By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff
For most of 30 minutes on Friday, the Boston University men’s hockey team chased Boston College around the defensive zone, blocking shots with their shins because they couldn’t get their sticks on the puck. Every Terrier was reeling, back on his heels, except one: freshman goalie Sean Maguire.
As BC cycled through BU’s zone, firing puck after puck at Maguire, he only seemed to get sharper, stopping 11 Grade-A chances by the end of the period. Despite setting up camp in BU’s zone from the opening draw, the Eagles couldn’t score until the last 90 seconds of the period.
“In the first period, it could have easily been 2- or 3-0, and in the second period it’s the same,” said freshman center Danny O’Regan. “They were just relentless the whole game, and [Maguire] has been unbelievable throughout this whole stretch.”
Late in the first, BC forward Johnny Gaudreau – recently named the Hockey East Player of the Year – picked up a BU turnover at the side of the goal. He took his time wristing the puck toward Maguire for what looked like a sure goal, until Maguire swatted it out of midair with the tip of his glove.
BC scored shortly after that save, when a shot from Bill Arnold changed direction off the stick of BU junior defenseman Garrett Noonan and leaped over Maguire’s shoulder. Considering the way the Eagles controlled the puck in the first period, the Terriers were fortunate to escape with a mere 1-0 deficit.
“It was huge,” freshman wing Matt Lane said of Maguire’s play in the first. “We got off to a slow start, and when [sophomore wing Evan] Rodrigues got that [goal], I think that fired us up. You could see the momentum going our way. But Maguire played a great game, and he kept us in it when they were outshooting us there early.”
In total, Maguire faced 47 shots: 18 in the first period, 13 in the second and 16 in the third. He stopped 44. Across the ice, BC senior Parker Milner stopped 21 of the 26 shots he saw.
A 6-3 win doesn’t come without an offensive explosion, and both BU’s regular contributors, like O’Regan and Rodrigues, and fresh faces, like Lane, found ways to beat Milner. The Terriers scored four times in ten minutes, between 12:47 of the second and 1:42 of the third, to propel themselves to victory.
Had Maguire lost focus for an instant early on, though, the Terriers could have been buried too deep to come back. Midway through the second, before Rodrigues scored BU’s first goal, the Eagles led 29-10 in shots, and it seemed only a matter of time before the score began to reflect that margin.
Fortunately for the Terriers, Maguire stayed locked in even during TV time-outs. Where most goalies might have taken lackadaisical laps around the net or glided to the boards and back, Maguire was down in the crease, stretching out his legs, or up miming glove saves, visualizing pucks flying toward him and hopping back and forth to make imaginary saves.
Lane noted Friday that BU didn’t have a defined starting goalie for most of the year, since Maguire alternated games with fellow freshman Matt O’Connor until O’Connor suffered a collapsed lung this month.
Neither gave Parker a reason to stop the rotation while they were both healthy. In seven games since taking over as the No. 1 goalie, however, Maguire has a .951 save percentage.
“After his very first game, I thought Sean really played well almost all year long,” Parker said. “He had maybe one or two not-great games the rest of the way. But when [O’Connor] went down, it looked like he even picked up the pace even more and got a lot more confident and knew he was the guy.”
On Saturday, Maguire will face another accomplished freshman in the opposing net: Connor Hellebuyck, who has a .946 save percentage in 20 starts for the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
Goals haven’t come easily for the Terriers against Hellebuyck this year. In fact, they’ve managed just one in 120 minutes of play. Against a defensively oriented River Hawks team that has stifled BU’s forwards this year, Maguire will have little margin for error.
“We’re going to rely on him for the same thing tomorrow,” O’Regan said. “He’s the most competitive kid I know, so I know he’s going to bring it tomorrow too.”