Michigan State head coach Tom Anastos
BU head coach David Quinn
Junior goaltender Matt O’Connor and junior forward Ahti Oksanen
Michigan State head coach Tom Anastos
BU head coach David Quinn
Junior goaltender Matt O’Connor and junior forward Ahti Oksanen
By Tim Healey/DFP Staff
AMHERST — It was only a few minutes after the Boston University men’s hockey team tied the University of Massachusetts, 3-3, but Matt O’Connor had already moved on from the blown third-period lead and his 46 saves. He had mentally left the Mullins Center Friday night and was focusing squarely on Monday’s first round of the Beanpot Tournament.
O’Connor, who will start for the Terriers against No. 2 Boston College at TD Garden, mentioned Beantown’s annual four-team tourney four times in a four-minute span.
“I actually didn’t know what the plan is,” O’Connor said upon being notified he’d get the nod over classmate Sean Maguire, who has had the flu all week. “I’ve been trying to play well enough to earn the start.”
“I thought there was a lot to build on and I’m ready to win the Beanpot,” O’Connor added.
“Definitely a lot to build on there and carry into Monday night.
“When a goalie plays well you just say he’s in the zone. I’m looking forward to keeping that going at TD Garden.”
It’s only a one-game sample, but it’s safe to say O’Connor was in the zone against the Minutemen. He took advantage of his first game action in nearly three weeks by making a number of flashy glove saves and, until the final minute of regulation, helped BU’s lead stick despite UMass’ gaudy 49-22 shot advantage.
The Minutemen’s second goal came after what BU coach David Quinn insisted was a missed call when sophomore defenseman Ahti Oksanen had his stick slashed out of his hands. The game-tying tally was the result of a deflection, a play Quinn considered “undefendable.”
It was an important bounce-back game for O’Connor, who had been pulled in each of his last two games, rough outings against Harvard University on Jan. 4 and the University of Maine a week later.
“It really was only two periods, two bad periods in January,” said O’Connor, who gave up four goals in each game before getting benched. “Obviously I had a lot of time to dwell on those two periods, but I think it really just fueled my on-ice practicing, and I feel like I’ve been game-ready the last couple of weeks.”
It did not take long for him to prove that Friday. On one shot from UMass defenseman Colin Shea in the first period, O’Connor got across the crease just fast enough to make a slick glove stop that he called “one of my better saves this season.”
It was a perfect example of what O’Connor has worked on with goaltending coach Mike Geragosian in recent weeks. O’Connor explained that during those “two bad periods,” about five of the eight goals came through traffic. He took responsibility for not doing a good enough job to either find different lanes to see or moving the opposing player screening hm.
So he worked at his lateral movement — not hard with his long legs — and being more aggressive when it comes to intruders in his crease.
Early in the game Friday, it resulted in a roughing penalty. But overall O’Connor was happy with the improvements.
“I’m moving a little bit more agile, trying to find [the puck] and choosing a different lane and getting my hands out in front,” O’Connor said. “On a couple of plays tonight even, I caught pucks through traffic and I think that definitely helps.
“That team really likes to work the back-door options, so I felt like I was pretty aware of the cross-crease pass. I was really rotating well and getting good pushes tonight, and I was really aggressive, getting good extension and not giving up on the play.”
O’Connor’s sharp performance, parlayed with Maguire being under the weather, made picking a starter for Monday’s game an easy one.
“Yeah, O’Connor played great. He’s been good all year,” Quinn said, his tone indicating he was simply acknowledging the obvious. “We got great goaltending tonight.”
BU played BC close when the teams matched up at Conte Forum two weeks ago. Quinn made sure to note it was a one-goal game late, with the Terriers threatening to tie it when they pulled their goalie.
It’s not outlandish to expect a similar game on an even bigger stage Monday.
“If we get goaltending the way we did tonight,” Quinn said, “we give ourselves a chance. You never know what could happen, especially in the Beanpot.”
By Meredith Perri/DFP Sports
The sophomore netminder not only responded with an affirmative, but he also went on to criticize his performance, saying he did not control his rebounds well.
