CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Enough is enough.
That might have been the theme in the UMass-Lowell locker room prior to meeting Boston College in the Hockey East opener for both schools. BC had defeated the River Hawks in 15 straight games dating back to Jan. 3, 1997, outscoring them 74-35.
Lowell broke the streak in convincing fashion, however, taking a 6-2 lead in the second period en route to a 7-2 win. Shorthanded goals just 12 seconds apart by Ed McGrane and Steve Slonina were the backbreakers, making it 5-2, and a power-play goal soon after by Josh Allison sealed BC’s fate.
The River Hawks also benefited from getting four goals by defensemen, which followed a game in which they received three from their backline. Jerramie Domish and Darryl Green each scored one in the first period; Josh Allison scored in the second; Domish added the final strike early in the third.
For the Eagles, it was not a strong performance by goaltender Tim Kelleher, but arguably their team defense was the greatest offender.
“Certainly Lowell is a better hockey team than we are at this point,” said BC coach Jerry York. “Our goal is to keep getting better and better and I think our young guys will do that.”
After the game, UML coach Blaise MacDonald downplayed the focus his team had on breaking the 0-for-15 streak.
“If you were in the locker room, our guys weren’t charged up at all,” said MacDonald. “We could have been playing Billerica High, [but] we were ready to play.”
MacDonald also found some fault with his team’s play, despite the lopsided win over the defending national champions.
“I wouldn’t say I’m going to go home and do cartwheels,” he said. “We let the momentum swing back to them at home by [most importantly] losing the penalty game. We failed to be thorough….
“We played a relatively good game. We clearly took advantage of our opportunities.”
Lowell grabbed a 3-1 first period lead, despite taking several bad penalties, most notably a hit from behind by freshman Baptiste Amar. The five-minute major and game misconduct came only seconds after Amar had returned to the ice from an ill-advised hitting after the whistle penalty.
Amar’s infractions, however, were only the last two of a succession called in the opening period that led to a four-on-three advantage first for Lowell and then soon after for BC.
The Eagles capitalized on their opportunity as J.D. Forrest worked the puck down from the right point, shot, and after Jimi St. John stopped Tony Voce on the first rebound, Dave Spina put the puck into the open left side.
Spina’s power-play goal evened the score at 1-1, three minutes after Lowell had taken the initial lead when Laurent Meunier’s shot from the left circle handcuffed Tim Kelleher. The netminder got a piece of the puck only to have it hop in the air and over his shoulder.
At 10:10, Domish atoned for his two penalties that led to BC’s power-play goal, breaking up the left wing before cutting in and putting the puck around Kelleher and into the net.
Little more than a minute later, Green gave the River Hawks a 3-1 lead on a shot along the ice from the high slot. Although Kelleher appeared to have given up an embarrassingly soft goal, his defensemen had unwittingly provided perfect screens for Green.
With over three minutes remaining on Amar’s major penalty as the second period opened, BC still had a great chance to climb back into the game. Tony Voce hit the post at the 10-second mark and at 1:12 the Eagles appeared to have gotten back to within one.
Catching Lowell on a bad line change, freshman Ned Havern took a home run pass from Kelleher and broke in on St. John. The Lowell netminder made the initial stop, but was bowled over by Havern after which A.J. Walker put the puck into the open net. The goal was not only nullified, but Havern was also assessed an interference penalty, negating virtually all of the remaining advantage on the major penalty.
Voce, however, still made it 3-2 at 2:33, taking a long pass at the blue line and beating St. John five-hole.
Five minutes later, the game turned on a Lowell penalty to co-captain Chris Gustafson. With a golden opportunity to tie the game, BC instead surrendered the two shorthanded goals just 12 seconds apart.
Penalty killers McGrane and Slonina collaborated on the strikes. Slonina outraced a BC defender for the puck deep in the right corner and fed a trailing McGrane for the first one at 8:09. McGrane then repaid the favor in the ensuing seconds, winning the battle for the puck along the left boards and passing to a streaking Slonina, who roofed it for a 5-2 lead.
“The first one I took off hard down to the corner and got to it first,” said Slonina. “I heard [McGrane] calling out front and I just gave it to him and he put it in. It was a great momentum swing that really picked us up.
“The next faceoff, he just forechecked the right defenseman, got it and he gave it to me.”
Grinning Slonina added, “I practice that shot a lot. Sometimes I blow it over the net, but I hit it tonight.”
Two and a half minutes later, Allison ripped a shot from the point that Tom Rouleau appeared to have deflected, but was ruled not to have touched. Regardless of the ruling, Rouleau’s undisturbed presence in front of the net was symptomatic of BC’s suspect defensive play.
With the game all but over at 6-2 heading into the third, Domish applied the final nail in the coffin at the 24-second mark. His low slapshot bounced once or twice along the ice and past a clearly frustrated Kelleher.
Lowell suffered a scare late in the third period when R.J. Tolan took a puck to the throat. After he experienced swelling in throat and larynx, he was taken to a local hospital, but only for precautionary observation. He was not considered to be in any danger.
BC played without top forward Ben Eaves, who was sidelined with a rib injury. He is expected to be out 7-10 days.
Both teams return to action on Saturday. UMass-Lowell hosts Connecticut at 2 p.m., while BC travels cross-town to Northeastern.