LOWELL, Mass. — One night after completely dominating the Mass.-Lowell River Hawks en route to a 6-3 victory, Boston College withstood an early Lowell onslaught and used a five-goal second period to rout the River Hawks, 7-1, to complete the weekend sweep.
The key to the game — special teams. Boston College, despite struggling at times on the power play this season, posted three goals Saturday to add to an identical three a night earlier for an extremely successful weekend with the man advantage.
“You work so hard when you get [power plays],” said Eagles captain Ben Eaves, who matched Friday’s four-point performance on Saturday for a stellar eight-point weekend. “You can sit there and hit posts and shin pads and things aren’t going in, but this weekend I think we found some rhythm and were getting things through.”
Head coach Jerry York gave a lot of credit to defenseman Andrew Alberts for his club’s power-play surge.
“Alberts on the point had held down low to get power-play chances,” said York, who achieved a notable milestone on Saturday, earning victory number 656 to pass the legendary Jeff Sauer for fifth place on the all-time wins list. “It’s almost like the three-point shot in basketball. You have to go up and defend it and that opens up some guys under the basket.”
A night after Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald called his team’s performance the “worst of the season,” the River Hawks came out with the zest and speed completely absent on Friday. The result, though, was nothing more than playing level with the Eagles through 20 minutes despite holding Boston College to just three shots.
The River Hawks held an early lead after Jerramie Domish scored his second goal of the weekend and the season, when his shot through traffic slipped through the legs of Eagle netminder Matti Kaltiainen at 9:44.
Lowell further controlled possession time when the Eagles were whistled for back-to-back penalties, giving the River Hawks a five-on-three power play. Despite showing good puck movement, Lowell failed to muster a high-quality bid and the one-goal lead remained.
Looking like they might escape the period ahead, the ‘Hawks coughed up the puck and the lead with 1:15 left. Lowell defenseman Josh Reed half-fanned on a pass that ended up on the stick of BC’s Ty Hennes. His blast beat Lowell netminder Dominic Smart cleanly over the glove and into the top corner to even the game through one.
The second period, though, spelled disaster for Lowell in every aspect. Though Smart stoned Tony Voce on a breakaway 30 seconds into the frame, it was the final Lowell highlight.
At 5:23, Baptiste Amar was sent off for high-sticking, and while BC killed the penalty it appeared that Lowell might threaten shorthanded.
Lowell’s Domish and BC’s J.D. Forrest were in a foot race for the puck, and as Domish appeared to gain position on Forrest playing the loose puck in the corner, Forrest fell, leading referee Joe Andrews to whistle Domish for interference.
“I personally didn’t think it was a penalty,” said Domish, trying to be diplomatic after MacDonald cautioned him to “be careful” in answering the question. “The puck was right there for either one of us to get. I moved my body to get positioning and the rest you guys saw.”
MacDonald exploded on the bench for Lowell, but the worst was yet to come. With the five-on-three advantage, Eaves buried the rebound of a Forrest shot to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead.
Now up on the bench in protest, it was clear that MacDonald hadn’t had his final say.
After play resumed, as MacDonald continued his boisterous disapproval and referee Andrews at least seemed not to hear him, assistant referee Kevin Redding proved his hearing was fine, whistling Lowell for a bench minor. The ensuing result: another five-on-three and another Boston College goal.
When asked to comment on the play and the officiating in general, MacDonald chose his words carefully.
“I think we’re very fortunate in Hockey East to have a lot of top-notch officials. We just don’t have enough of them,” MacDonald said. According to Hockey East officials, Andrews had appeared as referee in some nonleague contests but Saturday was doing his first league game.
“Sometimes these games get away from you if you’re not used to doing TV games and games of that nature,” MacDonald added.
The ensuing five-on-three created by MacDonald’s penalty resulted in yet another BC power-play tally. This time, it was Alberts snapping his fifth of the season and second of the weekend at 7:28 for a 3-1 Eagles lead, opening the floodgates in the Lowell net.
Before the period ended, BC increased its lead to 6-1 thanks to two more special-teams tallies — a Ryan Shannon power-play goal at 11:25 and a Voce shorthanded marker at 12:55 — sandwiching Brett Peterson’s fourth goal of the year at 12:17.
In all, Boston College erupted for five goals over six minutes to change the complexion of the game completely.
Eagles rookie Stephen Gionta added his first career goal at 1:21 to account for the 7-1 final.
BC maintained position atop Hockey East with the weekend sweep and will try to carry momentum into next weekend’s series against Commonwealth Avenue rival Boston University.
For Lowell, the need to regroup may never be so critical. Next weekend the River Hawks will face Northeastern in a home-and-home series. Likely come season’s end, Lowell and Northeastern will be fighting for the final playoff spot, meaning a sweep on either side next weekend could signal the finish for the loser.
Domish, though, firmly believes that the team can move past this weekend.
“[Our team is] very positive, very up in spirits,” said Domish about a team meeting that took place immediately after Saturday’s game. “We’ve got to come back on Monday at 1 p.m. for a lift and go from there.”
“You can’t believe the dynamics and synergy of this team unless you’re in the locker room,” said MacDonald. “We’re going to focus on the 23 good minutes that we played tonight, not the other part.”