BOSTON — Going into this season, Boston University looked to have a very good team in front of some questionable goaltending.
To the surprise of many, the Terriers have proven to be just the opposite for much of the season, and Friday’s game was a prime example.
Despite 31 saves by Jason Tapp, the Terriers were badly outplayed in their own building by UMass-Lowell, as a goal and an assist each for Dan Fontas and Jerramie Domish keyed a 4-1 win for the River Hawks in front of 3,542 subdued fans at Walter Brown Arena.
Jimi St. John is now 5-1-0 in his last six games in net for UMass-Lowell, and the Canadian netminder’s save percentage is just a shade below 95 percent during that span.
Terrier coach Jack Parker minced no words following a game that was painful for Terrier fans to watch.
“I thought that was a pathetic display by the Boston University hockey team,” Parker said. “It was as bad an example of what I’ve seen out of a BU hockey team in 28 years: absolutely no leadership, no desire. I was absolutely amazed at it.”
Understandably, River Hawk coach Tim Whitehead had much more of a warm and fuzzy feeling.
“I was very pleased with our effort and our heart, and I thought every guy on the team contributed,” Whitehead said. “When that happens, you’re going to get a good feeling at the end of the game.”
The outcome was especially satisfying for Fontas.
“Every time we come here, it’s always a battle,” Fontas said. “They’ve got a great crowd, a great atmosphere, it’s just a great place to play hockey.
“It’s a little sweeter for me because my dad went to school here back in the late sixties,” Fontas added. “Every time I come here, I always bring a lot of emotion. Coming up with a win tonight, it’s just an unbelievable feeling.”
The River Hawks scored with the starting lineups still on the ice, just 34 seconds into the game. On their first rush into the Terrier zone, the Lowell forwards showed some skillful playmaking, as Kyle Kidney slipped the puck to senior Brad Rooney low in the right-wing faceoff circle. The centerman skated hard across the slot and slipped a low backhander past Tapp for the very early lead.
Fans anticipating a replay of the 1994-95 regular series games — which featured a 7-7 tie sandwiched between BU wins by the improbable scores of 9-7 and 9-6 — had their expectations derailed as no more goals were scored until well into the second period.
The Terriers saw several power-play slapshots thwarted by more traffic than Storrow Drive on a holiday weekend. Repeatedly, shots pinballed off skates or bounced off bodies in front of the net.
Lowell also had some chances, especially with a four-on-three advantage midway through the period. Led by the skillful passing of bona fide NHL prospect Ron Hainsey and French winger Yorick Treille on the points, the River Hawks dominated territorially for long stretches but could do no additional damage on the scoreboard.
The second period has been the Terriers’ albatross all season, and Friday was no exception. UMass-Lowell outshot BU 17-7 for the period, and only some good goaltending by Tapp and a few unlucky bounces for the visitors kept it close.
At 13:36, River Hawk sophomore Geoff Schomogyi stole the puck from Mike Pandolfo deep in the BU end and crossed it to Dan Fontas, all alone in front of the net. The Acton native took his time, shifting the puck to his backhand and making sure he had Tapp beaten before taking the shot to make it 2-0.
Although BU has more goals than their opponents this season in the first and third periods, the Terriers have now been outscored in the second frame by the startling margin of 28-13.
Parker appeared to be irate with the referee at 18:59 when Treille brutally boarded Colin Sheen to the boards behind the Terrier net. Though Sheen left a trail of blood as he skated back to the bench — with a fair amount of additional scarlet added to the white portion of his jersey — no five-minute major was called.
After not being challenged much through the first 48 minutes, St. John came up big seven minutes into the third period. Corazzini stole the puck and raced in on a breakaway, only to have St. John get a pad on a forehander ticketed for the net.
“I was expecting that guy to break loose all night,” St. John said. “He showed it a little bit that he was going to go shot, and I just tried to stay with him and made the save, got a piece of it.”
However, a too-many-men penalty paved the way for a Terrier power-play goal just a minute later. Brian Collins picked up the puck behind the River Hawk net, brought it out, and backhanded it through a jumble of legs and sticks. St. John appeared to be furious over the goal being allowed to stand.
The goal looked to give BU a badly-needed, but short-lived, momentum boost. Just 90 seconds later, freshman Jerramie Domish’s perfectly-placed slapshot from the right point handcuffed Tapp, bursting the Terriers’ balloon.
To cap off a rotten night for BU, with 1:31 left Laurent Meunier potted an empty-netter, just seven seconds after Tapp left the net.
It was Meunier’s team-leading ninth goal of the season.
Parker’s only praise was for his opponents, his goaltender, and freshman Mark Mullen, whom he described as “the only guy willing to hold on to the puck and make a pass, not get rattled and not be afraid.” Parker blamed his team’s poor performance on a lack of leadership from his upperclassmen.
“When the juniors and seniors play as badly as they did tonight, you can’t ask much of the freshmen and sophomores,” Parker said.
BU (7-12-2, 5-7-2 Hockey East) tries to bounce back in nonconference action against Niagara on Sunday night, while UMass-Lowell (11-10-2, 4-7-2 Hockey East) plays at UMass-Amherst on Thursday before hosting Providence next Saturday evening.