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March 23, 2013 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Maguire Steers BU to Hockey East Title Game

Freshman Goaltender Stops 44 Shots in Semfinal Win

by Joe Meloni/Senior Writer

BOSTON — Boston University goaltender Sean Maguire looked to his left and saw Johnny Gaudreau. The puck moved quickly to Pat Mullane and then to Steven Whitney. No matter the sight, the picture was never less dangerous, less intimdating for Maguire — a freshman backstopping his Terriers into a Hockey East semifinal with rival Boston College.

As the puck darted from stick to stick, Maguire followed and braced for the inevitable shot. He dropped to his knees, flashed his blocker and made yet another save. He made 44 of them Friday night, turning an apparent BC blowout into a 6-3 BU win. The Terriers advanced to the Hockey East tournament championship with the win; BU will meet Massachusetts-Lowell Saturday night at 7 p.m.

Maguire's heroics were the norm in the win. At no point did they matter more than in the first period and the early portion of the second period. BC's earned a 2-0 lead with its typical mix of lengthy possessions and flashy puck movement. At the end of the first period, the Eagles led, 1-0. Things could've been much worse. But Maguire was there to pick up his teammates.

"He's been on fire," BU sophomore Evan Rodrigues said of Maguire. "He's stepped up big time. He's been a rock back there. We need it again (Saturday). We know he can get it done."

For most of the season, Maguire rotated with fellow freshman goaltender Matt O'Connor. During the Terriers' struggles in January and through mid-February, the pair split the duty until a collapsed lung ended O'Connor's season.

Since assuming the No. 1 job by default, Maguire has elevated his play to a level that has BU in position to win its first conference championship since 2009. His first start on his current stretch came on March 2, a 5-2 win over Vermont. In those seven games, Maguire's save percentage is a lofty .951 and his goals-against average is a nifty 1.87.

"Splitting time with (O'Connor) must've been hard to an extent," Rodrigues said. "When you're rotating like that, and you're a goalie, you're usually only playing one game a week. It was hard for him. Now that he has the reins on the position, he's taking it."

Both O'Connor and Maguire performed well for the Terriers in sharing the net. The team's defensive woes that lasted most of the second half made it difficult for both.

In the first 30 minutes on Friday, those problems returned. BC dominated possession and created chance after chance. The Eagles out-shot BU, 18-7, in the first period. Midway through the second, they reached 30 shots on goal with the Terriers recording just 12 to that point. The score, however, remained, 2-1.

"The first period could've been 2- or 3-0, easily," BU freshman Danny O'Regan said. "The second period started the same. (BC was) relentless the whole game. (Maguire) was unbelievable. He has been throughout this whole stretch. 

"We're going to rely on him for the same thing (Saturday)."

The Terriers erupted for five consecutive goals to build a 5-2 lead midway through the third period. Rodrigues scored the first. O'Regan added a pair of power-play goals in the third to pad the advantage.

Despite BU's control of the game's latter half, the Eagles managed to generate scoring chances between the BU goals. Maguire was there to stymie the Eagles' gifted playmakers and prevent his teammates from losing any confidence.

Whitney cut BU's lead to 5-3 at 13 minutes, 43 minutes of the third period. The BC's track record made the final six minutes of the game feel like an additional period. Navigating the desperation rush from BC didn't bother Maguire at all.

He remained focused, stopping shot after shot, including a quick poke check on Gaudreau with the gifted winger approaching on a breakaway. Even a late-game rush from Gaudreau, Hockey East Player of the Year and Hobey Baker finalist, didn't unsettle Maguire.

"He's developed into that starting role well," BU freshman Matt Lane said. "He's taking these challenges well and seizing the opportunity."

At least one more challenge will come Maguire's way this season. The Hockey East championship game brings BU head on with UMass-Lowell, the only Hockey East team it didn't defeat this season. In his lone appearance against the River Hawks, Maguire stopped 33 of 36 shots in a 3-1 loss on Feb. 23.

It was just four weeks ago, but a lot has changed since then. BU enters the game having won six of seven of eight games, instead of losing seven of 10. And Sean Maguire enters the game as the Terriers' starting goaltender. Forced into a permanent role due to injury, Maguire's excelled, and the Terriers are 60 minutes from an eighth Hockey East championship because of him.

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