Top Story, Men's Hockey

Mattila, Kim Lift Men’s Hockey Over UConn

Fans of Boston College men’s hockey might not make it to the end of the season, as a pattern of panic-inducing, back-and-forth close games has emerged—and head coach Jerry York isn’t expecting anything different moving forward.

The Eagles (4-5-1, 4-1-0 Hockey East) won their third straight on Tuesday night, downing the University of Connecticut, 2-1. All four of BC’s wins on the season have been decided by two goals or less, though, with the last three in a row coming down to the wire.

“We have to get comfortable with low-scoring, very tight hockey games,” York said. “As we get deeper into the season, we’ll gain more comfort on the bench because you’re tight. It’s 2-1, 1-1. We’ve had a lot of these games.”

UConn (3-7-1, 2-4-1) squandered a one-goal lead in the second period, but hung with the Eagles until the final buzzer. The Huskies nearly tied it twice in the third with wide-open looks on net and frantically created chances with their goalie pulled in the final two minutes, but came up empty.

Playing without starting goaltender Joe Woll and star defenseman Casey Fitzgerald, the Eagles couldn’t lean on the usual suspects. Julius Mattila and Michael Kim hadn’t yet scored on the season but both tallied in the second period, while Ryan Edquist had 27 saves in an impressive performance off the bench.

Edquist turned away a pair of big chances from Spencer Naas—first swallowing up a shoulder-level wrister in the first, then denying a wide-open breakaway. UConn only cracked the sophomore goaltender once, with a power-play goal five minutes into the second. Huskies forward Jeff Wight skated into the slot and buried a pass from Karl El-Mir, who situated himself behind the net.

The Eagles, who held a significant shot advantage throughout the first 40 minutes, rallied. Five minutes after Wight’s opener, BC tallied its first shorthanded goal of the season. A costly turnover in their own defensive third for the Huskies set up Mattila for an easy finish, taking one touch after a feed from Logan Hutsko and slotting it in the five hole.

Knotted up at one apiece, the Eagles continued to press. Just over six minutes later, after a hooking penalty on UConn’s Benjamin Freeman, BC took the lead for good. J.D. Dudek and Graham McPhee set up Kim for a blueline slapshot, and it found its way into the right-side netting before Huskies keeper Adam Huska could really react.

Huska did everything he could to keep his team in the game, turning away 34 shots in a variety of impressive manners. BC came out firing in the opening period, but he managed to hold them scoreless. A solid kick save on a David Cotton shot that appeared bound for the bottom of the corner ended the first period.

Defensively, the Eagles missed the steady presence of Fitzgerald, but Kevin Lohan stepped up to fill the shoes. Playing in just his second game of the year, the graduate transfer from the University of Michigan drew high praise from York.

“He came in and did a really nice job, especially on the penalty kill. He’s a big, rangy defenseman who’s older,” York said. With Fitzgerald nursing a bone bruise on his ankle after blocking a shot, Lohan will likely have another leading role down the road.

The dramatic ending, which featured Kim’s skate knocking away a last-ditch rush from UConn, isn’t something fans are used to seeing. With an offense currently ranked last in the Hockey East, though, it’s time to get used to narrow victories for a bit—regardless of how stressful they may be.

Featured Image by Sanket Bhagat / Heights Staff

November 7, 2017