears] were struggling in goal for a while and now [Oullette] has solidified them,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “I’m sure they are feeling a little bit more confident with him.”
On the other end, the Terriers have not gotten the strong goaltending that helped them to a 10-win first semester as of late. Freshmen goalies Matt O’Connor and Sean Maguire have a combined .877 save percentage over the last 11 games.
O’Connor, who has a .862 save percentage over that span, will start Friday’s game while Maguire will play in Saturday’s matchup. O’Connor has not started a game since BU’s first-round Beanpot loss to Northeastern University, when he allowed three goals on 26 shots.
“Obviously the time off just gives you more time to get hungry, and going into the last days of this season I’m just really hungry,” O’Connor said. “Hungry for some wins and stopping the puck.”
O’Connor will play against a Maine offense that is last in the league, only averaging 1.71 goals per game. However, BU’s defense will be without sophomore defenseman Alexx Privitera, who Parker suspended for the rest of the season due to his lack of on-ice discipline.
Privitera was second in the nation with 72 blocked shots, and played on the top defensive pairing with senior defenseman Sean Escobedo.
“I think Privitera and Escobedo were our best pair as far as defense was concerned,” Parker said. “No question.”
Without Privitera in the lineup and with senior forward Jake Moscatel still sidelined with a separated shoulder, junior forward/defenseman Matt Ronan will make his first appearance of the season. Ronan, who has played in two career games with the Terriers, will play right wing on the fourth line.
With Ronan in the lineup, senior assistant captain Ryan Ruikka will move back to his natural position at defense. Ruikka, who played the last two games at right wing, will take Privitera’s spot on the top defensive pairing and will play with Escobedo.
The Terriers need to improve their team defense to help their freshmen goaltenders, and part of that comes with having a better mindset. Now that BU has lost five of its last seven games, Parker said the team’s mindset is not where it needs to be.
“It’s impossible to win games when you’re trying not to lose, and we’re trying not to lose,” Parker said. “When something goes bad, we disintegrate into ourselves. And that’s a sign of a team that’s trying not to lose.”