Top Story, Men's Hockey

Behind Solid Woll, Men’s Hockey Defeats No. 14 Providence

“I thought Woll was up to the task.” -Nate Leaman

Immediately after the conclusion of the Boston College alma mater, Greg Brown went to his phone. The associate head coach of the Eagles knew what the 6 p.m. start time meant: the game was on television. And if the game was on TV, that meant Jerry York was watching.

York sat out his second consecutive game following eye surgery for an injury that has occasionally reoccurred since 2013. But that doesn’t mean the hockey grind stops. At the age of 71, York still shot texts to his partner-in-crime throughout No. 8 men’s hockey’s 3-1 win over No. 14  Providence. Most of them were encouraging, especially regarding a third period in which the Eagles outshot the Friars, 17-4.

But rest assured, Brown said. Each of them started with “Hey Brownie.” And he’s got his goaltender to thank for that.

For much of the first two periods, the Eagles (5-2-1, 1-0-1 Hockey East) struggled to get anything going against the strong defense of the Friars (2-3-1, 0-1-0). Yet while their offense struggled, Joe Woll stepped up. The freshman and third-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs put together a masterful performance with 27 saves on Friday night. Woll squared to every puck, forcing the Friars to take many of their shots straight into his chest. He displayed an expert ability to drop into the butterfly and push shots to either side without giving up a juicy rebound. That poise is hard to find in a guy who hasn’t made it through his first semester in college yet. But, according to Brown, it lifted the Eagles up when they had little else going for them.  

“He was calm when the guys around him weren’t,” Brown said.

Several times throughout the game, the Friars broke through against BC’s defense. Yet for most of night, they couldn’t break through the Dardenne Prairie, Mo. native. In the first, Luke McInnis got beat and didn’t get back far enough to make a play on a streaking Josh Wilkins. In response, Woll skated far out of the crease, daring Wilkins to beat him. He left no space between the two of them, which forced the PC forward to shoot it right into Woll’s chest.

On another, Woll was mauled at the top of the crease. Kasper Björkqvist got the initial shot off onto Woll’s pads. He made the quick save, but it made for a juicy rebound onto the stick of Bryan Lemos. The East Providence, R.I. product tried going back at the same place that Björkqvist did, but Woll had already reset to make the stop.

These plays are the types that the Eagles cherished from Thatcher Demko last year. They’re getting them only six games into Woll’s career. And the immense value of a freshman who plays like a veteran isn’t lost on team captain Chris Calnan.  

“As a freshman, coming in here, doing what he’s done so far, it’s crazy,” Calnan said. “You love playing in front of a kid like that.”

The Friars’ only goal came on the third minute of a back-to-back power play at the end of the first, and it’s hard to even say it was his fault. Brian Pinho used the man advantage to create space on Woll’s right, where Ron Greco likely should have been to knock it in.

Offensively, BC’s struggles came primarily on the power play. The team had five chances and failed on each, including a 5-on-3 in the third period. Providence’s defensive corps, led by Jake Walman and Josh Monk, prevented BC from getting momentum by stifling shots from getting to goaltender Hayden Hawkey.

But the Eagles would make it up to Woll for their offensive inefficiency in the early goings by preying on big mistakes by the Friars. Connor Moore and Mike Booth put heavy pressure on the PC defense at around the five-minute mark of the first. Their efforts knocked the puck loose off the boards by Providence’s bench. This misplay allowed Zach Walker to skate down the ice 1-on-1 with Monk. When Monk thought Walker would cut inside, he stayed the course, beating Hawkey on his left for his first career goal.

On the first shift of the second, Calnan stole the puck away from Walman, leading to a 4-on-1 for BC. As the Friars made a change, one of their defensemen couldn’t get onto the ice quickly enough. Because of that mistake, Calnan found Matthew Gaudreau all alone in between the circles to flick and fire the puck past Hawkey. Plays like that frustrated Providence head coach Nate Leaman throughout the night.

“We’re finding ways to beat ourselves,” Leaman said.

After attacking throughout the third, BC finally got the insurance it desperately needed with three minutes to go. Gaudreau won a faceoff, dishing it to Michael Kim at the right post. Kim found Greco at the top of the right circle, and the freshman made PC pay by launching it past Hawkey for his first career goal. By keeping the puck squarely in the Friars’ zone in the third, BC minimized any late threats. But without the strong play of Woll, the Eagles wouldn’t have been in that position at all.

“I thought we had a pretty sloppy first period, not great in the second, much better in the third,” Brown said. “It was nice that our goalie was so strong in the first two periods to keep us hanging around.”

It’s because of Woll, his goalie, that the Eagles got their first Hockey East victory of the year. Perhaps more importantly, however, Woll saved Brown from the worst injustice: an angry text from Jerry York.

Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Staff

October 28, 2016