BOSTON — No goals were the most exciting in this game.
In the latter stages of the third period, two dramatic goals were scored then disallowed, one for each team, which left the game at 2-1 in favor of Boston University over Massachusetts-Lowell and the crowd of 2,952 breathless.
The more important of the two was waved off with about 30 seconds left in the game. With goalie Dominic Smart pulled for the extra attacker, Lowell’s Elias Godoy slammed a puck home with a goal that looked to send the game careening to overtime, but the whistle had blown for a stoppage of play.
“You could hear the whistle before the puck went in the net,” said Boston University head coach Jack Parker. “There’s a question why the whistle was blown, but there was no question that they blew the whistle.”
“There couldn’t be an explanation,” said tight-lipped River Hawk head coach Blaise MacDonald.
Halfway through the third period, the Terriers had a disallowed goal of their own, when Kenny Magowan took a pass from teammate Brad Zancanaro and slid the puck across the goal line before crashing into the net, dislodging it. Assistant referee Frank Keough ruled the net came loose first, so the would-be insurance goal was disallowed.
This play happened less than a minute after the most dramatic actual goal of the game, a shot by Mark Mullen that snapped a 1-1 tie and proved to be the game-winner. Just seconds after a penalty to Lowell’s Jerramie Domish had expired, Terrier Brian Collins skated behind the net before dishing to Mullen all alone in front. Mullen swept the puck past Smart and into the far corner of the net.
The two teams started slowly, without a serious scoring threat throughout the first 10 minutes of the first. When scoring finally got underway, it came in bunches.
The River Hawks struck first, when a scoring rush in the Terrier end resulted in a mess of bodies from both teams in front of the net. A loose puck bounced around without any player getting a solid piece of it, until Lowell’s Brad King netted his fourth goal of the year when he flipped the puck over a prone Fields.
Boston University’s scoring chances were all of minimal threat throughout the period, as the UMass-Lowell defense did an excellent job of keeping the Terrier shots to the outside of the prime scoring area.
The lone Terrier goal of the first period was no exception, as a BU shot from Ryan Whitney from the point that was stopped by Smart produced a rebound that was picked up by Dave VanderGulik beyond the far face-off circle. As VanderGulik was falling to the ice, he lifted a high shot to the near side that beat Smart in the upper corner of the net.
Both goalies looked sharp throughout, highlighted by the second period, when each team put 10 shots on goal, all of them stopped by the respective netminders. The best saves of the night by Fields came on a pair of attempts from River Hawk defenseman Jerramie Domish, whose shot and subsequent rebound shot were saved in highlight-reel fashion by a screened Fields.
He finished the evening with 28 saves and was named the number-one star of the game.
Smart, who finished with 26 saves, also continued his strong play in the period, stopping bids by Collins and Magowan that kept the game knotted at one.
“In the last eight games or so, Smart’s numbers have really improved,” said MacDonald. “At the beginning of the season, our problem was we were outworking teams, but our save percentage was about .750. That’s turned around. Now, we’re just not scoring enough.”
“That’s a very good team we beat tonight,” said Parker. “There aren’t too many teams that outwork Lowell, and I thought we did that in the second and the third periods.”
With the win, Parker took sole possession of third place on the all-time winningest coaches list, but he downplayed the significance. “I’d rather be in third place in Hockey East,” he joked. “All that means is I’ve been here a long time. If someone else had been here for 30 years, he would have won a lot of games, too.”
The Terriers won their 20th game of the season, improving to 20-10-2. It marks the 20th time in Parker’s career that his team has won as many as 20 games in a year. Boston University stretched its scoring streak to six games, allowing just seven goals in that stretch. The team will face Providence for two games next Friday and Saturday.
The River Hawks drop to 10-17-3 and host New Hampshire for their lone game of next weekend. Despite being in last, MacDonald had hopes for his team to move into eighth place and be eligible for the Hockey East playoffs.
“We still have enough games left to do what we want to do,” he said. “We’ll just get back to it Monday in practice.”