BOSTON — The top-seeded Boston College Eagles are still alive in their quest for the Hockey East championship after Friday’s 5-1 victory over Boston College — but it certainly wasn’t easy.
Led by a Hockey East tournament-record 23 saves in the second period by goaltender Scott Clemmensen, and the first career hat trick for Hockey East Rookie of the Year Chuck Kobasew, the Eagles will see another day — to face the winner of Friday’s second game, between Maine and Providence.
“We sat back on our heels and watched Lowell play very, very well in the second period,” said BC head coach Jerry York, whose Eagles were outshot 23-8 in the stanza. “Scott Clemmensen kept us in the game in the second and we were able to score a few quick goals in the third.”
Score quickly the Eagles did, scoring three times in 4:30 early in the third to blow open a 2-1 game.
“I think the biggest goal [for us] was Ben [Eaves'] goal at the beginning of the third period,” said BC’s offensive hero, Kobasew. “That goal really got us rolling in the third.”
Ironically for Clemmensen, after facing and saving 23 shots in the middle period, he saw only two shots in the entire third, tying a Hockey East final four record for fewest saves in a period.
“I wish that the Zamboni had been busted and we had to keep going,” said Lowell head coach Tim Whitehead, who finished the year with a 19-16-3 record, the best in his five years at Lowell. “[Clemmensen], though, was excellent in the second period. When you get outshot like [BC did] that’s what you need, and that’s what [BC] got.
“And in the third period, [BC] struck immediately and struck again, and before we could get back on our feet, they had the game put away.”
A major factor on the night was the special teams of Boston College. After allowing a power-play goal on the River Hawks’ first attempt, the Eagles shut down the River Hawks, killing the next five power plays.
“We took, I think, six penalties in the second period,” said York. “We watched them take the play to us [because of that]. That hasn’t happened too often to us in the last few years.”
On the flip side, the Eagles scored three power-play goals themselves, including two of the three crucial tallies early in the third period.
“[BC] has some talented players and you can’t give them that many opportunities [on the power play],” said Whitehead. BC finished the night three-for-eight on the power play.
The opening period featured mostly tight-checking defense, with quality scoring chances hard to find. But at 11:32, Lowell broke through on the power play.
The River Hawks mustered their first quality shot of the game when Laurent Meunier fed a quick pass from the right corner to an uncovered Tom Rouleau in the slot. Rouleau deflected the pass over the left shoulder of Clemmensen and just under the crossbar to give the River Hawks a 1-0 lead.
BC, though, answered almost immediately. Lowell’s Geoff Schomogyi was bothered from behind by a hook from BC’s Krys Kolanos, forcing Schomogyi to cough the puck right onto the stick of an attacking Chuck Kobasew. The rookie’s shot beat St. John cleanly over the right shoulder to even the game at 13:10.
The Eagles had a golden opportunity to take its first lead at 17:05, when Kobasew broke two-on-one with Jeff Giuliano. Drawing the defender, Giuliano fed a pass to Kobasew, who seemed to have a wide-open net. St. John denied the shot, though, with a miraculous sliding pad save to keep the game even through one.
Lowell dominated the opening minutes of the second, outshooting the Eagles 5-0 early. But thanks to a penalty to Lowell’s Jerramie Domish at 3:11, the Eagles recovered to take their first lead. Again it was Kobasew, this time banging a rebound of Rob Scuderi’s shot past St. John to give BC its first lead at 2-1.
The BC goal, though, didn’t keep Lowell from pressuring offensively. Back-to-back saves by Clemmensen on Steve Slonina and Jeff Boulanger at 7:30 were precursors to a doorstep save on Meunier a minute later. At the midway point of the second, Lowell held a 16-4 advantage in shots on goal for the period, and a 20-14 lead for the game.
Lowell’s chances continued, and Clemmensen continued to stop the Hawks. At 14:45, the BC tender got a little lucky as he lost track of the rebound of a Domish shot, but was fortunate to fall at an angle that helped him stop the next two shots on the rebound.
The final shot total for the second period was 23-8 in favor of Lowell as seven of BC’s nine shots came on two power plays. But still, BC outscored Lowell, 1-0, in the frame and took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission.
Not scoring with the offensive chances in the second proved to be the fatal blow for Lowell. Eaves found open skating room on the right side and snapped a hard shot under the right arm of St. John 29 seconds into the third, giving BC a 3-1 lead.
With that, the wheels feel off the apple cart for Lowell.
A parade of Lowell players to the penalty box resulted in two power play goals for the Eagles. At 3:17, Kobasew completed his hat trick banging home a doorstep pass from Kolanos. And 1:44 later, Hobey baker finalist Brian Gionta proved he couldn”t be held off the score board, scoring off a Bobby Allen feed at the right post.
The BC defense reversed its fortunes from the second, not allowing a shot until the 14:38 mark. By that point, it was too late, and the Eagles rode cruise control to victory.
“You always feel confident going into the third period,” said York. “We’ve been a good third-period team all year, but the way Lowell had played, that was a big challenge to us in the third period.”