“I didn’t notice that,” Quinn said, “But you know, he is a goalie. He is hard on himself. That’s how he felt.”
As much as O’Connor may have wanted to cover up more shots, the Toronto native turned out another strong performance in net as he stopped 55 chances during the Terriers 3-3 tie with North Dakota at Agganis Arena.
For the first time this season, and the first time since Nov. 30 through Dec. 6 2012, O’Connor started in three straight games for the Terriers. His streak in goal started halfway through BU’s 7-0 loss against the University of Maine on Nov. 15. Before the weekend series against North Dakota, Quinn said that, while sophomore Sean Maguire has played well this season, he felt that O’Connor had played well enough to deserve the start on Friday.
Although the Saturday spot was to be determined, O’Connor made a convincing argument in the first half of the series as he held North Dakota scoreless until the final three minutes of the game.
Saturday’s game, however, started out far differently from the previous night as North Dakota came out with more physical play. Within the first few minutes of the game UND wing Stephane Pattyn charged the net, pushing O’Connor into the crossbar. While the netminder said he felt the hit, he continued to protect his crease – something he said he was working on earlier in the season.
“I think that might have been their objective – get in my face early on,” O’Connor said. “I’ve been really aggressive around my crease lately trying to get my ground in the crease, so I think that helped.”
North Dakota, which had a total of 84 attempted shots during the game, also increased its attempted shots from 67 on Friday to 84 on Saturday.
“He’s a good goalie, a very good goalie,” Pattyn said. “If we threw pucks at him odds were a couple were going to get in, and if we get traffic in front of him… I think that was our main goal.
“He’s big, he moves well, he’s got a very good glove hand, so we knew we had to get guys in front of him.”
While O’Connor pegged his difficulty controlling rebounds as part of the reason for the number of shots, Quinn also pointed out that the number of BU shots that missed the net also had an impact.
“We missed the net 26 times tonight,” Quinn said. “Twenty-six times. I guarantee you 15 to 20 of their shots were a direct result of us missing the net, shooting it wide, starting their breakout and away they go.”
Despite this added offensive pressure, O’Connor put shot after shot aside, leading to a career high number of saves. A BU goaltender has not registered more than 55 saves in a game since former Terrier Kieran Millan stopped 68 shots during BU’s game against the University of New Hampshire during the Hockey East quarterfinals on March 11, 2012. That game went into two overtimes.
Although Quinn said that it was too early to determine whether O’Connor will pick up his fourth straight start next weekend during the Red Hot Hockey game against Cornell University at Madison Square Garden, he pointed out that O’Connor’s performance followed a trend from the entire season.
“He has been building on every performance he has had,” Quinn said.
By Tim Healey/DFP Staff
ORONO, Maine — The 14-month Boston University men’s hockey goalie battle took an interesting turn Friday night.
In a 7-0 loss at Alfond Arena to the University of Maine, sophomore Sean Maguire — in sticking with the team’s two-netminder rotation — got the start and allowed three goals in the first half. Sophomore Matt O’Connor came on in relief but allowed four goals in the final period and a half.
For a BU team that has struggled to find the back of the net as of late, its usually solid goaltending didn’t do the team any favors.
“[The Black Bears] were opportunistic. They were very opportunistic. Give them credit,” BU coach David Quinn said. “They had chances and they buried them. … We had chances and we have got to bury them. We didn’t.”
That Maine took advantage of its opportunities may be an understatement. It broke a scoreless tie midway through the first when center Devin Shore snuck one between Maguire and the nearside pipe for one of the softer goals the netminder has given up all year.
About 20 minutes of game time later, Maguire let in another particularly regrettable tally when defenseman Ben Hutton took it end-to-end during a BU 5-on-3. The resulting shot dribbled through Maguire’s legs before barely crossing the line.
Quinn promptly pulled Maguire from the game.
“I just thought that the way the momentum was going I thought he would have liked to have the first and third goals back. Just a hunch,” Quinn said. “There were a bunch of reasons that went into that.”
Although O’Connor let in one more goal in about the same amount of time, he did not play as poorly.
