LOWELL, Mass. — The Boston College Eagles held off a late UMass-Lowell River Hawk charge to post a 2-1 victory at the Tsongas Arena Friday evening.
Chuck Kobasew’s goal midway through the third period was the game-winner for the Eagles, who extended their winning streak against Lowell to 13 straight games. BC moves into sole possession of first place in the Hockey East, raising their record to 15-5-1 (8-2-1 HEA). Lowell falls to 10-9-2 (3-7-2 HE) as the loss also snapped a four-game winning streak.
BC coach Jerry York was delighted to escape Lowell with a win. “It was a hard-fought win for us on the road tonight,” York said. “Zero-zero tie after two periods and a J.D. Forrest shot on goal, and it ended up going five-hole.
“It was a difficult game for the beginning to the end, and Scott Clemmensen was exceptionally strong. He made saves on a six-on-four and was very sharp.”
Both teams had quality scoring opportunities early in the first period. Brian Gionta fed Ben Eaves in front of the Lowell net, but he was turned away by Jimi St. John. Seconds later, Lowell carried the play down the other end of the ice, where Clemmensen stoned Nick Carso’s wrist shot in the right slot on a point-blank opportunity.
Boston College had two power plays within the first 10 minutes of the game, managing just two shots on net after Josh Reed and Laurient Meunier were called for cross-checking penalties within three minutes of each other. BC kept up the pressure on St. John with a two-on-one opportunity by Mike Lephart and Ales Dolinar, but Lephart was unable to get the shot off.
Lowell had its chance late in the first period. Lowell defenseman Jerraime Domish’s shot was blocked in front of the net and Mark Concannon picked up the loose puck, but Clemmensen made the save in traffic to deny Lowell its best scoring chance of the period.
The first period ended with BC outshooting Lowell 13-7.
Ed McGrane had a breakaway chance five minutes into the second period set up by linemate Brad Rooney, but couldn’t get control of the puck to get a shot off. Under a minute later, BC had a breakout with Gionta feeding a streaking Tony Voce, who lost his footing and went crashing into St. John — but the puck stayed out of the net.
Lowell would have the first power play of the period after Brent Peterson was called for interference at 8:01. The best chance for Lowell on the man advantage came from defenseman Darryl Green, who made an end-to-end Bobby Orr-like rush, splitting the BC defense to get a backhand shot on Clemmensen, who made a kick save to his right side.
Lowell and BC then exchanged odd-man rushes, with both goalies making key saves to keep the game 0-0.
Lowell’s Steve Slonia was called for tripping a little over three minutes later, and BC stepped up the pressure on St. John. BC defenseman Bobby Allen’s wrist shot was gloved by St. John to kept the game scoreless. Meanwhile, Clemmensen was kept busy in his end by stopping a three-on-two break by Lowell.
Lowell ended the second period shorthanded when Rooney was called for a roughing penalty with 34 seconds left, a call which Lowell coach Tim Whitehead argued well after the period ended to deaf ears by the referees.
Trouble doubled up for the River Hawks, as Lowell went down two men early in the third period after Meunier was called for slashing, and BC finally took advantage of the power play. Brooks Orpik fed Forrest, who beat St. John five-hole at the 1:30 mark. It was Forrest’s fourth goal of the season, and also snapped a Lowell streak of 25 straight power-play kills.
Lowell didn’t roll over, though. After the faceoff, the ‘Hawks charged down the ice only to have a shot hit the cross bar.
UML would get a power-play opportunity minutes later after BC’s Peterson was sent to the penalty box for cross-checking at 3:14. Lowell had several chances, including a shot by Meunier just deflected over Clemmensen’s head into the corner, and a Gustafson slapshot from the point kicked away by Clemmensen.
Instead, however, BC took a 2-0 lead at 8:49 of the third period as Jeff Giuliano came from behind the Lowell net to fed Chuck Kobasew in front of St. John for the eventual game-winner. It was Kobasew’s 12th goal of his freshman season, with Rob Scuderi also getting an assist.
Lowell continued to have problems staying out of the penalty box in the third period as Reed was called for cross-checking at 11:20, but St. John kept the game close by robbing Krys Kolanos in front of the net with a spectacular glove save.
The game started to get chippy as Slonia and Voce were called from matching penalties for roughing a couple of minutes later amidst increasing chippiness.
In the last five minutes, Meunier and Gustafson had point-blank shots turned aside by Clemmensen, but at 16:43 Orpik went off the ice for slashing. Lowell kept up the pressure, but Clemmensen stopped Rooney with a blocker save and McGrane was denied on a backhand chance for the left slot.
Finally, Lowell used its timeout with 2:50 to play and it paid off. 45 seconds later after pulling St. John for the extra skater, Meunier took a pass in the right slot from Dan Fontas and buried the shot to cut the lead to 2-1. McGrane assisted on Meunier’s eighth goal of the season, along with Fontas.
Lowell continued to trap BC in its own end but Clemmensen was up to the task, especially after Kobasew got the gate for roughing with 1:38 to go in the game.
Lowell again pulled St. John but wasn’t able to get a scoring chance on Clemmensen as he and St. John both ended the game with 29 saves.
“It was a good, hard-fought hockey game but we came up one short in the end,” said UML coach Tim Whitehead. “The team was focused on playing our game and there were times that we didn’t execute well. We played the game that we wanted to play.
“Jimi is doing a great job in net and the team is hustling … It’s starting to pay off for us.”
Lowell and BC both return to action on Tuesday night on the road, Lowell at Brown for a nonconference game, and BC at Merrimack. Both games start at 7 p.m.