LOWELL, Mass. — Massachusetts-Lowell beat Boston University 3-1 on Saturday to complete its first season sweep of the Terriers since the 2000-01 season. With the win, the River Hawks pulled within two points of first place and moved up to 11th in the Pairwise. BU dropped to 23rd in the Pairwise and now sits two points out of a home ice spot.
Lowell’s Scott Wilson opened the scoring for the second night in a row, once again firing a slap shot into the top corner from about 40 feet out. Chad Ruhwedel made it 2-0 midway through the second when he finished off a 4-on-1 power-play rush. BU’s Evan Rodrigues cut the lead in half with a shorthanded goal 8:25 into the third, but then Joseph Pendenza provided an insurance marker with 7:55 to go.
What I saw
-Lowell held BU to 16 shots on goal, including just three in the third. All in all, this has to be considered the River Hawks’ best defensive weekend of the season — they also held BU to 25 shots in a shutout Friday night. Last year, their defense struggled a bit down the stretch after looking great all season. This year, they’re playing their best defense down the stretch, which could bode well for their chances of making a deeper run in the conference tournament. Perhaps even more impressive than Lowell’s 5-on-5 defense was its penalty kill, which allowed BU just one shot on goal in five man-up opportunities.
-Joseph Pendenza had a goal and an assist and was the best player on the ice. He had something of a breakout year last season with 10 goals and 29 points, but he’s been even better this year. He leads the River Hawks with 28 points (12g, 16a) and ranks fifth in the league with 23 points in 22 conference games. He’s been playing his best hockey in the second half, as he has 17 points in Lowell’s last 13 games.
What I thought
-The Terriers just looked hopeless on offense all weekend. Jack Parker attributed most of those struggles to Lowell’s defense, but I think there is also a lot to be concerned about on the BU side. Offensive depth hasn’t been a strength for the Terriers all season, but for most of the year they’ve at least had two lines they could rely on. This weekend, those top two lines were invisible for long stretches of both games. Wade Megan had a few quality chances and Evan Rodrigues made some good things happen (including scoring the lone goal of the weekend), but in general, neither line was anywhere near as dangerous as a top line should be. Sahir Gill was great on the penalty kill and deserves credit for that, but his season-long offensive struggles continued.
-I said in my power rankings last week that even after taking three of four points at Maine, I needed to see more from the Terriers before I’d be convinced that they could still be a contender for anything. Needless to say, this weekend swayed me even further in the opposite direction. Regardless of how good Lowell’s defense was, scoring one goal in a weekend while fighting for your NCAA life is unacceptable. Their lack of urgency to start periods was particularly alarming. On Friday, they registered one shot in the first 10 minutes of the second and two in the first nine minutes of the third. On Saturday, they had one through the first eight minutes of the third. Parker said his team gave a good effort both nights, but if that qualifies as a good effort, then BU will be an even easier out in the playoffs than I thought.
What they said
-Lowell coach Norm Bazin: “I liked the way the guys competed this weekend. I thought we had some urgency to us. It’s a big, big weekend for us, getting four points at this point in the year. … I think our top guys came to play this weekend. Whether you’re talking about Wilson or Wetmore or Pendenza or McGrath, Arnold — I think they all came to play this weekend. When you have different guys contributing, you’ve got a good chance of winning.”
-BU coach Jack Parker: “I thought we competed from start to finish tonight. I thought we played much harder than we did last night in many ways. I have to give Lowell credit where credit is due. They shut us down again. They played great killing our penalties. They just kept working and working. … We’re squeezing the sticks pretty tight right now. We had chances to score some goals. We had some real good opportunities, but pucks are jumping over our sticks, pucks are bouncing. It has nothing to do with effort, though. We’re just trying a little too hard.”