BOSTON — Boston University defeated Maine, 1-0, Saturday night at Agganis Arena. Garrett Noonan’s first period goal was all goaltender Sean Maguire needed, as the freshman made 28 saves to pick up his second consecutive shutout. Noonan’s third goal of the season came on the power play. BU overloaded the right half of the ice to create space. A Danny O’Regan pass drifted by Evan Rodrigues to Noonan who beat Maine’s Martin Oullette to the near post.
With 5 minutes, 32 seconds left in regulation, BU’s Ben Rosen went off on a boarding major. Despite the five-minute power play, including a 6-on-4 for the final 1:04 of the period, Maine could not beat Maguire.
What I Saw
- Sean Maguire has shaken off the early-season nerves that gave him problems in his first couple starts. Maguire stopped 21 shots on Saturday night and didn’t too troubled making any of them. For young goalies, problems with nerves manifest themselves in poor positioning and a noisy performance. Against Maine, Maguire wasted little movement and kept himself in good position to make important saves. His defense did its job well, keeping his eyes clear and erasing any second chances with quick clears to the corners. Those second opportunities rarely came for Maine ,though, and that’s a credit to Maguire’s calm and confident play. Fellow freshman Matt O’Connor has played well enough to warrant his position as the team’s No. goalie, but a viable second choice could prove vital for BU in the second half.
- Maine’s Martin Ouellette matched Maguire save for save, and he was the only reason BU didn’t have a three-goal lead midway through the first period. For the first three minutes of the game, BU hemmed Maine in its own zone. The Terriers actually rolled all four lines through without the puck leaving Maine’s zone. The Terriers didn’t score during this stretch, and Ouellette made a pair of strong saves during the sequence to keep the game scoreless. In the second period, Ouellette also stopped a penalty shot from BU’s Cason Hohmann to maintain a one-goal defiict. The Terriers’ skill created a series of quality scoring chances that Ouellette brushed aside or forced wide with his positioning. Ouellette has now started the last six games for the Black Bears since winning the job from Dan Sullivan. The results haven’t improved drastically for Maine, but a win and pair of ties has Maine in position to at least compete for the final playoff spot in Hockey East. Since taking over, Ouellette has 2.14 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.
- Rosen’s boarding major forced the Terriers to kill a penalty and protect a 1-0 lead for five minutes of the final 5:32 remaining regulation. After a dominant opening to the game, BU struggled to create much momentum. Only during this most crucial portion of the game did the Terriers look as sharp as they needed to. The Maine power play has struggled all year — the Black Bears entered the game converting on just 7.5 percent of their man advantages. Still, Maine managed only one shot during this final stretch. BU’s penalty killers executed perfectly, taking away passing lanes and winning pucks for clears. Maguire’s lone save during the major was impressive — staying in front of Mark Anthoine redirection. Overall, the Terriers aren’t thrilled with the events of the final two periods. However, overcoming a lengthy penalty at the most important juncture of the night shows a mental toughness previous BU teams lacked.
What I Saw
- Maine kept BU bottled up for long stretches of the night. During Terriers breakouts, Maine dropped into its formation seamlessly and sat back just long enough to make BU move the puck. From there, forwards activated to eliminate passing lanes and create turnovers on the rush. This led to some quality scoring chances. Conversely, BU didn’t handle the clogged neutral zone particularly well. There’s no doubt BU has the skill to maneuver through the most congested space. Relying on that element of their game, however, resulted in excessive passes that Maine frequently intercepted.
- Maine demonstrates the residue of two months of frustration on almost every shift. The Black Bears worked hard on Saturday night, and they deserved to leave Boston with at least one point. The first half of the season hasn’t been particularly kind to Maine, though, and it shows. Players wait to long on shots or an extra pass stymies a scoring chance even as shooting lanes open. Maine’s first half ended with 2-11-2 mark, and the break comes at a good time. Its next game is Dec. 28 against Minnesota-Duluth as part of the Florida College Classic in Estero, Fla. Twenty days between games may be just thing for Maine to move past the disappointing start to the season in hopes of fighting for a playoff spot. Maine is currently three points out of a playoff spot.
- The emergence of BU’s dynamic sophomore class continued on Saturday night. Alexx Privitera was the lone member of the group to record a point on the night — he picked up his sixth assist of the year on Noonan’s goal. Still, Hohmann and Evan Rodrigues were among the best BU players throughout the game. Hohmann created offense frequently, including the rush that led his failed penalty shot in the second period. Rodrigues, similarly, generated offense with his skating and nifty work with the puck. Hohmann ends the first half as BU’s leading scorer (4-12-16) to go along with his team-high plus-15 rating. Rodrigues (3-7–10) and Privitera (2-5–7) have also progressed heavily from their freshman season. As a whole, BU’s small but integral sophomore class is one of the main reasons the Terriers enter their break in strong position in the Hockey East standing and the Pairwise.
What They Said
“Coach Parker really emphasized that we needed to end the first half 10-5 and how big of a game (Saturday was). Nobody overlooked Maine. We’ve struggled after big wins, and we sometimes resort to a loss. But I think this team is different for some reason. The young guys have stepped up huge, and I think there is just a different mentality this year to make sure that stuff like isn’t going to happen. Obviously, we have a few losses, but I think we’ve done a great job all semester and (Saturday) was just another showing of that.” — BU defenseman Garrett Noonan
Dating back to the 2009-10 season, following a national championship, BU teams have struggled to maintain focus and drive during the Hockey East season. Players have seemed aloof at times, overlooking games following big wins or during less stressful times of the year. Despite the tense finish on Saturday, BU pulled out a win in a game they easily could have lost. The Terriers blocked 21 shots on Saturday and were perfect on the penalty kill. Offensively, it wasn’t a great night for BU. But, in the end, BU won because it excelled in areas teams from recent seasons fell short.
What They Didn’t Say
Maine coach Tim Whitehead was obviously frustrated with the result, and yet another poor performance from his power play. The Black Bears need to improve in several areas, but the man advantage stands out the most. Following Saturday’s loss, Maine is now at an even 7 percent on the season (5 for 71), which is 55th in the country. The fact that it isn’t dead last is shocking. Maine moved the puck well at times on the man advantage, robbed by Maguire on more than one occasion. Whitehead didn’t mention any specific adjustments the unit has to or plans to make heading into the second half. Maine has now lost six one-goal games this season and one two-goal game with an empty-net goal. In these games, Maine is 3 for 22 on the power play. While this 13.6 percent is better than its numbers on the year, it still represents an area Maine needs to improve to earn a postseason berth.
What Else You Need to Know
- BU’s first half is over. The Terriers next game is Dec. 28 on the road against Denver. Their next Hockey East game doesn’t come until Jan. 11 at Merrimack.
- Maine is off until its two games in Florida, and the Black Bears next Hockey East game is Jan. 11 at Northeastern.
- The news of Jerry York approaching the all-time wins record has rightfully dominated coaching milestone news. However, BU’s 10 wins in the first half give Jack Parker 886 for his career. With 20 games in the second half, Parker could easily reach 900 by season’s end.
- Maine defenseman Mike Cornell left the game in the first period and did not return due to an upper body injury.
- BU defenseman Matt Grzelcyk was helped off the ice late in the game after taking a shot to his left knee. The freshman later returned and finished the game.