By the time O’Connor entered the game, with BU already down by a considerable margin, the Terriers had to employ a riskier style of offense if they had any chance of coming back. That meant numerous breakaways for the Black Bears.
“We left him out to dry on some goals at the end there,” Noonan said. “But those are back-door tap-ins that we’d like to not let them tap in.”
What Friday’s loss means in terms of the big-picture goalie situation for Quinn’s crew is unclear. O’Connor will likely start Sunday against the University of Connecticut, given that Quinn has displayed little desire to stray away from the rotation, particularly when the goalie’s efforts don’t force the issue.
On the season, Maguire owns a 2.49 goals-against average and .929 save percentage, while O’Connor’s corresponding numbers are 3.46 and .905. Both are swayed by the last three games — all losses — in which opponents have outscored BU 15-2.
Of the Terriers’ four wins, one has come with Maguire between the pipes — the season opener, a 3-1 win over the University of Massachusetts. He is somewhat a victim of BU’s lack of offense, with the Terriers scoring a combined three goals in Maguire’s four other starts.
BU has averaged 3.2 goals in each of O’Connor’s five starts.
“I didn’t [say anything to] Mags. He’s a great goalie,” said senior captain Garrett Noonan. “I don’t think me going over there and saying, ‘It’s not your fault’ or whatever is going to do him any good. He knows it’s not his fault. We have to play better in front of him, and he’s an awesome goalie. We know he’s going to be there for us.”
By Meredith Perri/DFP Staff
|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.
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.”
By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff
For all but the luckiest hockey teams, goaltending is often a question. The Boston University men’s team found an unconventional answer this year, using freshmen Sean Maguire and Matt O’Connor as complementary pieces in net for most of the season.
While resolution in the form of a clear No. 1 goalie never came, both were good enough that rotating them was logical. BU goaltending coach Mike Geragosian said he thinks the competition was also the best way for both to develop, each pushing the other to stay sharp.
“I don’t think it’s a [Kieran] Millan-[Grant] Rollheiser roommate situation,” Geragosian said. “I think there’s mutual respect for each other, but there’s also mutual compete, that, ‘Hey, if you don’t play well, I’m going to play well.’
“And that’s what’s great about these two. They’re only going to get better because of that drive, versus, ‘Oh, I’m happy not playing.’”
Maguire eventually started 21 games to O’Connor’s 18 because O’Connor was out for the season after being hospitalized in early March with a collapsed lung. O’Connor made 10 of BU’s first 15 starts as Maguire worked out some early kinks, but they split time from January through the end of February.
By the numbers, each played better when starting every game, or at least the majority of the games. Between Oct. 26 and Dec. 6, when O’Connor started all but three of BU’s 12 games, he had a .924 save percentage, compared to .910 on the year.
The change was even more extreme in Maguire’s case. When O’Connor was scratched from his scheduled start on March 2, Maguire started consecutive games for only the second time all year. He then started the next six, putting up a .957 save percentage in those eight games, including four in the postseason, to bring his overall save percentage up to .926 on the year.
Those numbers are not everything — Maguire’s late run was the product of improvements he made all year, and it would have been tough to maintain the success O’Connor had early over an entire year, regardless of how often he played. But they do illustrate the balancing act involved in developing two successful goalies.
For more, including a look at what Maguire and O’Connor said about sharing the job and what might be in store next year, go to dailyfreepress.com.
By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff
Separating a goalie’s performance from his team’s performance is difficult. After all, he can’t stop a shot, or let one past, unless it gets through five other players first. The topic comes up often on our live blogs, and in discussions about hockey in general: how much to credit a goalie in a win or blame him for a loss.
With those questions in mind, I took a look at a few less conventional goaltending stats for all the Hockey East goalies who have played at least 40 percent of their team’s minutes.* I looked at even-strength save percentage, quality starts (which are based on the same principle as quality starts for pitchers), and average shots against per game.
The idea behind evaluating goaltenders by even-strength save percentage isn’t that goalies shouldn’t be held responsible for power-play goals against, but rather that being a man down makes the other team more likely to score than they are at even strength. Especially on oft-penalized teams, goals outside of even strength can have a significant effect on save percentage, so even-strength save percentage is seen as a more reliable indicator of the way a goalie has played.
