There are higher-stakes games than this in college hockey — though not many — but the No. 17 Boston University men’s hockey team must win Friday before it can worry about those.
At 8 p.m. at TD Garden, the Terriers (20-15-2, 15-10-2 Hockey East) will face No. 4 Boston College in their first win-or-go-home game this year, the semifinal of the Hockey East tournament. And going home, as everyone in scarlet and white is aware, means sending coach Jack Parker home from his last game behind the bench with a loss.
“I don’t think we ever missed a game, either one of us, a BC-BU game,” Parker said. “It’s too bad.”
Aside from York, though, a BC roster that had suffered some key injuries this year is almost back to full strength, as defenseman Patch Alber returned to the lineup for their quarterfinal series against Vermont.
BU’s defense will also get a boost with the return of junior defenseman Garrett Noonan, who missed BU’s last three games with a shoulder injury. Noonan, BU’s second-highest-scoring defenseman, will provide some much-needed relief to a defensive corps that’s been shorthanded without him.
“He looks like he is a little out of sync, as far as [being] comfortable with the speed of the game or anything. But he doesn’t look like he’s out of shape, and he doesn’t look like he’s sore at all,” Parker said. “If he’s playing well, we’ll keep him up.
“If he’s gassed a little bit, we’ll lessen some of the ice he gets. We’re starting him off as if he is all set.”
Noonan said he is prepared to absorb some big hits and doesn’t think getting his timing back will be a problem.
“I’ve had a little experience with sitting out earlier in the year, a few games, so I think it’ll come back after a shift or two and I’ll just get right into the game,” Noonan said, an ice pack strapped to his shoulder. “It’s exciting to be back, and I think the emotions will take over and carry your legs.”
The season series this year went in BC’s favor, 2-1. BU’s lone win came on Nov. 30 at Agganis Arena, when they got goals from four different players in a 4-2 win. At that point in the season, Yasin Cissé, Wes Myron, and suspended sophomore defenseman Alexx Privitera were all still on the roster.
Freshman goalie Matt O’Connor started all three games against BC, so his classmate Sean Maguire, Friday’s starter, has yet to face the Eagles. Over his last four starts, he’s allowed five goals and recorded two shutouts, and said he’s looking forward to the challenge of facing BU’s biggest rival on Friday.
Parker has noticed Maguire’s emotions running high lately — in particular, the goalie’s recent tendency to continue miming glove saves through the national anthem.
“He needs a little Ritalin to keep him on the blue line when the national anthem’s going on and his feet are moving,” Parker said. “But other than that … all goalies have their rituals, and he’s got his.”
Whatever Maguire is doing to prepare, it worked last weekend, as he stopped all 30 shots he saw from Merrimack College in the first game of the quarterfinals and 39 of 42 in the second.
With O’Connor recovering from a collapsed lung, Maguire has now made six consecutive starts after playing every other game for most of the year. In those six starts, his save percentage has jumped from .907 on Feb. 23 to .924 going into Friday’s game.
“It’s just the most exciting time, the most exciting team to play with,” Maguire said. “Everyone’s going hard and the emotions are just — words can’t describe it. It’s a great time of year and I love it. It’s my favorite time of the year.”