By Tim Healey/DFP Staff
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — For 45 minutes Friday night, Matt O’Connor appeared on his way to stealing the No. 13/14 Boston University men’s hockey team a win over No. 4 University of Michigan. Then penalties did the Terriers in.
The Wolverines (4-0-1) scored twice on the sophomore goaltender in a span of a minute and a half in the third period for the 2-1 win at Yost Ice Arena. BU (3-2, 1-0 Hockey East) was outshot 44-19 while suffering a loss to open its 2013-14 road slate.
“It was a lot of fun, as much as you can have losing 2-1,” BU coach David Quinn said. “Tonight was a lesson for a lot of our guys. Eight freshmen in the lineup who were playing in this environment and playing against a team of this caliber. … But you can’t play well three minutes in a period and expect to win a hockey game. It’s just not going to happen.”
Quinn harped quite a bit about penalties, and with reason. The Terriers allowed Michigan 14 shots on five power plays — including three in the first 10 minutes — and given that the Wolverines entered the night with the top conversion rate in the country (37.5 percent), it was only a matter of time until they broke through.
That finally happened with senior captain Garrett Noonan sitting in the penalty box after a tripping penalty. With 30 seconds to go on the power play, Michigan freshman Tyler Motte one-timed a shot from the back door to ruin the shutout bid and knot the game, 1-1, at the 7:16 mark in the third.
Moments later, with Michigan possessing most of the momentum, sophomore wing Mike Moran hooked junior Alex Guptill as he drove to the net for a one-on-goalie opportunity, resulting in a penalty shot. Guptill converted on the ensuing chance by beating O’Connor five-hole to give the Wolverines a 2-1 edge.
Quinn, who sat senior captain Patrick MacGregor for the first period for his five penalties in four games, did not take issue with Moran’s penalty and disagreed with the call on Noonan’s
BU (3-2, 1-0 Hockey East) had myriad chances in the final minutes — including one with Wolverine netminder Zach Nagelvoort caught way out of net — but couldn’t finish.
The third-period lapses put a damper on what had been a very sharp game for O’Connor, who finished with 42 saves. He carried the Terriers to a 1-0 lead through the first two frames, aided by a pretty goal from freshman wing Robbie Baillargeon.
The first period was a lopsided one — BU was outshot, 14-6 — but it capitalized on one of its few chances to take a 1-0 lead into the locker room.
The Terriers were threatening in Michigan’s zone when Noonan won a forechecking battle behind the net and ended up in the bottom of the right circle. He sent a short pass to Baillargeon, who managed an off-balance shot from the dot before falling backward. The tally, Baillargeon’s fifth point in five games, made it through clean over Nagelvoort’s glove-side shoulder.
“He’s got great skills,” Quinn said. “He’s going to produce a lot of offense for us.”
O’Connor and the BU defense started to teeter at the start of the third. The Wolverines appeared to knot the score at one after a scrum in front of the BU net about three minutes in, but the officials waved it off after a review. The puck crossed the goal line before the net came undone, but replays indicated senior Luke Moffatt’s hand was what got it that far.
O’Connor came up strong again about a minute later with a big pad save before the Terrier defense cleared the rebound. Then, with the Noonan and Moran penalties, Michigan finally found the back of the net.
Quinn pulled O’Connor for the final minute and a half but to no avail. Sophomore defenseman Ahti Oksanen missed the last few minutes with cramps, but should be good to go Saturday when BU visits Michigan State University.
“I got worked a bit and that was a really strong team, so I think it was a good experience for our young team,” O’Connor said. “You know, first road trip, and I think we’re just going to move forward and obviously it builds the hunger and makes us realize we have to come prepared to play on the road as well.”