By Meredith Perri/DFP Staff
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — During the early goings of the third period, the No. 13/14 Boston University men’s hockey team found itself in jeopardy of seeing its 1-0 lead disappear. After a scrum in front of the net, the puck bounced to the right of sophomore netminder Matt O’Connor, skidding over the goal line and eventually going under the net as it lifted off the ice.
|MEREDITH PERRI/DFP STAFF
Sophomore goaltender Matt O’Connor makes a save during
the second period of Boston University’s 2-1 loss to
the University of Michigan on Oct. 25.
As soon as the referee signaled goal, O’Connor, who already had more than 30 saves at the time, rushed toward an official. From the Toronto native’s perspective, Wolverine winger Luke Moffatt had pushed the puck across the crease using his glove.
“I just remember seeing no stick in the guy’s hand, and he was sort of in the crease,” O’Connor said. “Then he just kind of sweeped it in with his hand. I just immediately wanted to get to the ref before he made a full-out decision, and let him know.
“I don’t think they really deserved a goal on that play. We were all there, just a scrum and our players lifted sticks so they got a goal by using their hands.”
Just moments later, the officials determined via video review that the goal did not count. What looked like a break for the Terriers, however, did not last for long as Michigan capitalized on penalties to ultimately defeat BU 2-1 at Yost Ice Arena.
While the Terriers struggled to keep the puck in Michigan’s zone and, eventually, faltered against the top power-play unit in the nation, O’Connor’s performance kept BU in the game.
According to BU coach David Quinn, who has bounced back and forth between starting O’Connor and sophomore Sean Maguire, the decision to start the 6-foot-6 netminder was based off a hunch.
“He’s a really good goalie, first and foremost,” Quinn said. “They both had great weeks in practice… I didn’t make that decision on my own, so I’m not going to take credit for it.”
O’Connor started off the game by stopping all 14 shots that he faced in the first frame. Nine of those 14 shots came during the Terriers’ three penalties.
“I was hoping for a bit of a fairy tale,” O’Connor said after the game. “With the way they possessed the puck in our zone, had so many scoring chances … and we were still going strong and battling hard in a crazy atmosphere.”
For O’Connor, getting a lot of action early, as well as hearing the taunts of “sieve” from the crowd helped him to focus in the beginning of the game.
“Just the atmosphere itself really gets you focused,” O’Connor said. “I think that’s what helps me sometimes. It’s just getting [ready] for a big game and playing in a big atmosphere so that definitely gives you that extra edge.”
O’Connor continued to stymie the Wolverines’ offense through the second period as he picked up 16 saves. After the goal was called off in the third frame, however, O’Connor and the Terrier defense could no longer fend off Michigan.
In between the Wolverines’ two goals, O’Connor grew heated and pushed Moffat. O’Connor, however, was not penalized for the shove that landed Moffat on the ice.
“Sometimes you have to protect your crease because they don’t really care too much about you over there,” O’Connor said. “I think that’s part of my game that I’ve worked on, to just be a little stronger in the crease by putting weight on, being a little more aggressive at the top of the crease, then holding my ground for those scrambles and here and there giving a little shove also helps you keep that mentality.”
Although O’Connor recorded more saves during the game than he had in any other start this season with 42, he will not make the start against Michigan State University on Saturday, according to Quinn.
“Obviously me and Mags both want to play every game,” O’Connor said. “That’s what makes us so competitive.”