Sooner or later, BU coach David Quinn said it would happen. He would have to have the same conversation with sophomore goaltender Matt O’Connor as he had with other sophomore goaltender Sean Maguire, the one where he has to explain his tough starting goalie decision — the one where he tells O’Connor he is not playing.
That time could be now for Maguire. The sophomore made 39 saves, tying his season high against No. 10 University of Massachusetts-Lowell at the Tsongas Center Saturday night. The Boston University men’s hockey team lost, 3-1, but afterward Quinn and company sung a familiar song.
“Obviously our goalie was unbelievable tonight,” Quinn said in his opening comments, before even being questioned on his netminder. “[He] gave us a chance.”
The head coach would not go as far to say that Maguire will start next weekend when No. 18 University of Vermont visits Agganis Arena for a two-game set, but it stands to reason that will be the case.
Maguire was between the pipes Friday in a 6-4 loss at No. 2 Boston College, then again Saturday in Lowell. He allowed two goals in the latter contest, one of them the result of a breakaway.
Maguire stopped a combined 77 shots while yielding just seven goals in the weekend games.
The .917 save percentage in that short sample size is more impressive when you consider the Terriers played with just five defensemen.
Sophomore defensemen Matt Grzelcyk is out for the season with a separated shoulder, and mid-way through Saturday’s game, sophomore defensemen Ahti Oksanen suffered an apparent left leg injury and did not return. That means shorter but more frequent shifts and, ultimately, more ice time for the healthy blueliners. Those circumstances put additional stress on Maguire.
“There is pressure on our goalie,” Quinn said. “There is pressure on every goalie really. But when you’re in the situation we’re in, there’s even more pressure. It’s difficult.”
Senior captain Garrett Noonan concurred.
“We have a depleted lineup with a ton of injuries right now,” Noonan said, one of the healthy BU defensemen. “It’s something that he knows, and he knows he’s going to have to make two or three big saves — maybe two or three big saves a period, whatever it is. He did that all weekend.”
This weekend was the first time Maguire started back-to-back games since the end of last season. At that point, then-coach Jack Parker did not have a choice when a collapsed lung ended O’Connor’s freshman campaign. This time, Quinn did have a choice, and he went with Maguire.
Scott Wilson, a junior assistant captain for the River Hawks, noted Maguire’s prowess. Both are Pittsburgh Penguins draft picks, and they are familiar with each other from their time at developmental camps.
“I knew he’s a great goaltender, so I know you’ve got to battle through a little [adversity] there,” Wilson said. “But I think we got plenty of chances and a couple of them just didn’t go in for us.”
The net result of Maguire’s impressive weekend could lead to a role reversal with his classmate and counterpart, O’Connor.
O’Connor started the final seven games of the first semester, a streak prolonged when Maguire could not play due to back problems. That stretch started when Quinn pulled Maguire after he gave up three goals in 30 minutes against the University of Maine.
This time, O’Connor was the one pulled — again against Maine — after spotting the Black Bears four goals in less than a period Jan. 11 at Frozen Fenway.
Maguire has hardly let up since.
“He played awesome. He played awesome for sure,” Noonan said. “When [Maguire and O’Connor] give up goals, we’re usually leaving them out to dry. That was the case this weekend and last weekend.
“He gave us a chance to win both games. Unfortunately we didn’t capitalize on that.”