BOSTON – Connor Hellebuyck earned his third shutout and improved to 9-0-0 in his last nine starts, as he stopped all 25 shots he faced in Massachusetts-Lowell’s 3-0 win over Boston University on Friday. Lowell and BU are now tied for fifth in Hockey East with 24 points apiece, putting them three points out of first. As of 10:45 p.m., the River Hawks were 13th in the Pairwise, while the Terriers had dropped to 18th.
Scott Wilson gave Lowell a 1-0 lead 5:35 into the second when he pulled up in the right circle and fired a slap shot into the top corner. Joseph Pendenza upped the lead to 2-0 two minutes later when he took a shot that pinballed off two BU defenders and past Matt O’Connor (24 saves). Riley Wetmore closed out the scoring with a power-play goal late in the third. With the loss, the Terriers dropped to 0-4-1 in their last five home games, marking their first five-game home winless streak since they started playing on campus in 1971.
What I saw
-A rather uneventful first period. Neither team was able to find any sort of rhythm, resulting in very few sustained possessions. The Terriers put seven shots on goal, while the River Hawks managed just four despite having the period’s only two power plays. Neither team registered a single shot on goal from the grade-A area, although Lowell’s Terrence Wallin did hit the post on a chance from the high slot.
-The River Hawks played much better in the second and controlled the majority of the period. They dominated possession and held BU to just one shot on goal through the first 10 minutes. During that time, they also managed to build up a 2-0 lead. The Terriers finally generated some chances in the final six minutes, most notably on a late power play. Hellebuyck and his defense didn’t break, though, and the River Hawks managed to carry the 2-0 lead into the third.
What I thought
-Over the last month, the River Hawks have shown that they can be a very good third-period team. Four weekends ago, they showed that they come from behind when they overcame two multi-goal third-period deficits against Northeastern. Now the last two weekends, they’ve shown that they can close out games. After each of the past two games, coach Norm Bazin has described his team’s play in the third as “mature.” Basically, they’ve been making smart, simple plays and avoiding mistakes that could potentially let their opponent back into the game. While their play with the lead has been a little conservative, they haven’t hesitated to attack when they’ve gotten the chance. They’ve outshot their opponent in the third period of the past two games, and on Friday they even added to their lead.
-Sometimes when I listen to Jack Parker’s press conferences, I think, “Hmm, that’s not really how I saw the game.” Friday was one of those nights. Parker said he thought his team played well, but that they just ran into a team that played better and couldn’t generate enough offense. Lowell was certainly the better team, and BU did struggle on offense, but I didn’t think the Terriers played well at all. They were the slightly better team in the first and they mounted a couple good attacks late in the second, but other than that, I thought they looked pretty flat. They managed just one shot on goal in the first 10 minutes of the second period, and just two in the first nine minutes of the third. To me, there just didn’t seem to be nearly enough urgency from BU.
What they said
-Lowell coach Norm Bazin: “Our depth was good tonight. I liked the second and third periods better than the first. I thought obviously we got better as the game went along. We started to get a little puck pressure. The first period, I wasn’t very excited about, and I let the guys know that. I thought they got a little better as the game went along. … I think that was a mature third period on our part. I liked our discipline in the third period. I thought the guys made team plays first.”
-BU coach Jack Parker: “Overall, I thought it was a really well-played game. I thought both teams played well. I think Lowell really executed. Lowell played a great road game. We didn’t generate enough offense the second half of the game. We got some pretty good opportunities for a while, but they really shut us down, mostly on the initial rush. They had four guys back all the time once they got the lead, and they really did a great job clogging center ice and keeping us from getting anything going on the initial rush. … I know it was a good game for us as far as effort was concerned and, for the most part, as far as brains was concerned. We just didn’t execute at times.”
What else you should know
-Lowell goes for the season sweep of BU Saturday night at the Tsongas Center.