CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Boston College’s start to the season has been uncharacteristically uneasy, but its wins have in games that matter most at this early time of year.
A 4-5-1 overall record is obviously not what head coach Jerry York would like. With a young team still finding its own though, a 4-1-0 record in Hockey East play is an impressive mark, achieved with Tuesday night’s 2-1 win over UConn at Conte Forum.
Inching to victory is a newly-adopted theme for the Eagles, who scored two unanswered goals in the second half of the second period to earn the win. Junior defenseman Michael Kim provided the winner on a slapper from the right point at the 16:34 mark, propelling BC into the league’s top slot by its lonesome.
“A game that we have to get comfortable in with our team this year is a low-scoring, very tight hockey game,” said York, whose team has won three of its four games by a single goal and all four by no more than a two-goal margin. “We’ve had three in a row now just like this, and I think as we get deeper into our season, we’ll even gain more of a comfort level on the bench.”
The Eagles entered this week’s play with the worst offense in Hockey East, having scored just 17 goals through their first nine games, but York will surely take another win such as this.
All three goals were scored in the second period. Senior Jeff Wight’s power-play tally put the Huskies ahead at 5:01 as he pumped home junior Karl El-Mir’s feed from the right corner past BC sophomore goaltender Ryan Edquist for his third goal of the season. Sophomore Julius Mattila knotted the score on a shorthanded odd-man rush at 10:10 before the second winning goal of Kim’s career.
Eagles Down a Pair
The Eagles were missing two key pieces to their overall puzzle in the contest. Junior defenseman Casey Fitzgerald sat out with a bone bruise on his ankle, while sophomore goaltender Joseph Woll was suspended after receiving a disqualification penalty for kicking at the end of Saturday’s game at Merrimack.
Their absences leave holes in the lineup, no doubt, but York thrust Michigan graduate transfer Kevin Lohan into the lineup for the second straight game on the back end, and Edquist made 27 saves in his second start and third appearance of the season.
“We’ve got an awful lot of good hockey players in the room, but what we do lack is experience,” said York, whose roster does not include one true senior. “We’re gaining experience as we go through, and tonight was a perfect example of a tight game down at the end.
“Tonight, we benefitted from a shorthanded goal, a power-play goal, and some outstanding goaltending from Ryan Edquist.”
Woll is undoubtedly one of the league’s top goaltenders, but Edquist’s performance proved that the Eagles have depth at a critical position between the pipes.
Edquist, who also made 42 saves in an Oct. 20 loss at St. Cloud State, came up big when it mattered most, making 11 of his stops in the final frame. He stopped senior Spencer Naas on a breakaway right off the jump in the final stanza, and then junior Maxim Letunov – a proven goal scorer with 25 for his career, including two this season – in the game’s waning minutes.
“When Letunov had the puck with 20 seconds left, it was like a magician. Really tough to stop,” York said. “One of his last stick handles hit Kim’s skate, otherwise he beat four of our guys and walked in on the goaltender. And certainly, the turning point of the game was a big, big save he made on the breakaway.”
Lohan just provides a different look that intrigues York, especially given the changes to his team’s personnel this season because a high-flying offense doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
“He came in and did a really nice job for us, especially on the penalty kill,” York said. “He’s something we don’t have; a big, rangy defenseman who is a little older, which helps us.”
For the second consecutive game, special teams did in the Huskies, who broke a five-game goalless drought on the power play with Wight’s opening tally. UConn finished 1-for-6 in man-up situations.
The difference that head coach Mike Cavanaugh noticed as compared to this past weekend’s finale with Vermont was how his team handled facing a third-period deficit. This game was a positive in that regard.
“I thought it was a fast-paced, pretty quick game,” Cavanaugh said after his team fell to 3-7-1 on the season. “And, very similar to Saturday when Vermont scored a shorthanded goal and a power-play goal to take the lead on us. I thought we crumbled in the third period against them, but tonight that wasn’t the case. I thought our best period of the night was the third period. I thought we were all over them, two breakaways all alone.”
Cavanaugh spent 18 seasons on York’s bench before taking the UConn job, which he has held for five years. York alluded to their special relationship – and the tight battles that have ensued in recent seasons – after the game.
“Mike Cavanaugh is a real close friend of mine and was my associate (head coach) for a lot of years, but he’s doing too good a job,” York laughed. “Every time we play them, we get pushed to the very limits.”
York’s team has won the last three head-to-head meetings, two of which were 2-1 decisions. Five of their seven all-time contests have been one-goal games or draws.