While the Boston University men’s hockey team has not made a decision yet upon who will be the starting goaltender, freshman Matt O’Connor has done enough to earn serious consideration at that No. 1 job.
O’Connor shined in the Terriers’ 3–2 win at the University of Massachusetts Saturday night, making 34 saves and only allowing two goals in the process. Both of the goals he allowed did not come at even strength, as the first was on the power play while the second was on a penalty shot.
The Toronto, Ontario native made his biggest impact in the third period though, as he stopped an astounding 20 shots to keep the game level and give BU a chance to take the lead. Senior defenseman Sean Escobedo took that chance, scoring a game-winning goal with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
Escobedo credited O’Connor for keeping the game level long enough for the team to score a third and decisive goal on UMass goalie Kevin Boyle.
“You can’t say enough about him,” Escobedo said. “He has stepped up pretty big for us. We had a couple defensive lapses tonight and last night and he came up huge for us.
“We definitely thanked him. He bailed us out a couple of times and to see a freshman play like that is pretty special.”
He has not been grabbing the headlines like the underclassmen have been, but senior captain Wade Megan has quietly been producing offense for the Terriers this season.
Megan has scored in each of the last three games and has a point in each of the team’s four games this season. In each game that he has scored, Megan scored the team’s first goal to get the offense started.
The 6-foot-1 forward and his linemates, sophomores Cason Hohmann and Evan Rodrigues, have been moved up to the top line for the past two games after starting the season on the second line. Thanks to the early emergence of Hohmann (three goals, three assists) and Rodrigues (five assists) along with Megan’s consistency, Megan’s line has already looked like it could be among the top lines in Hockey East.
As one of Hockey East’s top scoring defensemen in the 2011-12 season, junior defensmean Garrett Noonan was expected to continue his role as a scoring defenseman this season.
After only totaling a goal and no assists through the first three games of the season, Noonan added to his assist column by earning two assists on Saturday night.
Noonan earned a primary assist on Megan’s goal before earning a secondary assist on junior forward Matt Nieto’s goal in the second period.
The BU defensive unit has added a couple of offensively-gifted defensemen in freshmen Matt Grzelcyk and Ahti Oksanen. However, Noonan will be looking to keep up the production he had Saturday night and lead the team’s defensemen in points on the season.
Defensive turnovers have become a problem for the Terriers early in the season, as they have been forced into some bad decisions by aggressive forwards on the University of New Hampshire and UMass.
One of these turnovers turned into a goal Saturday when a BU defenseman lost the puck behind his own net and let UMass move the puck into the slot. While O’Connor stopped the first opportunity, he could not handle the next shot, which was a close-range wrist shot by UMass forward Shane Walsh.
One defenseman in particular who had trouble with turnovers on the night was sophomore defenseman Alexx Privitera, who had been having a strong start to the season until Saturday night. Privitera made multiple careless passes and misplayed a few bouncing pucks throughout the game, which led to him taking a penalty in the first period.
Escobedo said that while the team prepared for the UMass forwards to aggressively pressure him and his teammates, the BU defense was sloppy with the puck in the first half of the game.
“I think tonight and yesterday we kind of expected them to come out pretty hard,” Escobedo said. “We were watching game film on them for the past weeks and we knew what to expect. We just weren’t executing on our passes in our own zone so it kind of looked a little sloppy.”
The Terriers took eight penalties at Mullins Center, not including a costly penalty shot that gave UMass both a goal and a wave of momentum.
Eight different Terriers took penalties on Saturday, which gave the minutemen six power plays, only one of which they capitalized on.
While BU improved upon its discipline in the third period, when the team did not commit a single penalty, acting head coach Mike Bavis said he was only unhappy with the team’s stick penalties, noting freshman defenseman Matt Grzelcyk’s second-period hooking penalty as an example.
“That is something that we have really tried to address and we are going to continue to address because it is something that really can take the momentum away,” Bavis said. “It is one thing to get a penalty for a charging. You really are physical and you want to impact the game that way. But to take stick penalties, it really brings the team down.”
Like the night before, the Terriers as a team struggled at the faceoff dot against the Minutemen.
Freshman center Danny O’Regan was the only one of BU’s four centers who finished Saturday’s game with more faceoff wins than losses.
Fellow freshman center Wesley Myron did not fare nearly as well as O’Regan at the faceoff dot, winning only two of the 17 faceoffs that he took on the night. Myron won five of his twelve draws the night before.
Over the span of the series, BU only won 67 faceoffs while it lost 85. The Terriers had won the faceoff margin in each of its first two games before this series.