BOSTON, Mass. — Not one of the 2,972 in attendance at Boston University’s Walter Brown Arena had any doubt that for the Beanpot champion Terriers, there would be no letdown.
The Terriers played a physical style of hockey from the opening faceoff and received gritty, hard-working goals from its top three lines to hand the No. 12 UMass-Lowell River Hawks a 5-1 defeat and move within one point of New Hampshire, a 5-4 overtime loser to Northeastern Friday, for first place in Hockey East.
“I was really happy with the first period,” said BU coach Jack Parker, whose Terriers reached the 20-win plateau on Friday for the 19th time in his 29-year career. “Last time we played Lowell it wasn’t that physical of a game, but I think games [at Walter Brown] tend to be more physical and I thought we made so good center-ice hits.”
Terrier junior John Sabo notched his second career multiple-goal game, scoring two goals 16 seconds apart in the third period to turn a 2-1 lead into a 4-1 domination. Similar to Parker, Sabo knew that not having a letdown after the Beanpot championship victory on Monday would be key.
“I think this year’s team, the attitude is really good,” said Sabo who registered his first multigoal game just 11 days ago in the Beanpot semifinal. “Everyone wants to get out there and show everyone else what they can do and the attitude of the team is the reason that there hasn’t been any letdown [after the Beanpot].”
BU accomplished something that no other team has this year, scoring five goals on Hockey East’s top goaltender Cam McCormick (35 saves). The accomplishment came with a simple mentality: driving to the net, as three of BU’s five goals came from players just outside the crease.
“If you look at three of BU’s goals, they just basically ran right through the crease, took our goalie and the puck and put it right in the net,” said Lowell head coach Blaise MacDonald. “That’s a good way to play hockey. It’s a determined style.”
In net for BU, sophomore netminder Sean Fields (29 saves) had what Parker called an “impressive” game. But MacDonald felt differently.
“I thought Fields was very shaky,” said MacDonald, a former assistant under Parker at BU. “I think we can get at him. I thought he looked very uncertain and there were pucks behind him. He doesn’t look very solid to me. That’s an area we need to get at.”
The game featured a total of 155 minutes in penalties, 141 of which came in the third period. A brawl at 12:30 accounted for most of them, though referee John Gravellese did not assess any game disqualifications, keeping all players eligible on Saturday night when these two teams rematch.
It also spoiled the return of Lowell’s Laurent Meunier, who has been out of the lineup since January 4. Meunier missed five games with a separated shoulder and then five more joining teammates Yorick Treille and Baptiste Amar on the French Olympic team. Treille and Amar both remained out of the lineup on Friday night, having played four games in five days in Salt Lake City. All three are possible to return on Saturday.
Boston University took early territorial control dominating the physical play in the first period. Though unable to tally on the scoreboard, the Terriers held a 10-6 advantage in shots and put much of the play in the Lowell zone.
Early in the second, though, the Terriers cashed in. Continuing to press, Terrier captain Mike Pandolfo used his size to gain position in front of McCormick and push home a pass from Mark Mullen at 5:39 to give BU a 1-0 lead.
The BU goal seemed to spark Lowell’s attack and less than a minute later the River Hawks nearly tied the game. After Mark Fontas put a low shot on Fields, Darryl Green missed on open net with Fields down, firing the puck over the crossbar and out of play.
Late in the period, BU extended its lead. Brian Collins was stopped on a breakaway by McCormick but a big rebound sat in the slot as the Lowell defense scrambled. Terrier defenseman Bryan Miller had time to scramble in a send home the loose puck to give BU a 2-0 lead.
As after BU’s first goal, the Lowell offense buzzed around the BU net. But unlike the first goal, this time Lowell answered. After Tom Rouleau was stopped breaking down the right wing, Kevin Kotyluk notched his second goal of the year, pushing the rebound over Fields at 16:09 to pull Lowell within a goal.
But the Terriers owned the third period, as they scored three unanswered tallies to put the game away.
Sabo scored his first of the two at 6:54 crashing the net on a rush with Brian McConnell and pushing the puck past McCormick before the net was dislodged to give BU a 3-1 lead. And 16 seconds later, Miller sprang him for a breakaway that he fired over McCormick to extend the lead to 4-1.
A lack of discipline, though, killed Lowell’s chance for any comeback. After the aforementioned brawl, Meunier was whistled for a five-minute major for slashing with 5:17 to play.
The Terriers capitalized on the power play with Kenny Magowan finishing a pass from David Klema at 15:56 to account for the 5-1 final.
Lowell drops to fifth place in Hockey East, having been passed by Northeastern. UML remains three points ahead of Providence, a loser on Friday at home to Maine.
BU and Lowell will face off again on Saturday at 7:00 at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell.