Top Story, Men's Hockey

Eagles Open Floodgates in Second Period Against Lowell

If Boston College men’s hockey didn’t have such a dearth of defensemen, Jerry York could’ve considered moving Connor Moore to forward permanently.

It’s likely that the Cumming, Ga. native caught the bug from fellow defensemen Casey Fitzgerald and Michael Kim. The two blue line captains love sneaking forward on goal-scoring opportunities. This season, that’s spread to Moore, who has shown his willingness to attack. He even once played forward earlier in the season.

“I’ve always been a little offensive in my game,” Moore said. “I’m always trying to incorporate it into my game … be the last guy back in the offensive zone, create chances on odd-man rushes.”

He had arguably the most impressive blast of his young career in a 5-2 defeat of Massachusetts Lowell on Saturday night, a victory which will help BC (13-10-3, 13-6-0 Hockey East) maintain its lead over Northeastern atop the Hockey East standings.

Early in the second period, the No. 16 Eagles swarmed Lowell (15-12-0, 10-8-0) goaltender Tyler Wall—team captain Tyler Mueller got caught for a slash at the end of the first, giving BC an immediate one-man advantage. Graham McPhee and Julius Mattila added early pressure by slapping at a couple of loose pucks that disoriented Wall in the crease. With River Hawk defenders cleared out of the way, Mattila kicked it out to Moore at the top of the right circle. Moore wound up and fired a slapshot that snuck through a tiny opening above Wall’s right shoulder. More notably, he sent Wall’s water bottle flying.

“I saw it off the back of the net, and I think Graham came over and told me it broke, and I didn’t think it broke, but it felt good when he told me that,” Moore said.

Moore’s offensive explosion—water bottle included—shouldn’t come as a surprise to Eagles fans. But the offensive explosion that followed? Well, it was Gaudreau-Hayes-Arnold-esque and completely uncharacteristic of the offensively starved iteration of BC in 2017-18. The five-goal output was just the third time BC reached that mark this season. And, unlike that legendary offensive team, the Eagles diversified their scoring: Five skaters hit the twine against two different Lowell goaltenders. Only a late game misconduct penalty by Jacob Tortora allowed the River Hawks to make the game closer than it ever really was.

“I thought Lowell was a touch better than we were last night in their barn, and tonight we were a touch better than we were,” York said. “I thought tonight we reversed the table and moved pucks and did some really good things from a coach’s perspective for our team.”

After a back-and-forth first period, the Eagles took their first lead with under two minutes to go. Thanks to a sloppy tripping penalty by Ryan Dmowski, BC caught a late power play. Logan Hutsko, who gave hints of what BC would be able to do against the River Hawk defense in the game’s first few minutes, slid a pretty cross-ice pass through a few defenders parked in front of Wall right to David Cotton. The Parker, Texas native bounced it off his right foot and onto his stick, going top shelf for the power-play goal.   

Six minutes after Moore’s goal, the Eagles returned to even strength. Graham McPhee swung through two Lowell defenders on a feed from Christopher Brown to push the puck hard at Wall’s chest. The Lowell goaltender couldn’t reel it in—his careless play turned an easy save into an easier goal, right through his five-hole. Just 16 seconds later, the Eagles turned in a near mirror image of that play. Casey Fitzgerald found J.D. Dudek streaking down toward Wall seconds after the opening faceoff. His pass weaved through Dudek, who split the defense, and then split Wall. The goal caused Lowell head coach Norm Bazin to go to his backup, Christoffer Hernberg.

“I don’t fault Tyler whatsoever, I took him out as a mercy,” Bazin said. “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.”

But it made little difference. Hernberg gave up equally potent rebound chances on which BC could deliver. Four minutes after his entrance, Tortora did just that. Christopher Grando heaved up a desperation shot from the right side, which Hernberg perfectly—for BC, that is—pushed into the slot. Tortora arrived in the nick of time to capitalize.  

The freshman, however, put the lead in jeopardy. He boarded Charlie Levesque, picking up a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Combined with a Luke McInnis hooking penalty, the River Hawks reeled in two goals—one during the extended one-man advantage, one just as it ended—to cut the lead back to 5-2.

Don’t let BC’s offensive performance or the late goals, however, distract from what it did defensively overall. Through two periods, Joseph Woll looked bound for his first shutout of the season. And especially during the 5-on-3, Kim and Fitzgerald came up with huge blocks, both with their feet and their sticks.

“Joe was very good tonight for us, I thought,” York said. “He came into the locker room, head back, shoulders tall, very confident. That helps our team win when your leader does that coming off a tough loss Friday night.”

With these kinds of offensive nights few and far between for BC, it’ll need every ounce of those defensive efforts. Even if Moore might one day do better as a forward.

“I thought Connor was outstanding tonight,” York said of his Georgian defenseman. “His power-play goal kind of set the stage, a one-timer that might’ve broke the water bottle … Offense from a guy from the Southeastern Conference.”

Featured Image by Tiger Tao / Heights Staff

January 27, 2018

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