Boston College coach Jerry York had a positive feeling when his goalie Joseph Woll arrived before the Eagles met UMass Lowell on Saturday night at Conte Forum.
“[Woll] came into locker room head back, shoulders nice and tall,” York said after BC took a 5-2 win over the River Hawks. “That helps the team when your leader does that, comes in off a tough loss Friday night, and comes back with a stellar performance.”
The No. 16-ranked Eagles had sustained a 3-2 defeat at Lowell on Friday night, their fifth successive loss to the River Hawks over a two-year span.
“We made some good blocks, too, our defense made a number of blocks, and Joe made some good saves,” York said. “Part of it is coming into the locker room with that demeanor, ‘I’m going to be a leader,’ and he steps forward and produces.”
BC (13-10-3, 13-5-0 Hockey East) jumped out to a 5-0 lead, then struggled through a third period that included a game misconduct assessed to freshman Jacob Tortora in retaining its place atop the Hockey East standings. UMass Lowell (15-12, 10-8) had not lost to the Eagles since Feb. 26, 2016.
“[Friday] night, going into the third period down two, I thought the team bounced back really well,” said BC defenseman Connor Moore, whose impressive blast on a power play early in the second period helped spark the Eagles. “It’s always tough to play there, and we definitely bounced back tonight. We came out flying, let up a little in the third, but we took a deep breath and got back to our game.”
BC scored late in the opening period, then took command with four goals in a 9:22 span of the second period.
The Eagles opened the scoring in the first as Logan Hutsko found David Cotton, who controlled with his right skate in the right circle, then wristed past sophomore goalie Tyler Wall at 18:39, his seventh goal of the season.
BC then broke things open, piling up a 20-9 shot advantage in the second period, and taking advantage of a power play resulting from a slashing penalty assessed after the first period horn sounded. Moore’s drive from the left point upped the edge to 2-0 at 1:48, his third goal of the season. Then, Graham McPhee converted from the left circle at 7:36 (his third goal in the last two games), and JD Dudek went in alone on Wall for a 4-0 edge at 7:52. Tortora sent a rebound past Wall’s replacement, Christoffer Hernberg, off a faceoff at 12:10, his fifth goal.
Wall, who had a 3-0-0 record against BC last season and made 25 saves in Friday’s game, totaled 17 saves. Hernberg made 13.
“I don’t fault Tyler at all, I took him out as a mercy,” UML coach Norm Bazin said. “I thought he stood tall the first five minutes of the game, [and] we played pretty good. The shots that were scored on him were legitimate goals. I thought the rest of the team in front of him wasn’t that great. I didn’t want to subject him to any more.”
Momentum shifted early in the third period, following a clash involving UML freshman Charlie Levesque and BC defenseman Casey Fitzgerald, concluding with a five-minute major and game misconduct for boarding to Tortora. BC held off the River Hawks’ 5 on 3, but UMass Lowell capitalized on the one-man advantage as Levesque roofed a close-in shot off Woll’s glove at 4:26, his sixth goal. Tommy Panico converted his fifth goal of the season, following consecutive saves by Woll, at 6:10.
Woll finished with 24 saves.
“It was an old-fashioned Hockey East home-and-home series,” York said. “Two good crowds, back-to-back nights. We’re always trying to get to the point toward the tournament stage of our season, and those are back-to-back Friday, Saturdays. So there’s a good test for us. They were a touch better than us last night, a little bit quicker, a little bit smarter. We reversed the table, moved pucks and did some really good things from a coach’s perspective. Last night could’ve gone either way. We were a little more assertive.
“We’re in the thick of the pennant race. It’s going to go deep into the season, I think. There’s still four or five teams that have a realistic chance of winning the championship.”
There was an upbeat post-game locker room scene for BC, one that included Kai Sauer, Finland’s ambassador to the United Nations.
“He was here to see Aapeli [Rasanen] and the Mattila twins [Jesper and Julius],” York said, referring to his three Finnish recruits. “I didn’t ask any politics [but] it was nice to have him here.”