LOWELL, Mass. – Parker Milner stopped all 38 shots he faced to lead Boston College to a thrilling 1-0 victory over Massachusetts-Lowell on Friday. The River Hawks (1-2-1, 0-1-1 Hockey East) controlled play for the vast majority of the game and nearly doubled up BC (3-1-0, 3-1-0 HE) in shots, but they couldn’t solve Milner, who earned his second consecutive shutout. Steven Whitney scored the game’s lone goal 3:17 into the third when he took a pass from Johnny Gaudreau in the high slot and beat Doug Carr (19 saves) with a quick snap shot.
What I saw
-The River Hawks dominated most of this game, but just couldn’t get one past Milner. They outshot BC 12-4 in the first (at one point it was 9-1) and registered eight grade-A chances to BC’s three. Some of the River Hawks’ best looks came on their first power play, just over a minute into the game, but they put a few shots wide and Milner stopped the rest. Even 5-on-5, Lowell was able to pin the Eagles in their own zone for extended stretches. The second and third periods were more of the same. The River Hawks continued to win the lion’s share of foot races and puck battles. Although shots were closer in the second (15-11 Lowell), grade-A chances were 13-4. In the third, it was 11-5 in shots and 7-3 in quality chances. Getting shots but not goals has been a problem all season for the River Hawks — they’ve registered at least 38 shots in all four of their games, but they only have five goals to show for it.
-Milner put on a show and played arguably the best game of his career. The River Hawks like to shoot from just about anywhere, but these weren’t 38 shots from the outside. An astounding 22 of those shots came from below the faceoff dots. Not only did Milner stop all of them, but he gave up hardly any juicy rebounds. Some skeptics wondered whether Milner could replicate how he played down the stretch last season now that he no longer has the likes of Brian Dumoulin and Tommy Cross playing in front of him. Well if Friday night was any indication, Milner should be just fine. BC’s defense didn’t play very well at all, but Milner bailed them out and stole two points.
-The River Hawks nearly tied the game in the final five seconds. Josh Holmstrom took a pass out of the corner and put a quick shot on net that Milner got a pad on, but the rebound headed toward a wide-open Joseph Pendenza. Unfortunately for Lowell, the puck skipped over Pendenza’s stick and slid to the boards as time expired.
What I thought
-The Eagles didn’t show much offensively, but their lone goal gave us a glimpse of what they can do when they’re clicking. Clean breakout, speed through the neutral zone, quick pass from Pat Mullane to Gaudreau on the wing, then find the trailer Whitney for the shot. That top line now has seven goals and nine assists on the season, but BC needs other guys to start stepping up offensively. The second line does have three goals, but the third and fourth lines have yet to register a single point.
-Both teams seemed to be gripping the stick too tight in the first. I already mentioned Lowell shooting wide on a couple chances, but BC was doing the same, albeit on fewer chances. The Eagles had the best chance of the opening period when Kevin Hayes broke in alone, only to shoot wide. Another golden chance came when Mullane pulled up inside the blue line and found Gaudreau breaking for the far post. Mullane made a beautiful tape-to-tape pass, but Gaudreau’s redirect fluttered harmlessly wide. Lowell’s top trio of Scott Wilson, Riley Wetmore and Derek Arnold has yet to score a goal this year, and Norm Bazin said after the game that he thinks those guys just need to relax and not press so much.
-The entire River Hawks team did a good job neutralizing BC’s speed, but I was particularly impressed with their freshmen. They didn’t look overwhelmed at all. Defensemen Dmitry Sinitsyn and Greg Amlong both had solid games in their own zone, as did junior transfer Joe Houk, another defenseman in his first D-I season. Up front, Ryan McGrath and A.J. White looked like veterans with the number of chances they were able to create. The 5-foot-7 McGrath was especially impressive — he consistently outworked bigger players and drew two penalties using his speed.
What they said
-BC coach Jerry York: “I thought it was a great college hockey game. It was a good measuring stick for both of us. Two teams that are expected to be good, two teams that are good. It was just a real good, kind of a playoff type game, a 1-0 game in October. Carr made some excellent saves. I think Parker was exactly the same. So it was a goaltending duel, and we won it with an unbelievably executed play.”
-BC forward Steven Whitney: “The coaches warned us that they were going to throw everything on net. Parker knew that and he obviously adapted very well to that. He was ready, and it showed out there with the shutout obviously. We’re gonna need that from him, a solid effort every night. He’s a great goalie and that’s what we expect out of him.”
-Lowell coach Norm Bazin: “We’re gonna have to find a way to manufacture offense, but overall we’ve had some chances. We’re playing some very good hockey teams. That’s the No. 1 team in the country coming to our rink and you almost outshoot them two to one. There’s a lot of positives to take from the game also.”
-Lowell forward Josh Holmstrom on whether it’s frustrating that the team’s getting shots but not goals: “A little bit. But we know that we’re getting chances. I think we’d be more worried if we weren’t getting any chances at all. Milner made some good saves tonight. Down the road those are gonna go in for us.”
What else you should know
-These two teams meet again Sunday at 4 p.m. at BC’s Conte Forum.