BUFFALO, N.Y. — The progress has been steady for Team USA goaltender Joseph Woll on the international stage.
Two years ago, he was part of the Under-18 World Championship where he played three times, winning twice as Team USA took the bronze.
Last year, he was a member of the World Junior Championship team that won gold in Montreal and Toronto. He played twice in his role as backup keeper, winning both.
Now, for the 2018 World Junior Championship held on home ice in Buffalo, N.Y., the St. Louis native emerged as the starter to open the tournament.
After shutting out Denmark 9-0 on Tuesday, he and his teammates faced a hard lesson in a shocking 3-2 loss at the hands of Slovakia Thursday night.
But like any top goalie, short-term memories are a must.
“I think it’s good to acknowledge it and make sure we come in every game focused and ready to play a tough team,” Woll said. “I think with the short memory, you have to forget about it. It’s a short tournament and there’s a lot of stuff that goes along the way. We’re focused on winning a gold medal and [Friday] is another step towards that.”
After playing two years with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, first for the Under-17 Team and then the Under-18 Team, Woll has been the guy in net for Boston College in his first year and a half.
He has a .909 save percentage and a 2.72 GAA. In his freshman year, he was named to the Hockey East All Rookie team and honorable mention all star, leading Boston College to the Hockey East championship game before falling to UMass Lowell.
Whether Woll stays as the No. 1 goalie as the tournament progresses does not concern him.
“We’re just taking it day by day,” he said. “If I’m called to play, I’ll be ready. If someone else is, I’ll be ready. We’re a team and we’re focused on winning a gold medal. Whatever happens, we’ll be ready.”
One reason he is not concerned is because he is very familiar with the current backup, Jake Oettinger. The two played together on those NTDP teams.
However, when it came to college, the two took an interesting divergent path. They chose opposite sides in one of college hockey’s most bitter rivalries. While Woll went to BC, Oettinger went to Boston University.
What Woll, a Toronto Maple Leafs third-round pick, did at BC, Oettinger, a first-round draft pick of the Dallas Stars, has duplicated at BU — became the go to guy in net, named to Hockey East’s All Rookie team and raked up similarly impressive stats.
So what’s it like to have a former teammate become a bitter rival, then back on the same team again?
“It’s good,” Woll said. “Otter’s been one of my really close friends for a long time now. It’s been a luxury to play together for awhile and now we’re playing against each other, so it’s a pretty fun dynamic. We’re out there pushing each other every day to get better.”
Team USA coach Bob Motzko hasn’t decided which way he will go for their next match up, a key contest Friday against Canada being held outside at New Era Field — the stadium the NFL’s Buffalo Bills normally play in.
Despite the Slovakia loss, Motzko is still confident in Woll.
“He made some saves on the penalty kill to keep us in it,” Woll said. “It’s a 1-1 game and we turn one over on the second one. He had no chance on that one. And we made two or three mistakes on the third one. But he gave us a chance tonight. Woll was not the issue for this loss.”
During the loss, Woll kicked a puck away from an opponent’s stick before a shot could be taken. He stopped a point blank opportunity for Slovakia. He was also able to read any redirects.
Whoever gets to start against Canada and the remainder of the tournament won’t bother the two friends, rivals, and teammates. And they won’t let an emotional loss hang over them.
Woll said: “It’s an emotional game. It’s an emotional tournament. It’s a good lesson for us and we have to come back and get some rest tonight and be ready.”