Coming off a devastating shutout against Notre Dame on New Year’s Eve, Boston College men’s hockey hit the road again to round out its winter break with a two-game series against Arizona State. Hoping to shake off their non-conference woes, the Eagles touched down in Tempe, Ariz. with the aim of returning to their winning ways out of Hockey East. Central to that would be keeping ASU’s Johnny Walker at bay. Walker, who leads the nation in goals by a healthy margin with 18, proved no match for BC goaltender Joseph Woll, who held him scoreless all game. Instead, it was the late combined effort of two Sun Devils seniors and the Eagles’ slow offensive spiral that landed them at the losing end of a heartbreaking 5-2 decision on Friday night.
BC (6-8-2, 6-1-2 Hockey East) built a 2-1 lead through two periods and maintained the slim one-goal margin all the way until near the midway point of the penultimate period. There, 40 seconds after ASU (15-7-1) failed to take advantage of a power play, forward Anthony Croston kept up the offensive pressure and harnessed a sneaky wraparound goal to equalize. Croston, who curled around the left side and tucked the puck inside the far post past Woll, saw his goal confirmed after an official review, necessary due to the fact that the net had come off its moorings.
The game suddenly tied with overtime looming, both teams began to scramble for a quick goal in the final 12 minutes. Things didn’t go as planned for the Eagles, though, as it was was ASU who found its way to the back of the net three times in the last five minutes of regulation. First, after a miscommunication between Casey Fitzgerald and Woll, the Sun Devils’ Brett Gruber one-timed a shot that was saved—but it deflected to P.J. Marrocco who buried the rebound for the eventual game-winner with 1:38 on the clock.
BC head coach Jerry York quickly pulled Woll in favor of the extra attacker, but Croston sealed the Eagles fate when he punched in an empty net goal to double up the score 4-2 with 57 seconds remaining. Croston scooped up the puck at neutral ice and won a footrace with BC defenseman Michael Kim, with both following the puck into the net as they had no room to stop. Then, to the Eagles’ embarrassment and dismay, ASU’s Jarrod Gourley casually flicked one in near his own net, with a desperate Luke McInnis unable to catch up to the puck in time to clear it out. Gourley’s goal, a deft finish with 29 seconds on the clock, sealed the deal on BC’s seventh non-conference loss of the season in seven tries.
As expected, the Eagles saw very few clean scoring opportunities throughout the game. While BC possesses one of the top forward lines—anchored by David Cotton—in the nation, the Sun Devils left very little room for creativity in the early going, and the game quickly became a battle of the goaltenders. The opening frame was characterized by fruitless back-and-forth action with the Eagles quickly seizing momentum and limiting sustained puck possession in the ASU offensive zone. They failed to capitalize, however, with multiple close calls and stellar saves by Arizona State’s Joey Daccord. Inside the 15-minute mark, both teams remained scoreless as Jack McBain made an aggressive charge up-ice before having his long shot blocked in front by the skate of his own teammate, Christopher Brown. BC quickly regained possession after a messy turnover by Walker, where McBain took his chances again as the puck rolled on net, just steered aside by Daccord.
ASU strengthened their offensive play going into the second half of the period with aggressive attempts to retain possession, feeding off the momentum of Daccord’s save and taking the puck into their own offensive zone. Failing to capitalize on one of their first clean shots on net, the puck rolled just wide of the crease to be recovered by Woll. Walker continued to pepper the cage, following Daccord’s denial of Logan Hutsko’s back-handed opportunity. The Sun Devils were hardly able to trickle into the crease, despite their increasing volume of shots on net, as the clock wound down for a scoreless first-period draw. It was an up-tempo, uninterrupted opening stanza as the teams combined for 28 shots—16 of which belonged to the hosts—and zero penalties.
The game experienced a drastic shift after intermission, however, as the Sun Devils hit the ice with clear intent to set the pace of the game. Yet the Sun Devils hit the post twice in the opening minutes—Dominic Garcia and Walker both hit pucks off the left frame—and the Eagles would bend but not break. Just moments after the second clang from ASU, BC’s J.D. Dudek scooped up the puck and went coast to coast, firing a wrist shot high glove side past Daccord for his second goal of the season.
With the one-score advantage, the Eagles began to stiffen their defense before an ASU penalty sent them on their first power play of the game. David Cotton delivered a shot from the blue line that went just wide of the right post, which was quickly followed by a high shot from Hutsko. The man advantage quickly backfired for BC, though, as the Sun Devils’ Dylan Hollman forced a turnover in the neutral zone and used an Eagles’ defenseman as a screen to bury a shorthanded equalizer.
The Eagles had a quick response in Aapeli Räsänen, though, who scored his first goal of the season less than three minutes later to give BC another lead. Graham McPhee set up Räsänen for the finish, as the sophomore forward sliced into the left circle and slotted one home past Daccord’s blocker side from beyond the faceoff dot.
ASU would pepper the goal to no avail in the next 12 minutes of the second, with Woll even using a flashy glove save to rob Walker and keep the game tied. Despite taking a 14-6 edge on shots in the second period, the Eagles were simply unable to come up with any insurance, and it’d eventually cost them in the fateful four-goal third period.
Despite leading for the large majority of the game, BC suffered from a fatal combination of bad luck and an inability to make consistent quality plays. For their second meeting with the Sun Devils, the Eagles will need to continue to boast a stiff defense while also capitalizing on every scoring opportunity. The key for York’s team will rest in limiting the Sun Devils’ puck possession and minimizing careless errors. The Eagles will have to shake off their rocky start to the season—especially in non-conference play—and establish an immediate presence in order to vie for redemption and set a positive tone going into the second semester.
Featured Image by Jess Rivillis / Heights Staff