(Click to see the full-sized, interactive version.)
A few observations: First, if I learned nothing else from this project, I found even more proof that Jon Gillies has been Hockey East’s best goalie this year. At even strength, he allows goals on less than five percent of the shots he sees. UML’s Connor Hellebuyck technically leads him now, and a .961 mark is surely impressive, but Hellebuyck has made 16 starts to Gillies’ 31. As we’ll see, Gillies also faces significantly more shots per game.
Interestingly, BU’s Sean Maguire has the smallest gap between his overall save percentage and his even-strength one, which could reflect that he’s played better than average in special teams situations.
Quality starts have the same idea for goalies as for pitchers, but the method of calculating them is slightly more complicated. In the original Hockey Prospectus article, the parameters for a QS were laid out as follows: the goalie either records a .912 save percentage in the game, or he records a save percentage of .885 or better while allowing fewer than three goals.
I adjusted that slightly, changing the then-NHL league average save percentage of .912 to the Hockey East average, .910. Due to the small sample size, this is by no means perfect, but at the NHL level, a good goalie gives his team a quality start about 55 percent of the time, and the most reliable do it about 60 percent of the time.
Again, Gillies and Hellebuyck come out on top with the greatest percentage of quality starts. QS’s serve as a decent substitute for wins in evaluating goalies, and the gap between a goalie’s quality starts and his wins can start to separate his play from that of his team.
For instance, Gillies has 22 quality starts and only 15 wins, and Maine’s Martin Ouellette has just nine wins in his 16 quality starts. On the flip side, Boston College has found a way to win even when Parker Milner doesn’t keep them in it – he’s made 17 quality starts but gotten 20 wins. Maguire and Matt O’Connor have made 11 and 10 quality starts, respectively, and gotten 10 and eight wins.
Finally, I looked at the number of shots each goalie sees on average per game, to add some context. Despite having the second-best shot-blocker in the nation, senior defenseman Sean Escobedo (and, until recently, then-top shot blocker Alexx Privitera), BU has let the most shots through to its goalies of any Hockey East team. Both Maguire and O’Connor have faced more shots on average than any of the other goalies, and Maguire has faced the most – 32.8 per game.
(Click through for the full-sized interactive version.)
It’s no surprise that Lowell’s two goalies, Doug Carr and Hellebuyck, saw the fewest shots per game behind the River Hawks’ stifling team defense. And, in accordance with the fact that they allow the most shots, BU has also given up the second-most goals in the conference, behind only Northeastern. Maguire and O’Connor are in the middle of the pack as far as save percentage, both overall and even-strength, but they’re being tested more frequently than any other starters.
None of these numbers give a comprehensive picture of these goalies’ value to their teams, but together, they show a few different sides of their performances. The evaluation is also incomplete without an understanding of the quality of shots each player has faced. If I can compile enough shot charts, maybe that’ll be an offseason project.
*Vermont’s Brody Hoffman is omitted from the even-strength save percentage chart only because Vermont’s website doesn’t keep track of power-play shots, so I couldn’t calculate it.
By Tim Healey/DFP Staff
The Boston University men’s hockey team finally has a number-one goaltender, but not by choice.
Freshman Matt O’Connor is out indefinitely with spontaneous pneumothorax and is expected to make a full recovery, according to a team source. Spontaneous pneumothorax is a collapsed lung that happens with no apparent cause.
O’Connor is in the hospital as of Monday evening. There is no information available on a recovery timeline.
“A small area in the lung that is filled with air can break open, sending air into the space around the lung,” according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Tall, thin people are more likely to suffer collapsed lungs.
The 6-foot-5, 201-pound O’Connor has posted a .910 save percentage and 2.86 goals-against average in 19 games (18 starts) in his rookie campaign.
The news comes two days after freshman Sean Maguire started two games in a weekend for the first time this season. After making 49 saves and one goal in a win against the University of Vermont Friday night, Maguire gave up four goals the next night, just hours after finding out he would make the start.
Annie Maroon contributed to this report.