Joseph Woll and the Boston College Eagles were swept in Arizona this weekend, dropping a pair of games 5-2 and 2-0 to their out-of-conference opponents out in the desert.
On one hand, it was an outcome that absolutely floored the college hockey community. Even with the huge strides that ASU has taken in their first few years as an NCAA program – and even with the atrocious out-of-conference record that Boston College has put up over the last few years – few expected the Sun Devils to pull off that kind of performance against one of the most established teams in college sports.
Woll got the nod in both games, giving a bit of a cringey reaction to anyone who just looked at the final scores when considering how well he did.
His actual on-ice performance, though, was a reminder of just how ineffective it is to look at win stats alone when evaluating goaltenders at the lower levels of the game. And for Toronto fans, who have seen all too well what happens when they lose too much goaltending depth too quickly this year, it was actually a perfect series to catch a glimpse of just how good Woll can be for the franchise if he signs there in the future.
It’s not often that you see a goaltender post a Quality Start – meaning they either allow two or fewer goals with a .887 save percentage or better or post above a league-average save percentage – in a game their team loses 5-2.
Woll’s first night against ASU saw him make 29 stops, though, putting up his best work early in the game when ASU threw 16 messy shots on net in the first 20 minutes alone. He allowed just three of the five goals scored by BC’s opponents, watching his team allow two empty-netters in the final minute alone to end up saddled with a miserable loss on his record.
His second night was even tougher, with ASU taking just three shots in the first frame to get him off his game before hammering him with 11 shots in each of the subsequent two periods, including a series of high-danger chances that left him scrambling to recover for second and third shot attempts that were almost completely uninhibited.
Watching the second of the two games was a study in strong goaltending, although the more consistent-looking of the two goaltenders was the one who lost the game. Joey Daccord recorded the shutout for ASU when all was said and done, but most of the shots against him were one-and-done; he team allowed plenty of first chances but cleared the zone quickly whenever he overcommitted to the stop or fell out of position. His impressive athleticism helped them preserve the shutout on a handful of occasions, but at times he looked more flashy than consistent.
Woll, on the other hand, bailed his team out of what could have been a much worse score.
From a depth standpoint, Woll was exactly what you’d want from a tall goaltender, staying within the blue paint and recovering his depth quickly whenever he had to come out for a stop. He didn’t spend as much time on the ice as Daccord did across the rink, staying on his feet a little longer and utilizing his posts with good angles to stop ASU’s quick approaches and easily-allowed rebound chances.
He arguably struggled on the first of ASU’s goals, failing to move laterally instead of coming out and around to stop Brett Gruber’s opening goal, but even that was a nitpick of his technique. It was a near-unstoppable chance left wide open by his blue line, and his awareness of the situation was a promising sign for a developing young goaltender:
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) January 6, 2019
He had some quality saves, but couldn’t bail them out on a chippy power play in the middle of the third – and for yet another game, he put up a consistent performance and went home with a loss.
It isn’t quite known yet when Woll will make the jump to the pros, but he gives the Leafs another option, alongside Ian Scott, to provide competition and depth in the organization’s goalie ranks.