Boston College might not have had much at stake after wrapping up the Hockey East championship a day earlier. But BC coach Jerry York kept the Eagles motivated as they took a 2-1 win over Maine on Saturday night, a result that could figure into the team’s chances of returning to the NCAA Tournament.
BC (18-13-3, 18-6 Hockey East) finished 3 points ahead of Northeastern, the first time a team captured the regular-season title outright since 2014-15.
“There were a lot of reasons we had to play well, we thought,” York said after the Eagles concluded the regular season with a four-game winning streak and advanced two places to No. 18 in the Pairwise rankings after Friday’s 6-3 win over the Black Bears.
BC could move on to the NCAA event by winning the conference tournament, or by finishing in the top 15 of the Pairwise rankings.
The result cost Maine (16-14-4, 10-11-3) a chance for a first-round bye, the Black Bears losing on a tiebreaker after finishing even with UConn for fifth place.
David Cotton and Christopher Brown scored for BC, and sophomore Joe Woll (24 saves) stopped a second-period penalty shot as the Eagles won their sixth successive home game.
Cotton came from behind the net to finish over Jeremy Swayman’s left shoulder at 11:50, his ninth goal of the season.
Brown upped the edge with his eighth goal of the season, knocking in the rebound of an Aapeli Rasanen shot off a faceoff during a power play at 5:16 of the second period.
Woll saved an Eduards Tralmaks penalty shot, the sequence set up as Peter Housakos drew a hooking penalty from Michael Kim after capitalizing on a Kevin Lohan turnover, going in alone at 9:33. Rob Michel cut the deficit for Maine on a power play, finishing from the right circle at 18:46, his fifth goal of the season.
In the opening period, Woll made two late stops on breakaways, on Daniel Perez and Nolan Vesey.
“He’s had a good year but the last three weekends he’s played the best hockey of his short, two-year career with us at BC,” York said of Woll. “He’s at the top of his game. That’s why I came right back with him tonight.
“There’s reasons why we thought the win was significant for us. You want your goalie to play well in February, March, April. I think that’s essential if you’re going to get deep into the playoffs.”
The contest remained competitive to the end. Rasanen went down in the left circle and went for treatment in the BC locker room early in the third. Maine rallied, firing 11 shots on goal in the final period and BC nearly increased the advantage as JD Dudek hit the right post midway through the period.
BC’s Graham McPhee was issued a game misconduct at 19:27 and Lohan (roughing) and Maine’s Mitchell Fossier (slashing) were penalized as the game ended with a mini-brawl near the BC net.
BC started the season with a 1-5-1 record in October and has totaled only three wins against top 25 Pairwise teams.
“I just think we’re getting better and better as the season goes on,” York said. “We talked about do you ever think about changing your non-conference schedule? But we want to play Denver, we want to play St. Cloud, and we expect to beat them. Wisconsin — we’re not going to shy away from that type of team. We’re going to continue to play those type of teams.
“But I think our team is better now. The 1-5-1 start was a tough hole to get out of. I think the team that’s playing now would’ve fared better. But that’s October, that’s why we practice and, hopefully, improve as the season goes on. But right now I think we’ve got a really good, well-balanced team that can do some damage in the playoffs.”