LOWELL, Mass. — It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
They may not have started the game looking like the No. 1 team in the nation and the preseason pick to finish first in Hockey East, but the top-ranked Boston College Eagles put it together in the end to edge out host No. 15 Massachusetts-Lowell, 3-2, spurred on by a stellar performance by Patrick Eaves.
Eaves finished the night with two goals and an assist, netting both the Eagles’ first goal and final goal. Through two games so far this season, he leads his teammates with three goals and four assists.
“We thought it would be a very competitive game, we expected a battle, and we got one,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “Cory Schneider played exceptionally well for us in goal. And Patrick, besides his two goals and assist, I thought his all-around performance for us tonight was very good.
“The first goal by Patrick late in the second period was a key goal for us. The winning goal was just an outstanding goal by him. He was pretty versatile for us, in the last moments of the game he was playing defense for us, since we lost Peter Harrold to an injury.
“It’s a good start for us, a good league win. They’re tough to get in this league, and there’s only 24 of them.”
Both teams vied for control of the game early on. The Eagles had the speed, however the River Hawks had the drive, and with a little help on the power play, Lowell was able to take an early lead on the nation’s top team.
Moving the puck well in the Eagles’ zone, UML was able to set up Mark Pandolfo at the point. Pandolfo rifled a shot through traffic that found its way to BC netminder Cory Schneider, who made the save but could not control the rebound. With a flock of River Hawks and Eagle defensemen descending upon the net and the puck loose in the crease, UML forward Rene Gauthier freed the puck from the crowd, and a charging Matt Collar slammed the puck home at 7:02 for a 1-0 River Hawk lead. Lowell took the advantage into the locker room, as BC outshot the hosts 14-8 in the first frame.
Boston College took a territorial advantage in the second period, keeping the puck for the most part in the UML zone along with breaking up a few Lowell opportunities. The Eagles finally found the back of the net at the most opportune time, with time running down in the second period.
Eaves put the extra-large blueline at Tsongas (under AHL rules) to good use, knocking down a UML clearing attempt that would have surely made it out of the zone if not for the wide stripe. Taking the puck off the bounce, Eaves skated in along the right side with the puck and flicked a shot from the top of the circle that went top-shelf before River Hawk goaltender Chris Davidson could turn his head, a power-play goal for the Eagles at 19:50. The two teams headed into the second intermission knotted at one apiece.
“We were flying there in the second period, the team played great,” said Eaves. “We knew that if we kept pressuring and pressuring that something would go in, and fortunately it did on the power-play.”
Both teams cashed in on power plays early on in the final period, with the two tallies coming just over a minute apart.
UML regained the lead at 1:45 thanks to great puck movement deep in the BC zone. Drifting towards the boards on the left side of the ice, Elias Godoy made a perfect pass to teammate Ben Walter in the slot. Walter used the opportunity wisely, rifling his shot in the opposite direction of a diving Schneider.
The Eagles’ response was quick and painful. Stationed in the left slot, Brian Boyle redirected an Eaves shot from the point at 2:52, tying the game at two.
The only even-strength goal of the night produced the game winner for Boston College at 9:41 in the third, as Eaves netted his second goal of the night on a defensive miscue by Lowell. Reading a clear perfectly, Eaves picked the puck out of the air at the left dot and put it into the net before anyone could react, putting BC on top for the first time in the game 3-2.
The River Hawks made a last-ditch effort in the final seconds to tie the contest. After pulling Davidson in the last minute, the Eagles were assessed a penalty, giving Lowell a 6-on-4 advantage. Lowell could not capitalize though, falling to BC for the seventh straight time.
Schneider made a total of 23 saves between the pipes for the Eagles, while Davidson stopped a total of 36 shots for UMass Lowell. Both teams saw production on the power play, as BC went 2-for-7 on the man-advantage, while the River Hawks were 2-for-10 with the extra attacker.
“I’m very pleased with the way we started our year,” said York. “We were strong throughout the course of the game, but so was Lowell.”
Although on the short end on the score sheet, UML head coach Blaise MacDonald was optimistic on the points that came out of the game for his team.
“I was a little concerned going into tonight’s game due to the fact that we had not played in 10 days, and only played one game,” said MacDonald. “It was a good game, but a lot of power-play opportunities, so we didn’t get as many guys into the game as we would have liked.
“We came out great in the first period, we played exactly the way we wanted to against a great team. In the second, we were hemmed in our own zone a number of times, and our defense got stuck out on some long shifts, but that happens against the number-one team in the country. I liked how we played in the third period, with the exception that we passed the puck to the exact wrong guy.
“I know we can play a lot better than we did tonight. There are some good lessons that we can take from this game and use.”
BC defenseman Peter Harrold left the game early in the third period with an injury to his left shoulder. His status is unknown. It was the seventh-straight win by Boston College over Lowell.
Friday Boston College (2-0-0, 1-0-0 HE) will travel to face Notre Dame, beginning at 7:30 p.m., while Lowell (1-1-0, 0-1-0 HE) will continue league play at sister-school Massachusetts beginning at 7 p.m.