LOWELL, Mass. — After opening the season with an 0-4 record in Hockey East play, UMass-Lowell made a 180-degree turn with a convincing 4-2 win over No. 11 Boston University. Facing the prospect of being left behind in the league standings, the River Hawks instead left a punchless Terrier squad in their dust.
“I wouldn’t call it desperate, but we were pretty close to that stage,” said defenseman Ron Hainsey, the game’s number-one star after scoring once and assisting on two others. “We needed to get at least one out of two this weekend, without a doubt. We got the first one here against a high-ranked team so obviously that’s huge.”
While the win was just what the doctor ordered for UMass-Lowell (3-4-0, 1-4-0 HEA), the loss dropped the Terriers to a 2-3-1 overall record and 1-2-1 in league games.
“The lack of intensity at times was appalling,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “We’d dump it in and then we wouldn’t go get it. We’d overskate the puck and wouldn’t stop and go back. In general, it was a pretty poor effort by us.
“One of the reasons why was because [Lowell] played us so hard and they just kept coming at us. They did a really nice job. They played much harder than we did.
“We couldn’t generate any offense other than on power plays. … That’s the thing that has got me most concerned. Our five-on-five goal scoring has evaporated.”
Indeed, the Terriers played more like a team with a 2-3-1 record than one with a national ranking. They were outshot in every period and 26-17 for the game.
BU fell behind, 2-0, on power-play goals arising from a five-minute major and game misconduct assessed to Dan Cavanaugh for hitting from behind. However, the Terriers tied it on two man-advantage tallies of their own.
After that point, the River Hawks played smarter and played harder to earn the win.
Parker, for his part, considered Lowell’s 0-4 league record going into the game deceptive.
“They’ve played hard against teams,” he said. “One of the reasons why they were 0-4 is their goalie couldn’t stop a balloon the first few games. But [Jimi] St. John played well tonight.”
And while Parker considered Lowell underrated, Hainsey felt that perhaps the opposite was true of Boston University.
“I don’t think they’re as strong as everybody thinks they are,” he said. “They’re still ranked 10th [actually 11th]. They’re still a good team, but I don’t think they’re as good — now that they’ve lost a few games — as they should be.”
Candid, but based on the evidence of this one game, probably true.
The first period opened slowly with BU in a passive forecheck and Lowell cycling in the corners. Near the halfway point the two teams had combined for a total of three shots. Lowell’s Geoff Schomogyi had the best opportunity, hitting the far post from the right side.
Not a single penalty had been called, but referee Jeff Bunyon then whistled a big one, assessing BU center Cavanaugh a five-minute major and game misconduct for a hit from behind.
For four minutes of the advantage it looked as though UMass-Lowell would fritter it away, failing to get even a single shot on goal. “We were a little bit of a mess,” said Hainsey, “but we talked and said that we just wanted to get pucks to the net. Especially with [Brad] Rooney’s line with [Jeff] Boulanger and [Kyle] Kidney because they were just drilling through the net.”
Sure enough, Rooney swung from behind the cage and forced a nice save by BU freshman goaltender Sean Fields.
Off the resulting faceoff, Hainsey shot from the point and Kidney backhanded in the rebound. Just 33 seconds later, Hainsey again capitalized on the major penalty, taking a D-to-D pass from Chris Gustafson and one-timing it through a screen for a 2-0 lead.
Amazingly enough, it was the fourth time in their six games that the Terriers had spotted their opponent a two-goal lead in the first period. In the three preceding instances they went on to lose to Rensselaer, tie Providence and lose to Merrimack.
Like the RPI and PC games, BU rallied to get within one before the period was over. Using the penalty box that had prompted the deficit, the Terriers went on the power play at 16:54 and that advantage soon became a 1:21 five-on-three. With all penalties and the period almost over, Pat Aufiero scored off a shot from the point through a Nick Gillis screen.
The second period opened with a burst of action. Lowell’s French Connection of Yorick Treille and Laurent Meunier combined to create an excellent chance from 10 feet out, but Meunier couldn’t get good wood on it.
BU’s Carl Corazzini then countered by sneaking behind the defense and taking off on a breakaway that forced a strong save by St. John. It took another penalty, however, for BU to even the score. On the power play, Mike Pandolfo chipped in the rebound of a Chris Dyment shot from the point to tie the game, 2-2, at 5:25.
The River Hawks took back the lead for good at 12:25 on the game’s first even-strength goal. Capping a flurry of three excellent chances, Hainsey cut down from the left point and signaled to Dan Fontas to put the puck on net. Fontas shot from high along the right boards and although Hainsey didn’t get a piece of it, the shot still deflected in off a BU skate.
Although he didn’t get the goal, Hainsey still earned an assist, making it five straight River Hawk goals in which he has figured in on the scoring.
“That was a good one because we were really hustling, really working hard along the wall and we just threw it to the net,” said UML coach Tim Whitehead. “It was just a good hard-working goal. It the kind of thing you have to do in a tight game like that. Keep it simple and get it to the net and try to outwork them.”
In the closing minutes of the period, Ed McGrane failed to put the River Hawks ahead on a can’t-put-the-puck-in-the-ocean opportunity that nightmares are made of. With what seemed like a square mile of open net to shoot at when the puck caromed to him in front, McGrane backhanded it off the left post.
At 3:52 of the third, however, freshman Darryl Green succeeded where McGrane fell short. With BU just back at full strength after killing a penalty, the Terrier defensive-zone coverage allowed Green to slide down from the point and rip a shot off from inside the faceoff circle. Green’s attempt hit pay dirt for his first collegiate goal and a 4-2 lead.
Lowell had chances to put a nail in the coffin when Green hit the post and then Dyment took a bad penalty. The River Hawks accomplished little more than killing time on the man advantage, but nearly hammered the nail in anyway when a Hainsey shot at the close of the penalty got through Fields’ pads and trickled toward the goal line before being swatted away.
BU’s last, best hope came when Jack Baker then took off on a breakaway, but St. John pokechecked the puck away. The Terriers went on the power play with three minutes left and pulled Fields with 1:57 remaining, but couldn’t get within one.
Both teams return to action against traditional rivals on Sunday. BU visits Northeastern while Lowell travels to Merrimack.