LOWELL, Mass. — Boston University snapped a two-game losing streak and moved into a first-place tie by beating Massachusetts-Lowell 7-4 on Friday night. Michael Budd put the River Hawks (19-9-0, 14-8-0 HE) up 1-0 early in the first, but BU’s Wade Megan answered less than a minute later. Alex Chiasson (1g, 3a) and Yasin Cisse scored later in the first to give the Terriers (18-10-1, 14-7-1 HE) a 3-1 lead after one.
The onslaught continued in the second with goals from Chris Connolly (1g, 2a) and Adam Clendening before Lowell’s Malcolm Lyles managed to cut the lead to 5-2 in the final minute of the period. Riley Wetmore scored early in the third to make it 5-3, but Ross Gaudet (1g, 1a) answered less than two minutes later to restore the three-goal lead. Matt Ferreira scored Lowell’s fourth goal and Matt Nieto (1g, 2a) capped the night’s outpouring of goals.
With the win, BU is now tied with Boston College for first in the conference with 29 points. Lowell is now tied for third with Maine at 28 points. As of 10:25 p.m., BU was third in the PairWise, while UML was sixth. The Terriers and River Hawks meet again Saturday night at BU’s Agganis Arena to decide the season series.
What I saw
-The River Hawks controlled play for most of the first two periods, but the Terriers did a better job converting on their chances. There were more than a couple times when a Lowell player had an open passing or shooting lane in close and wound up fanning or misfiring. The Terriers, meanwhile, seemed unstoppable once they got around the net. Megan’s goal came on a rebound off a seemingly innocent point shot, while the goals by Chiasson and Cisse both came on nice passing plays that led to one-timers from right atop the crease. BU continued to finish in the second, as Connolly’s goal came when he buried a rebound from the doorstep and Clendening’s came on a nice backhand-forehand move on a breakaway.
-Doug Carr (17 saves) gave up a season-high six goals and got pulled for the first time all year, but it wouldn’t be accurate to say he played terrible. He’d probably like to get back the juicy rebound he gave up on BU’s first goal, and he definitely came out way too far on the sixth goal, but goals two through four all resulted from the Lowell defense leaving guys open for one-timers from the slot. Then the fifth goal came when the defense lost track of the penalty time and surrendered a breakaway to Clendening just as he left the box. Carr certainly could’ve been better Friday, but this loss falls mostly on Lowell’s usually stellar defense having a bad night.
-BU’s fourth line of Gaudet, Santana and Cisse combined for two goals and two assists, which is especially encouraging given BU’s lack of scoring depth for much of the season. The Terriers have been one of the top offensive teams in the league all year, but the vast majority of their scoring has come from the top two lines and offensive defensemen like Clendening and Garrett Noonan. If the Terriers can continue to get contributions like they got from the fourth line Friday night, they’ll be that much more dangerous when the postseason rolls around.
What I thought
-BU’s fifth goal was the biggest goal of the game, not just because it gave the Terriers a four-goal lead but also because of the sequence leading up to it. The River Hawks had a 5-on-3 for 1:20 and generated several good chances, but Kieran Millan (38 saves) was up to the challenge. BU managed to kill the two penalties and just as the second was expiring, Chiasson worked the puck up to Clendening and no one from Lowell dropped back to pick him up as he left the box. Had the River Hawks capitalized on the 5-on-3, they would’ve trailed by just two with plenty of hockey to go. Given the fight they showed in the third period, it wouldn’t have been hard to imagine them coming back and at least tying the game.
-Millan played better than the four goals allowed would indicate. BU coach Jack Parker mentioned after the game that the defense hung him out to dry on a few of the goals and that he didn’t deserve to have that many scored on him. Millan was particularly great in the second period, when he faced a staggering 10 shots from the grade-A area and let in just one.
-Cisse, who had been a healthy scratch in four of BU’s last five games, looked a little rusty on his first few shifts, but he made up for it with his goal and got better as the game went on. Not only was he on the receiving end of Ryan Santana’s nice setup, but he started the play by forcing a turnover with a hit along the boards. There was a lot of talk about Cisse’s decision to pull himself from a game three weeks ago against Maine after he hadn’t played in the first two periods, but Parker has had nothing but good things to say about Cisse since. Cisse finally made the most of being in the lineup and likely earned himself a spot in Saturday night’s lineup in the process.
What they said
-BU coach Jack Parker: “I thought it was too wide-open of a hockey game. I thought once we got up, we started to play a little sloppy. I thought they could’ve had four or five goals in the second period. Kieran Millan played great. The best thing about our game was the last 10 minutes, we had the puck the whole time. Once it was 6-4, they didn’t get much of a sniff after that. I thought we played pretty well there, and then we made it 7-4. The other good part about the game was that when we needed to, we got another goal.”
Too wide-open is right. Neither team likes playing that style, which made it all the more surprising that the game ended up that way. Don’t expect 11 more goals Saturday night. Parker is also right about BU’s ability to answer. The Terriers scored within two minutes of a Lowell goal twice, and within four minutes on another.
-Lowell coach Norm Bazin: “It was just we weren’t very good at net-front stick battles. That’s one of the areas that just wasn’t near good enough to have success.”
The River Hawks have arguably been the best team around their own net all season. They’re great at blocking shots, clearing away rebounds and taking away cross-crease passes. On Friday, though, they didn’t do any of that. Unless it happens again, you have to just chalk this up as a really bad game. It will certainly be interesting to see if they’re better in that area Saturday night.