There have been many factors in the No. 2 Boston University men’s hockey team’s success this season, whether it be its veteran leadership, impressive freshmen class or strong coaching staff.
One group in particular, however, that has paid dividends for the Terriers is its seven-member junior class, who led the team with 146 points on the season. Key to that group is goaltender Matt O’Connor and forward Ahti Oksanen, who are in fact roommates.
After splitting time with goaltender Sean Maguire over his first two years, O’Connor has come into his own during his third campaign with the Terriers, leading the country in winning percentage at .839 with a record of 24-3-4.
A Hockey East Second-Team All-Star, O’Connor has served as the backbone of BU’s defense, posting a goals-against average of 2.10 with a .928 save percentage in 33 games this season. The Canadian netminder has been on fire as of late, registering a 14-0-1 record over his last 15 games.
While O’Connor has mostly served as a consistent presence between pipes for BU over the last two years, Oksanen has had a bit more of an interesting journey to where he is on BU’s depth chart.
Oksanen skated as a defenseman during his first two seasons with the Terriers until BU head coach David Quinn decided the Kirkkonummi, Finland native would make the jump up to the forward corps.
The results quickly followed for both Oksanen and the Terriers.
After notching a combined 11 goals over his first two years at BU, Oksanen has erupted for 24 tallies so far this season — tied with freshman center Jack Eichel for the most on the team. The 6-foot-3-inch winger has especially excelled on the man advantage, tying for third in the nation in power-play goals with nine on the year.
With a Frozen Four showdown against the No. 3 University of North Dakota set for Thursday night, The Daily Free Press spoke with both O’Connor and Oksanen about T. Anthony’s, American Idol and, of course, hockey.
1. What has been your favorite memory of the season so far?
AO: Probably winning the Beanpot.
MO: My highlight would be [winning the] Hockey East [championship].
2. Favorite rink that you played in this year that was not Agganis?
AO: The [TD] Garden. It’s pretty fun to play where the Bruins play.
MO: Maine [Alfond Arena]. I love playing Maine. The rink is so loud every time.
3. Which Hockey East team besides BU has the best uniform?
AO: I’d go with Merrimack. The combination of blue and yellow.
MO: UNH [University of New Hampshire]. I think it’s pretty badass, just navy and silver.
4. What part of your game has improved the most this season?
MO: I would say just reading the play. Having the extra ice time has helped me really read the play a bit better and rotating a bit better and more square for shots.
AO: Just playing as a forward. I had no idea how to play as a forward in the first couple games. Now I kinda know what to do.
5. Which of your teammates has the worst style?
AO: I’d say [freshman forward J.J.] Piccinich or [freshman defenseman Brandon] Fortunato.
MO: I’d probably agree.
6. Who is the funniest teammate?
MO: I’d say Ahti. He’s the unsung hero. He’s usually pretty quiet, but when he opens his mouth, he gets the locker room going sometimes.
AO: I would go with [freshman goaltender] Connor [LaCouvee]. He’s just so energetic, no matter what time it is.
7. If you were stuck on a deserted island, which one of your teammates would you bring?
MO: If I was gonna die, I would probably bring [graduate student goaltender Anthony] Moccia. He’d probably do some good Bible studies. If I wanted to live, I’d probably bring Ahti because he can fish pretty well.
AO: That’s a tough one, but I’d probably say OC [O’Connor], because he understands what I’m talking about most of the time.
8. Who’s your favorite NHL player?
MO: At the moment? I really like watching [Minnesota Wild goaltender] Devan Dubnyk and the way he’s really transformed his career, just in the last couple of years. Being a big goalie as well, kind of a similar style, I really look up to him.”
AO: [Florida Panthers forward Jaromír] Jágr. No doubt. Jágr, by far.
9. What song gets you the most pumped up?
AO: I’d have to go with Mötley Crüe, “Kickstart My Heart,” or Metallica, “Enter Sandman.”
MO: Celtic music. I know it’s very suiting, but just being in Boston, going to the Beanpot, having some good old Celtic bagpipes going, it just gets me going.
10. If you could have any animal in the world as a pet, what would it be?
MO: Probably just a monkey. I just think they’re hilarious and fun to play with.
AO: I’d go with Golden Retriever. We used to have one, and I want one again.
11. Which TV character is your alter ego?
AO: Eric Cartman.
MO: Jack Bauer. I like to save the day.
12. Besides being a professional hockey player, what would be your dream job?
MO: An organic vegetable farmer and helping people be healthy and eat healthy.
AO: A fly-fishing guide. Somewhere warm. I’d say Christmas Island. A fly-fishing guide in Christmas Island.
13. What’s your go-to T. Anthony’s order?
MO: Lately, for on the bus, it’s just been a side of chicken Caesar salad. Gotta cut back on the carbs. No, I think it’s just the healthiest option. And a pita wrap.
AO: Like, when I’m with the team or … ?
FreeP: Any time.
AO: Cheese pizza with French fries and Coke.
14. If you could travel to any place in the world, what would it be?
MO: I’ve kinda been interested in coral reef/South Pacific area and just getting a snorkel and just playing in the water. I really like to play in the water.
AO: Christmas Island. I’m obsessed with that place. I want to go fishing there.
15. What’s the worst movie that you’ve ever seen and why?
MO: What was that one that we saw? “Scary Movie 5” or something? I forget. I think I’ve seen a lot, usually with Ahti. No, I’m just kidding. He doesn’t like my taste in music sometimes, so … I’ve seen pretty good movies. That Lego Movie?
AO: That was sick.
MO: I didn’t like that one.
16. Which celebrity would you most want to take a selfie with?
MO: I think I have a celebrity crush on Liv Tyler. She’s kind of married and pregnant right now, but maybe in her earlier years … Elsewhere, maybe Liam Hemsworth, and see if we really are doppelgangers, because I’ve been told that there’s potential there.
AO: I think I’d go with John Malkovich. I think he’s so cool.
17. What’s your biggest fear?
MO: Being framed for something. I think I’ve seen a little too many of those movies. The CIA having some type of conspiracy against me and just having no say, no power and getting imprisoned or something.
AO: Heights. Humans are supposed to be on the ground.
18. If you were trying out for American Idol, what song would you perform?
MO: “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I like to do the baritone part in that.
AO: I wanted to go with that, but now I have to pick something else. That’s a tough one. I would go with some rock song, probably. You took my answer.
19. Going into this season, did you ever think that you would be in this position, getting ready for the Frozen Four?
MO: I definitely think it felt realistic as the season progressed, so I would say we just tried to focus on one game at a time and having a good first half, and once we got that down, it kinda definitely was in the picture. But the one-game series, it’s hard to be really confident. Anything can really happen in those games. As the season has progressed, we’ve definitely developed a strong belief that we’d be there.
AO: Of course, people are going to say that we’re lying when we say, “Yeah,” but yeah. I didn’t have any doubts that we could win the whole thing.
20. What does BU have to do to win a national championship?
AO: It’s two games. If it was a best-of-seven series, we would win the national championship easily, but it’s two games, so we … really have to play a perfect game this weekend.
MO: I think I have to play well … I’m just really focusing on what I can do, and I can keep it down to zero or one. I think we’ll hopefully get some offense from guys like Ahti, [senior assistant captain Evan] Rodrigues, [freshman forward] Jack [Eichel] … So I think if I play well, we’ll have a really good shot.