Boston University coach Jack Parker has helped develop a great many goaltenders during the course of his long career, many of them youngsters.
At the start of the 2008-09 season, the Terriers platooned freshmen Kieran Millan and Grant Rollheiser until Rollheiser was set back because of injuries. Millan went on to backstop BU to the NCAA championship.
Millan moved on after four years, and now Parker has another promising pair of freshmen netminders: Matt O’Connor and Sean Maguire.
Heading into this weekend’s games against No. 1 Boston College, Parker said he believes in both of them.
“[O’Connor] is a mature kid, he’s a 20-year-old freshman,’’ said Parker. “Our other goalie is a 19-year-old freshman, so there is a little difference in the maturity level there.
“They are both playing extremely well right now. We feel really confident in both our freshmen goalies. Before the season started, we thought we had a great freshman class but it would be a real good freshman class if we were correct in our two goaltenders.
“No matter how good the other guys were, it wouldn’t be a very good freshman class if we were incorrect in our two goaltenders. But it appears we have two really solid guys for a while here.’’
As far as numbers go, O’Connor’s are stronger so far. He has a record of 5-2-0 with a .939 save percentage and 1.90 goals-against average. Maguire is 2-2-0 with a .910 save percentage and 2.56 GAA. Maguire struggled initially but has righted his game in recent performances.
“Matt started off with a very high bar and he has kept it high,’’ said Parker. “Sean had a bad opening night at UNH and he certainly would like to have that game back, but since then, he’s played extremely well and he has gotten his bar up to Matt’s status.’’
Parker said his philosophy is to give them both a chance and see how it plays out.
“This way, if somebody goes down, you have an experienced goalie who is going well, and if somebody goes bad, you have another guy you can rely on,’’ said Parker. “You can’t have too much pitching and you can’t have too much goaltending.’’
BU, ranked No. 9, heads into Friday night’s game with a 7-4-0 record and has won two of its last three, with the loss coming against No. 2 New Hampshire. Parker said for a young team, the record is respectable.
“I’ve liked my team since the first day of practice,’’ said Parker. “We’ve got a nice mix of older kids and a lot of freshmen. There is a lot of enthusiasm and I like everything they’re doing and the way they’re conducting themselves. We’d like to win a couple more games here and there, obviously.’’
BU has a challenging schedule to close out the first semester. After two against BC, the Terriers travel to the Whittemore Center to take on UNH and then close out with a game against Maine at Agganis Arena.
“We have to really finish up strong,’’ said Parker, “because we’re playing the No. 1 team and the No. 2 team in the nation the next three games, and then a team we’ve always struggled with and had great games with.’’
Reveling in rivalry
BC has won 10 games in a row, and the weekend set against BU is just the next chapter in the storied rivalry, one that Parker said has remained consistent over the decades.
“It has never changed,’’ said Parker. “It hasn’t changed since I arrived [at BU] as a freshman in 1964.’’
Parker said he has always had a great appreciation for the matchup — as a player, coach, and hockey fan.
“You can’t have enthusiasm in a building or have enthusiasm for your program without a great rival,’’ said Parker. “I always tell people, ‘The best thing to happen to BU hockey was BC hockey.’ Having that great rivalry has promoted our program and I’m sure it’s promoted their program.’’
Hockey East teams have won the NCAA title four of the last five seasons, with BC winning three and BU one.
“I think it really has promoted Hockey East in our league as well as the individual schools involved,’’ said Parker. “I think we all kind of build on that as far as prestige for our league and prestige for the fact that if you want to win the national championship, you might have to beat a Hockey East team.
“And that’s been going on for a long time. It’s not just a BC-BU thing. The fact that BC has won it is the thing that is different from the rest of us. We’ve won it once, they’ve won it three times in the last five years. That’s a completely different level than we are at, but all Hockey East teams benefit from that.
“I think all the Hockey East teams realize that when you get through this league, you’ve got a good chance to be somebody special at the end because you’ve got to beat so many good teams to get there.’’
After a tie at Colorado College last Friday, followed by a win at Denver Saturday, UNH (9-1-2) gets back to league play Friday and Saturday when it squares off against UMass-Lowell (4-5-1). Sophomore forward Grayson Downing and junior forward Kevin Goumas both had big weekends, with their first career hat tricks against Denver. Goumas won Hockey East Player of the Week honors with a 7-point weekend (four goals) . . . Vermont (2-7-2) travels to Maine (2-9-1) for a pair of games at Alfond Arena. The Black Bears are 7-1-1 in the last nine meetings between the teams . . . UMass (4-5-2) takes on Northeastern (4-7-1) in a home-and-home series, and Providence (6-5-1) squares off with Merrimack (4-6-2) with one game at each school.