BOSTON — The ice surface almost appeared to be slanted at Walter Brown Arena, with the action heading north all night. Given that that is the direction BU attacks twice, this surprisingly did not bode well for the Terriers.
Despite dominating territorially in the first and mounting intense pressure in the third period, the No. 10 Terriers (3-3-2, 2-3-1 Hockey East) played a horrific second stanza, getting outshot 12-4, outchanced 5-1, and outscored 2-0. That was the exact margin of victory, as UMass-Lowell netminder Chris Davidson stopped 28 of 29 shots to lead the River Hawks (5-4-2, 3-3-0 Hockey East) to a 3-1 win in front of 3,271 at Walter Brown Arena.
Sophomore Danny O’Brien was named the game’s number-one star with a pair of assists, while Matt Collar, Kim Brandvold, and Mark Pandolfo all scored for the visitors. David Van der Gulik scored the lone goal for the Terriers in a losing effort.
“Whenever you come to Walter Brown Arena and play a great team and tradition in BU, it’s very easy to be inspired,” said River Hawk Coach Blaise MacDonald, a former associate head coach for the Terriers. “I thought we were kind of watching them in the first period and got a very lucky goal. That’s what we need. Last year here I thought we played extremely well against this team on three different occasions, and I thought we didn’t quite get what we deserved.
“It’s arguable we got what we deserved tonight, but we’ll take the ‘W.’ I thought our goaltender was clearly the deciding factor as well as our players’ ability in the third period to block a lot of rubber coming toward the net.”
“I thought we played two periods,” Terrier coach Jack Parker said. “Played pretty well in the first, pretty hard in the third, and pathetic in the second period. I thought they didn’t have their legs in the first, then they played real well in the second, then they battled like hell in their own zone when we had in their quite a bit — blocked a lot of shots — give them a lot of credit for making sure that they won the game. They did the things necessary to win, and we didn’t.”
For the first ten minutes, it looked as if it would be a long night for the River Hawks, who had only three upperclassmen in the lineup.
“As I’ve said, we’re the only Division I team with Similac as our team sponsor,” joked MacDonald. “So we have to have a dimension that we can control in our work ethic and our commitment to our systems and our commitment to each other; it’s mandatory.”
After numerous chances, the Terriers finally got a power-play goal at 9:30. Ryan Whitney was well-covered at the left point, but he shot anyway. The shot went wide left but perfectly caromed off the boards and out to Van der Gulik on the opposite side of the net. He had the half the net to shoot at and easily buried it.
The River Hawks hung tough and got a break at 13:46, when Nicklas Storm got the puck behind the goal line and passed to D-man Matt Collar breaking in from the point. His one-timer beat Sean Fields to tie the game.
Davidson did his job for the rest of the period, highlighted by a good effort to deny John Laliberte on an excellent chance in the last minute. That set the stage for the second-period breakout — along with some soothing words in the locker room.
“It just seems like on Friday night on the road that we got off to a bit of a slow start,” Davidson said. “But Coach really calmed us down at the end of the first. We just realized that we gave these guys too much credit, and that we can play them and we went out there and showed it in the second period.”
They certainly did. BU withstood a pair of good bids on an early power play, but a Frantisek Skladany turnover in the neutral zone led to the game-winner at 5:36. Danny O’Brien picked off Skladany’s pass and raced in on the right wing, with the Slovakian winger hustling to prevent a two-on-one.
O’Brien got off the quick pass, and Fields easily stopped it with his blocker. However, he bunted it out to the right wing, where Brandvold was ready for the one-timer on the fat rebound. Suddenly it was 2-1.
UMass-Lowell made the most of a Gregg Johnson penalty at 9:10, enjoying several bids before Mark Pandolfo — cousin of noteworthy BU alums Jay and Mike — got the puck from the corner and somehow beat Fields with it.
It could have been worse in the second: Fields had to stop a 15-foot blast from Elias Godoy at 12:30, leading to a Brian McConnell penalty and another River Hawk power play.
“I was very disappointed in our overall play in the second period; it might have been one of the worst periods we played all year,” Parker said. “Not just because of the goals: we had four shots, we didn’t play hard, we turned the puck over constantly, and buried ourselves there. Team’s not scoring goals, and when you’re struggling to score goals, you’re not going to come back unless you jump on ‘em a little bit.
“We stood around and watched while they took it up a notch,” added Parker. “We were dying for it to be easy. That’s the M.O. of a club that isn’t competing hard enough; that we hope they’ll lay down and die for us.”
The third period was scoreless but had plenty of excitement as the Terriers finally reversed the trend. Early on, a few BU penalties frustrated the home crowd, especially when Davidson did a fair Greg Louganis impersonation as Brad Zancanaro made minor contact with him at 7:35. Davidson went down hard on his back and stared up at the ceiling. Afterwards, someone asked him if he was hurt.
“Not at all,” Davidson said candidly. “I was trying to get a penalty.” When someone noted that he did seem to recover rapidly, he added, “I got up quick because there was too much water; I was getting soaked.”
Fields made a great glove snare on a Jerramie Domish chance at 9:20, then there was stretch of three or four minutes that felt almost like a Terrier five-on-three, even though it was even strength. It was a real shooting gallery, as Dan Spang and Tom Morrow had excellent chances, but Davidson and his teammates blocked everything.
“I’ve got to give credit to my guys,” Davidson said. “They really hung in there, started blocking shots. I think there was about three or four blocked shots in that one scramble. We just stayed composed, kept it together, and got through it.”
The two teams face off again at Tsongas Arena in Lowell on Saturday night. For the River Hawks, the win — only their fourth ever at Walter Brown Arena and their first over a ranked opponent in 18 months — is a big step in right direction.
“I think we’ve got 26 freshmen and sophomores on this team,” Davidson said. “Every night is a building block: to do this in this building against this team, tenth in the country or whatever they are, it’s a definite steppingstone for our team.”