BOSTON — Boston University struggled through 54 sluggish minutes before slugging UMass-Lowell with three goals — including two in 38 seconds and a third with 47.6 seconds left on the clock — to beat the River Hawks 3-2 in front of 2,252 at Walter Brown Arena.
Only a stellar 36-save performance by Terrier goalie Sean Fields kept this one close until the BU offense sputtered to life. With the Terriers trailing 1-0, John Sabo jumpstarted the offense with 5:53 — scoring on a wraparound on sheer effort.
Freddy Meyer’s slapshot gave the Terriers a 2-1 lead just 38 ticks later, but the determined River Hawks knotted the game with 2:13 left on a great goal by Mark Concannon. This set the stage for another great individual effort, as Frantisek Skladany held the puck for ages before feeding Bryan Miller at the point. Kenny Magowan redirected Miller’s slapshot in for the game-winner.
“It’s definitely a heartbreaker,” River Hawk captain Ed McGrane said. “We came out and played hard for 60 minutes — just little mistakes here and there.”
For Terrier coach Jack Parker, it was a heartening victory, albeit a slow one to materialize.
“Well, I like getting the W; I like giving up only two goals, but a lot of that had to with how our goaltender played,” Parker said. “I thought we were very, very frustrated as the game wore on, and they were doing a great job with us — winning the game down low at both ends.
“But as the game progressed, at least we kept competing, and we got over our frustration,” said Parker. “At the end of the second period, it could have been 7-1: I was real impressed with Fields.”
“I know that they didn’t put forth their best effort,” River Hawk coach Blaise MacDonald said of the Terriers, “but the sign of a good team is a team that sticks to it and takes whatever breaks they get and makes their breaks. Certainly they did that at key times.
“I thought Sean Fields was outstanding; he didn’t give us much to shoot at all night,” added MacDonald. “He kept the team in the game. We could have converted a few more chances — but I sit here very happy with my ballclub.”
The first ten minutes of the game were a real chess match-strategically played but deadly to watch, as the teams combined for about three shots in the first seven minutes. Lowell had more opportunities — most notably a nice give-and-go between McGrane and winger Steve Slonina — but neither team could score.
Fields really started to flash the leather in the second period — and he needed to, as Lowell outshot BU by a startling 15-4 margin, including seven bona fide scoring opportunities for the visitors.
At 3:10, Fields made a flashy glove save on Peter Hay after a slick feed off the boards from Lowell D-man Peter Tormey. Defending the net on a power play late in the period, Fields came up big again when Baptiste Amar hit Elias Godoy with a pass from the point through the slot.
But Lowell finally solved Fields at 18:32, when McGrane blasted a power-play slapshot from the right point that beat the goalie high on the glove side.
The save of the night came at 1:19 of the third, when Josh Reed launched a touchdown pass from his own faceoff dot to freshman Danny O’Brien streaking across the blue line for a clean breakaway. Fields made the save, and it probably was the difference in the game. The Terriers slowly gained momentum, while the press corps started reflecting on the fact that Lowell had never shut out BU in the series history.
Very suddenly, though, Sabo rose to the occasion, beating a defender behind the goal line for the puck and a wraparound goal that bounced off of Lowell goalie Chris Davidson and into the net.
“First goal in the third period is just an unbelievable play by Sabo,” Parker said. “He just tracks that guy down, chases him behind the net, lifts his stick up and gets it by the goaltender. Great individual effort there.”
Thirty-eight seconds later, Meyer scored. The Terrier captain got the puck at the right point, took a look at the net, and skated toward the center of the point before unleashing a 60-foot slapshot that snuck just inside the post, glove-side.
But Meyer was victimized three minutes later when Mark Concannon got the puck and beat him with a nice move before slipping a forehander past Fields with 2:13 left.
With overtime looming, Skladany’s play helped tee up the Miller shot and the Magowan tip-in.
“I thought it was a real nice play by Skladany,” Parker said. “He found his way through a maze of people and set up Miller.”
The Terriers had pulled out the win despite being outshot by a whopping 38-17 margin. “I don’t think we’ve had that low [of a shot total] since I’ve been here,” Magowan said
“Tonight was probably not our best game, but we put together close to 60 minutes,” MacDonald said. “We probably had been playing 50 great minutes. But we try to take out the positive teaching moments, and they’re plentiful. Quite honestly, the goals we give up are more individual breakdowns then they are team breakdowns.”
“Big win for us,” Parker said. “We didn’t play our best — we were sluggish at times, frustrated at times, wondering what was going on at times. And I kept telling them, ‘We’re going to come out of this — I don’t know if we’re going to come out of it tonight — just keep competing.’”
BU (6-3-2, 4-3-0) hosts Harvard on Tuesday night, while the River Hawks (4-8-0, 0-7-0) are off until the weekend of December 6, when they host ECAC foes St. Lawrence and Clarkson on successive evenings.