Ice Hockey, Sports

O’Connor leads goalie competition

Arguably the biggest question mark entering the 2012–13 Boston University men’s hockey season was between the goal pipes, as freshmen goaltenders Matt O’Connor and Sean Maguire were set to battle for the starting goalie job.

Freshman goaltender Matt O’Connor has taken an early lead in the starting goaltender competition, winning all of his four starts and recording a .942 save percentage. MICHAEL CUMMO/DAILY FREE PRESS FILE PHOTO

Before the season, BU coach Jack Parker said the two netminders would probably alternate starts until one goalie stood out as the permanent starter. However, six games into the season, O’Connor has already gotten significantly more playing time than Maguire and he has done nothing to warrant a spot on the bench.

The Toronto, Ontario native is undefeated in his four starts in a scarlet and white uniform. Perhaps his best performance came in the Terriers’ 3–2 win over the University of Massachusetts on Oct. 27, when he stopped 34 shots and kept BU in the game long enough for senior defenseman Sean Escobedo to score the game-winning goal.

O’Connor also made 15 saves on 15 shots during the second half of a 4–1 loss to the University of New Hampshire on Oct. 20. Maguire made his first collegiate start in that game, but allowed four goals on the first 14 shots he faced before getting pulled in favor of O’Connor.

However, Maguire bounced back from his tough first outing with a strong 31-save performance against No. 6 University of North Dakota on Nov. 2. Despite Maguire’s strong play, the Terriers lost the matchup 4–2 and Maguire fell to 0–2 on the season.

While O’Connor (1.81 GAA, .942 save percentage) has outperformed Maguire (4.61 GAA, .854 save percentage) early on, sophomore defenseman Alexx Privitera said the team is happy with both goaltenders.

“We’re comfortable playing in front of both those guys, and it’s good to have our two freshmen that we’re comfortable playing in front of both of them,” Privitera said.

Potent Opponents

During a weekend in which the Terriers traveled to the Midwest to face North Dakota, the Grand Forks Herald reported three of the high-profile non-conference teams BU will play against next season.

BU will take on the University of Wisconsin, University of Michigan and Michigan State University during the 2013–14 season, according to the report. The team is also hosting North Dakota during the same season.

The Terriers have “something like 14” non-conference games on the schedule next season, according to Parker. That is a large increase from the five non-conference games it has scheduled during the 2012–13 season — not including Beanpot games — due to the upcoming college hockey conference realignment.

It remains unclear whether the Terriers will be hosting each of these opponents or traveling to them, but it is clear that BU has at least four national powerhouse teams on its schedule for next season.

“Brand-name hockey teams, we like to call them,” Parker said. “We like that aspect. I found that, in the long run, you’re better off playing the big-time schools than the not-so-brand-name schools, because you don’t take them as seriously. You get up to play North Dakota. You might not get up to play Holy Cross, which is who we lost to two years ago.”

A Sioux-per weekend

North Dakota does not use the Fighting Sioux as its mascot anymore, but that did not stop the fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena from wearing their jerseys with the old logo on them.

The passionate fans, the skating cheerleaders and the fireworks that went off after each North Dakota goal helped make the two games over the weekend a special experience for the BU players. Privitera even called it “the best place in college hockey to play.”

However, junior forward Matt Nieto disagreed with Privitera.

“I still don’t think the fans [in North Dakota] are as ruthless as Agganis’,” Nieto said. “But it is really fun. It is a big rink, nice building, they get a lot of fans … We just enjoyed the experience.”

The final win over North Dakota was key for the Terriers, who not only prevented themselves from losing both of their first two non-conference games, but improved the team confidence entering a weekend in which it will be taking on No. 1 Boston College.

“It was important for us to grow,” Parker said. “No matter what happened this weekend I thought … we were going to be a better team coming out of this weekend than coming in. This gives us a big boost.”

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