BOSTON — It was deja vu all over again for Boston College men’s hockey—almost.
The Eagles got off to a blazing start against archrival Boston University at Agganis Arena on Saturday night. Like Friday’s 7-4 loss at Kelley Rink, BC jumped out to a first-period 2-0 lead. Though they held for the remainder of that frame, the wheels started coming off by the second. Shane Bowers tipped in a pass from Kasper Kotkansaro, while screening goaltender Joseph Woll to cut the Eagles’ lead in half.
But on just the team’s fourth shot of the frame, 15 minutes through, BC’s fourth line wouldn’t allow the deficit to get any worse. Casey Carreau’s perfect find to Ron Greco, who launched his third goal in two days, helped stop the bleeding. And with 36 saves by Woll, the Eagles cruised to a 4-1 win in the 276th meeting between the two programs.
“We got a good start, and they couldn’t really dent Joe,” head coach Jerry York said. “Joe was the story, he played exceptionally well in a lot of different segments in the game.”
The first 10 minutes of the game appeared more like a track meet than a hockey game, with the same “age-appropriate” play from Friday night’s game, as BU head coach David Quinn called it, permeating down the B Line. But the No. 15 Eagles (9-6-2, 9-2-0 Hockey East) thrived in particular on the strength of their backcheck. Centers Julius Mattila, Aapeli Räsänen, Christopher Brown, and Greco each showed off their defensive skills with punishing hits on BU (7-9-1, 5-5-1) forwards whenever they threatened Woll.
But 13 minutes into the frame, the Eagles got out to the early lead. J.D. Dudek crossed by the crease to find Connor Moore standing at the top of the right circle. The defenseman from Cumming, Ga. blasted the shot, which initially appeared to be redirected by Graham McPhee screening in front. Upon review between the periods, however, the goal belonged to Moore.
On a 4-on-4 just 40 seconds later, BC’s biggest forward, David Cotton, showed off his physicality. He wrestled the puck away from a sloppy Chad Krys at center ice, drawing a slashing penalty. But the Carolina Hurricanes product was strong enough to force his way down toward Jake Oettinger in net anyway. He ate up his own rebound to give the Eagles their 2-0 lead.
“Disappointing result, something I feel like we’ve been saying in here too often,” Quinn said. “Two costly mistakes early put us down early again. Tough to dig yourself out of that hole when you’ve got the first place team in here with a goalie like that.”
After a physical end to the first period that kept the penalty box benches warm, BU came out firing on all cylinders in the second. Halfway through the frame, the Terriers outshot the Eagles, 12-1. The one BC shot came on a shorthanded attempt, despite a power play. The Bowers goal officially swung the momentum in the home team’s favor.
But Greco’s scoring play put that threat to bed. Carreau weaved between several Terrier defenders before eyeing the sophomore from Philadelphia. Greco went bar down over Oettinger’s left shoulder for the much-needed insurance goal.
“It was a really important goal for us by Greco,” York said. “He hasn’t scored a lot of goals for us in his career, but he had three goals this weekend.”
The win was also a night-and-day performance for Woll compared to Friday’s game. Throughout the evening, Woll stood up to the challenge against Grade A chances by the Terriers. On an early BU power play, the sophomore stoned Bowers by using his glove to push the puck upward over the net, while the center was tight on his left side. Minutes later, he quickly reacted against Nikolas Olsson on a trickling loose puck in the crease. On a crossing pattern late in the third period, Woll kicked away both Jordan Greenway and Drew Melanson’s attempts, one with each leg. In total, the BC goaltender put together one of his best outings of the year on the heels of his worst.
“The game got a little bit out of hand last night, and I didn’t play as well as I could’ve,” Woll said after giving up six goals on Friday. “I made it a point to give my team a full 60 minutes tonight.”
Woll was most impressive at the end, when, with 3:41 remaining, Quinn decided to pull his goaltender. Michael Kim added to that stress by taking a penalty to give BU a 6-on-4 advantage. But the Terriers’ clumsy play continued. Bobo Carpenter, brother of BC women’s hockey legend Alex, twice missed empty nets on crosses that would’ve brought the Terriers closer. Greenway had another stellar opportunity to tap it over Woll when streaking in front, but he knocked it right into the goaltender’s glove. Seconds later, McPhee added the empty netter to clinch it.
“Our power play really let us down tonight, 0-for-6,” Quinn said. “Not only 0-for-6, but we didn’t look particularly good doing it.”
Friday’s game appeared to signal the beginning of the end of a hot streak that helped launch the Eagles to the top of the Hockey East standings. But that 7-4 loss now looks like it might just be the aberration. As York emphasized during the postgame press conference, the Eagles learned quickly from their mistakes—he said they reviewed the tape thoroughly to fix puck management and decision-making, in addition to limiting turnovers.
But none of that would’ve mattered had Woll not returned to form. And, as BU forward Nikolas Olsson explained, there’s not much a team can do when a goalie plays like that.
“Woll stood on his head, and made some big-time saves for them,” Olsson said.
Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Editor