LOWELL, Mass. — In the most surprising result of the Hockey East season thus far, UMass-Lowell blew the doors off Boston University to pick up a 7-1 victory, its first conference win of the season. BU (3-3-1, 2-2-1 HE) opened the scoring just 16 seconds into the game when Corey Trivino tipped in a shot from the point, but it was all downhill from there for the Terriers. The River Hawks (3-3-0, 1-2-0 HE) scored seven unanswered goals the rest of the way and outshot BU by an eye-popping 44-16 margin on the night. Six River Hawks recorded multi-point games, led by Scott Wilson’s goal and two assists, Matt Ferreira’s three assists and Derek Arnold’s two goals.
What I saw
-After giving up a goal 16 seconds into the game, the River Hawks utterly dominated the remainder of the first period. They controlled the puck and the pace of play pretty much all period and rarely let BU get set up in the offensive zone, even when the Terriers were on the power play. The tilted sheet of ice was reflected on the scoreboard, as Lowell outshot BU 15-3 in the opening frame and took a 2-1 lead into the locker room.
-The varsity vs. squirts feel continued in the second, as the River Hawks tallied four more goals and outshot BU 15-8 in the period. The Terriers repeatedly lost 1-on-1 battles and turned pucks over under Lowell’s relentless pressure. In the offensive zone, the Terriers remained allergic to the crease as they finished the first two periods with just three grade-A chances, compared to 14 for Lowell.
-Just like every other aspect of the game, the River Hawks dominated special-teams play. They went 2-for-10 on the power play and held the Terriers to just one shot (one!) on their six man advantages. Lowell did a good job moving the puck on the power play and was particularly effective down low by simply out-muscling the BU defense for position. When the Terriers were on the power play, they failed to get much of anything going as the River Hawks consistently took away passing and shooting lanes. It certainly helped that the Terriers did a lot of standing around.
What I thought
-It’s hard to comprehend how the Terriers, with all the talent on their roster, could possibly perform this poorly. This is a team that lost to Providence and Holy Cross and then fell behind by two goals and three goals, respectively, in their pair of games against UMass last weekend. With all the talk from BU coaches and players about how they can’t underestimate anyone and need to be ready for every game, you would think at some point they’d actually walk the walk. Nope. Another team they should be better than and another disappointing performance, this one the most embarrassing yet.
-Kieran Millan, who was pulled after giving up six goals in two periods, had one of the worst games of his career. Two of Lowell’s goals came on juicy rebounds, one came from a seemingly impossible angle, and another came when he lost sight of a pass and left an entire side of the net wide open. Millan got virtually no support from anyone in front of him, and the game likely would’ve been a blowout regardless of how well he played, but he certainly didn’t help matters much.
-As pathetic as BU was, nothing should be taken away from the River Hawks. Just like last Friday against BC (a game they ended up losing 4-2), the River Hawks totally controlled play against a more talented team. They remind this reporter a lot of recent Merrimack teams in the sense that their mindset appears to be, “We might not be the most talented team in the league, but we’re going to outwork everyone we play and be tough to play against every night.”
What they said
“The team in white worked like heck. They beat us to every loose puck. We made little dink plays at the blue line, turned the puck over and it went the other way. I thought it was a total breakdown from everyone on our team — from a discipline point of view taking stupid penalties and mouthing off to referees, from a stick your nose in there and compete point of view. Everybody. We just looked like a deer in headlights.” -BU coach Jack Parker on his team’s play
“I have no idea. I think they think they’re better than they are. Then once a team plays with them, they can’t crank it up. They don’t wanna play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. They wanna play like it’s a pond game. They wanna play on skill, make a couple pretty plays. … I would say it’s a mindset thing. Too many guys thinking, ‘We’re real good.’ Individually, they think they’re real good. As a team, we’re not anywhere near where we need to be.” -Parker when asked why these disappointing efforts keep happening
What they didn’t say
The right thing in the dressing room, apparently. Whatever message Parker, his assistants and his captains are trying to convey to the team, it obviously isn’t getting through. You can maybe excuse the loss at Providence — it was the second game of the season and Providence appears to be better than anyone thought — but there’s no excuse for the loss to Holy Cross at home and there’s no excuse for this loss, at least not by this score. The River Hawks are a much-improved team, no doubt, but they’re not six goals better than the Terriers.
Something needs to change with BU’s mindset, and it needs to change fast. Parker has already benched players this season — including star forward Alex Chiasson — but he continues to sound like a broken record when trying to explain his team’s underwhelming performances. This isn’t something new for the Terriers, either. They’re going on three years now of not being ready for games, of not working hard enough night-in, night-out. There have been increasing whispers in the BU hockey community questioning whether or not Parker can still effectively motivate his players, including in a column in the school’s student paper. A game like this certainly won’t do anything to quiet them.
What else you should know
-This was the most lopsided loss for the Terriers since Game 1 of the 1999 Hockey East quarterfinals, when they lost to Providence 8-2.
-The River Hawks have now outshot their opponent in all six games this season. They’ve registered at least 35 shots in each of those efforts.
-BU forward Yasin Cisse played for the first time since last year’s season-opener. He redshirted last season after re-injuring the same ankle that cost him the second half of his 2009-10 USHL season. He missed the first six games of this season while recovering from both the ankle injury and a concussion suffered in preseason practice. Although Cisse was cleared for contact a couple weeks ago, Parker said all along that the coaches were going to be cautious and make sure Cisse was caught up to speed before getting him into a game. Cisse finished the game with one shot on goal, one penalty and a minus-2 rating.
-Matt Nieto’s eight-game goal-scoring streak came to an end. It was the longest such streak by a Terrier since Chris Drury scored in nine straight games in 1996.