Chestnut Hill, Mass - It was a game that had all the meaning in the world, as Boston College entered the night in a three-way tie atop the Hockey East standings and UMass-Lowell entered the night two points back in fifth place. The first period would go the way of Lowell as the River Hawks would score a power-play goal at ten minutes, 41 seconds of the period off a slap-shot by Scott Wilson just above the left faceoff circle. BC would respond two minutes later as Travis Jeke took a weak shot towards the net that found Bill Arnold all alone in front and Arnold beat Hellebuyck over the shoulder. But 26 seconds later, Josh Holmstrom would give the River Hawks the lead back on a shot BC goaltender Parker Milner probably should have had. Lowell would take that 2-1 lead into the first intermission, which hold through the second intermission.
Bill Arnold would add his second of the night at 8:40 of the third period to tie the game at two going into the late stages of the game. Christian Folin would score a crucial goal with 4:47 remaining in the game to give the River Hawks a late lead that they wouldn’t relenquish, as the UMass-Lowell jumped into a four-way tie for first place in Hockey East with BC, UNH and Providence College. UMass-Lowell with the win improved to 19-9-2 on the season, 13-8-2 in Hockey East, while BC fell to 18-9-3, 13-8-2. BC drops to sixth in the Pairwise and UML moves up to ninth.
What I Saw
- Both teams played really well defensively. Despite the three goals scored in the first period, both Lowell and Boston College allowed very few opportunities towards their respective goalies. The teams combined for just seven grade-A’s in the first period and the only ones that were really dangerous were the ones that were put behind the goalies. The second period was much of the same, but maybe just more of a tentative feeling to it. In the third period Lowell held Boston College to just one grade-A opportunity, the BC goal, while Lowell had just four grade-A’s themselves.
- UMass-Lowell’s power-play looked fantastic in the first two opportunities. On the first one, Scott Wilson scored to give Lowell the 1-0 lead 11 minutes in and on the second one Lowell used pretty and solid passes to get space, but Parker Milner made some spectacular saves to keep Lowell from taking a two goal lead. When looking back at the game, this kill was very a important kill for the Eagles in the scheme of the game.
What I thought
- For a big game, Johnny Gaudreau was rather quiet on the night. UML did a great job stifling his line to the point where it seemed as though he wasn’t even realized. That is quite the accomplishment, defensively. He hit a crossbar late in the second period, but other than that he was hardly a factor in the game, which is quite odd for him especially in a matchup that could eventually decide the Hockey East regular season title. His absense was the key in the game for Boston College.
- When tested Lowell freshman goaltender, Connor Hellebuyck looked really solid. It was my first time seeing the rookie from Commerce, Michigan and from what I can see he is a solid goaltender in this league. His positioning was as good as it gets and for a freshman his poise is untouched by other freshman goaltenders, save Jon Gillies at Providence.
- Lowell’s responses to BC goals was nothing less than fantastic. On the first BC goal, UML responded with their own goal 23 seconds later. On the second BC goal that tied the game, Lowell got a great response shift and were able to swing the momentum back to their side. It seemed as though Lowell handled responses better than the masters of that category, the Eagles.
What They Said
Boston College coach Jerry York said,
“When we get to this stage of the season, games take on so much more of a playoff type atmosphere. Tonight was a playoff type hockey game; not a lot of goals, each puck was contested for very hard and it was really a puck possession game.”
UMass-Lowell coach Norm Bazin said,
“This was a barometer game for us, as we were curious to see how much we had improved since the first two times we have seen this team. I thought we fared fairly well. As the game went along, we dealt with their transition and were able to keep the puck away from the weak side of the ice, which proved to be very beneficial.”
“Avoiding the flurries of a great team, like BC, especially on the road is very important. The real key in the game for us was how these guys responded after being scored on. it is big key because it shifts the momentum right back in your favor. That was a tell tale sign to me that we were ready to play our game.”
UMass-Lowell forward Joseph Pendenza said,
“We have given up leads before, but we just have to come back at them. The next shift is the most important shift of the game and tonight we got the momentum right back from them on the next shift.”
What Else You Should Know
Boston College will play Providence College in another huge series. The Friars are one of four teams tied for first, which also includes Boston College. The games will be crucial in not only deciding the regular season champion but also home-ice advantage in the first round. Interesting to note Providence coach Nate Leaman and goaltender Jon Gillies were in attendance on this night.
UMass-Lowell will play a home and home series with cross-river rival Merrimack College. Merrimack sits one point back of the River Hawks and the series could go a long way in deciding the home-ice attendees come Hockey East tournament time.
Kevin Hayes returned to the BC lineup after being suspended indefinitely by coach Jerry York. He played the the first period and was injured late in the second period. Jerry York in his press conference said that Hayes went down with a quad injury. He would seemingly be questionable at best for this weekend’s crucial series.
The two goals for Bill Arnold was his first two goal output since a 5-2 win over Boston University on December 1st. It was only his second multi-goal game of the season.