The return of Boston College hockey coach Jerry York was a sight for sore eyes, but the play of York’s third-ranked Eagles was a shocking sight in Friday night’s 4-1 Hockey East loss to unranked Maine before a Conte Forum crowd of 6,927.
After missing four games to repair a detached retina in his right eye, the 67-year-old York, tops in college hockey with 927 career victories, had his return to the bench spoiled by the last-place Black Bears (6-14-4, 2-9-4), whose only other conference win this season came Nov. 10 in a 4-3 victory at UMass-Lowell.
“First of all, it’s good to be back behind the bench; it was just frustrating being out the four games,’’ said York, whose team went 2-2 during his absence. “My vision is going to get better as we progress, but right now I can’t see out of my right eye. The left eye is fine and each day the vision will get a little bit better, so that’s good news.’’
While York’s presence was encouraging, the scoreboard wasn’t. The Eagles outshot Maine, 35-31, but managed to get only one puck past Martin Ouellette, who made 34 saves, including 20 in the second period. when the Black Bears killed off three penalties.
“I thought Maine played well, that’s the team that won the Florida Classic,’’ York said, referring to the Black Bears’ victories over Minnesota-Duluth and Cornell last month. “They competed very hard and I thought Ouellette played strong in goal.’’ They were a difficult team for us to play tonight.’’
BC goaltender Parker Milner (27 saves) allowed Maine to streak to a 3-0 lead on first-period goals by Joey Diamond at 3:11 and Ryan Lomberg at 19:40, and another in the second by Will Merchant at 8:05.
“We wanted to come out to a good, hard start,’’ said Diamond, who has eight goals in 13 career games against the Eagles. “We just rode that momentum from there. Once we got the first one, the bench was loud and we just went for another one and were able to get pucks to the net and Lomberg was able to tip it in.’’
The Eagles (14-6-2, 11-5-1) averted their first shutout loss at home in two years on Steven Whitney’s power-play tally at 13:06 of the third.
Whitney’s 15th goal of the season came 23 seconds after Maine’s Conor Riley was sent off for a tripping minor at 12:43.
“I thought we had a chance to get it to 3-2 there,’’ said YorkWith Milner pulled, Kyle Beattie gave Maine a three-goal lead on an empty-net score at 19:11.
“I’ll have to watch the film because I think [Ouellette] made some pretty good saves down the stretch,’’ York said. “They competed very hard and they deserved to win the game tonight.“It gives you some indication of the league when you have one of the top teams and one that’s struggling, and yet they come into our building and beat us.’’
After going 0-3-2 in its previous five games, Maine posted its first win since Jan. 4. The seeds of victory were sown in the second period when the Black Bears staved off three BC power plays.
“Particularly the one at the end of the period,’’ said Maine coach Tim Whitehead, referring to Andrew Cerretani’s hitting-from-behind penalty at 15:59. “Had they scored there, that could’ve really given them a lot of momentum.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.