HAMDEN, Connecticut — It’ll be three-and-a-half weeks until No. 12 Boston University takes the ice again for a game, but the men’s hockey team made sure to put a bow on the top of an inconsistent first half on Saturday night.
When the Terriers (9-6-3, 4-3-2 Hockey East) came into High Point Solutions Arena at No. 2 Quinnipiac University’s campus this weekend, they were facing a team that had yet to lose a game and sat at the very top of the Pairwise rankings because of that.
BU conceded a hard-fought contest to No. 15 Yale University the night before, and the Bobcats (15-1-2) had been riding a three-game shutout streak on the back of netminder Michael Garteig, one of the best goaltenders in the country. And though the Terriers allowed the first goal of the game, they were able to battle back and give QU its first loss of the season in their final competition of the 2015 calendar year.
“It’s a true team effort,” said head coach David Quinn of the 4-1 victory. “Every guy in that room contributed in some way, shape or form. It’s a feel-good win for sure.
“It certainly says an awful lot about our team,” he added. “About our character, our resiliency, our work ethic. And those qualities can take you a long way through the course of a hockey season. A great way to end the break. Is our record what we want it to be? No, it’s not, but our makeup is. And that’s more important than anything.”
Before we put a cap on 2015 ourselves, here’s what looked good and bad in BU’s win over the Bobcats.
Each time he steps on the ice, senior goaltender Sean Maguire said he gets better. Whether it’s his skating, puck handling or anything else, the 22-year-old said he feels stronger and hopes to get more opportunities to show that. On Saturday, he made a pretty convincing case for himself to get those chances.
Facing 37 shots from one of the country’s most potent offenses, Maguire surrendered just one goal to the Bobcats. Roughly 6:22 into the first period, winger Sam Anas had time and space in the slot and made the most of it. He cruised through and backhanded the puck over a diving Maguire on QU’s fourth shot of the game. After that, though, it was lights out from the goalie.
“He’s been a great goalie at this level,” Quinn said after the win. “He keeps getting better and better, and he missed a full year. I think it would be unreasonable to expect for him to come back and pick up where he left off. But I loved his attitude, his work ethic. And I knew this day was going to happen. I was hoping it was happening tonight, and he played outstanding.”
Maguire went up against an old friend in Garteig and was excited to do so. The two were teammates on the Powell River Kings of the British Columbia Hockey League during the 2010-11 season, and it made the game all the more meaningful for him in Hamden.
Even so, he said the biggest thing for him is just getting into a flow of the game.
“I try not to think too much about who I’m playing, or who’s in net, or who they got in front,” Maguire said. “As soon as you get into the flow, first shot, it’s just a flow from there for me. I’m one of those guys.
“When I’m in net, I just don’t really think about it,” he added. “Just kind of watch the clock go down and wait for the next shot, like it’s just live in the moment really.”
Outside the locker room following the game, Maguire indicated he hadn’t thought much about what he’d just done and instead offered that he was “really tired,” noting that he and the rest of his team “left it all on the ice.” Playing a game like that, he said, takes a lot out of you.
In terms of the effects of the game, Maguire said that defeating Quinnipiac gives the team a boost in mentality going into the break.
“I think that knowing that we can beat the best team in the country, we can be the best team in the country if we want to be,” he said.
BU won’t compete again until Jan. 7, 2016, so whoever gets the next start is still unknown. That makes it tougher to necessarily get on a roll in the way he typically does, but any time Maguire’s given a shot to see time between the pipes, he said he tries to get that going.
He added that coming to the rink when you’re doing well is enjoyable, reflecting on a stretch of games he had his freshman year in which he posted five consecutive wins with a pair of shutouts in there as well.
“When you’re winning, it’s fun, and when you go to the rink it’s fun if you’re winning,” he said. “Probably the best part about that stretch of games was that it was really fun for me and I loved coming to the rink, and I’m getting to really start loving coming to the rink now too, so hopefully I can string a couple together here.”
Quinnipiac is the owner of one of the best power-play percentages in the country, converting on 20 of their 75 opportunities with the man advantage prior to Saturday night’s game, a 26.7 percent success rate. It wasn’t hard to see why that was the case when it played BU.
The Bobcats were speedy with BU shorthanded and cycled the puck around cleanly and efficiently. However, they were unable to score in each of their five tries on the night, rifling off 15 shots that Maguire turned aside and plenty more attempts that the Terriers got in the way of or kept from the net.
Senior assistant captain Matt Lane said the strategy coming into each kill was to be aggressive.
“The beginning part of the season I think we were a little too laid back, a little too lackadaisical,” he said. “We knew we were going to have to kill penalties, and I just thought we were more aggressive and we got more clears. And when you clear the puck you, don’t let them set up, and the penalty kill seemed to be a lot shorter.”
In the past four games, the Terriers are 12-for-14 on the penalty kill, allowing power-play goals in their losses to Yale (6-4-2) on Friday and the University of Vermont on Dec. 4.
And even after BU let up Yale’s go-ahead marker at the time during the first 40 seconds of a five-minute major penalty on Friday, it was able to adjust and refuse the Bulldogs for the rest of it.
Maguire added that, as a whole, the Terriers were playing with more simplicity to their game, something Quinn has been stressing to his team.
“We played against a really good team who plays simple, so we had to beat them with working hard …” he said. “You could see we put a lot of pucks off the glass tonight, we cleared a lot of pucks over their defense’s heads.”
With goals from both junior forward Robbie Baillargeon, which would eventually be the game-winner, and freshman center Bobo Carpenter, the third line impressed on the ice against the Bobcats. For more on that line’s successful night, check out Sarah’s sider.
After a handful of minutes had expired in the third, senior forward Ahti Oksanen was pursing a puck through the slot, poking it ahead with his stick while trying to gain control as a Bobcat defenseman stayed on him. Garteig and co. spurned the winger’s attempt, and Oksanen went careening into the boards before staying down on the ice without moving. When he finally did get up, and with the help of his teammates and head athletic trainer Larry Venis, he was holding his right arm gingerly as he glided off the ice and down the tunnel.
Oksanen didn’t return for the remainder of the game, and Quinn did not have an update on his injury afterward.
Up 3-1 on QU halfway through the third, the Terriers made things harder for themselves by taking a pair of penalties within four minutes of one another. Sophomore defenseman John MacLeod was first sent to the box 9:30 into the final frame and, after his team killed the minor, was escorted back to the box at 13:07 for tripping, just 1:37 after BU had been shorthanded.
Quinnipiac didn’t score on either chance due to the dominance of the Terriers’ PK, but the Bobcats buzzed around the net and put seven shots on goal in those four minutes.
“I thought we were playing well in the third,” Quinn said. “Get the goal to make it 3-1, and then take two penalties that just really gave them life.”