BOSTON — Last year Boston University didn’t win its sixth Hockey East game until March 6 — the last day of the regular season.
This year has been a different story, as the No. 15 Terriers (7-3-0, 6-1-0) won their sixth league contest five days before Thanksgiving. BU rebounded from deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to beat Massachusetts-Lowell (4-5-0, 0-5-0) 5-3 in front of a sellout crowd of 3,806 at Walter Brown Arena. The win was the 699th for Terrier coach Jack Parker.
Junior David Van der Gulik led the way with two goals, including the game-winner, as well an assist for the Terriers. Freshman Peter MacArthur maintained his team lead in point scoring while adding a goal and assist, while junior defenseman Dan Spang pitched in three assists for the home team. Andrew Martin potted a goal and assist for the River Hawks.
The first six goals were all power-play goals for the two teams until Van der Gulik notched the game-winner at even strength.
“First of all, I thought that whoever gets the last power play is going to win, the way it was going for a while,” Parker said. “Both teams went three-for-five the first two periods. The best period for us was the third period — not just because we got the game-winning goal. It was because we played with a little more poise, and we did a much better job killing penalties.
“I thought that this would be a tough win for us because Lowell was a desperate team. They were 0-4 in the league, and 0-5 looks that much worse. So it was real important for us to keep them down, and we had a hard time keeping them down the first couple of periods.”
For River Hawk coach Blaise MacDonald, it was a case of close-but-not-quite.
“It seemed to be a game of special teams,” MacDonald said. “BU was a lot better on the power play, but we became effective. It was a situation at the end of the game where you pull your goaltender and have a six-on-four [due to a Terrier penalty with 2:04 left], and your playmakers have an opportunity to make plays, and we just failed to do that.”
Terrier captain Brian McConnell talked about what a difference a year makes.
“I think [the turnaround] really started at the end of last year, the returning guys being upset,” McConnell said. “I didn’t want as a senior to go out losing, and [Bryan] Miller and [Matt] Radoslovich] felt the same way. When you combine that with a freshman class coming in and providing great energy and bringing life to the locker room, it’s just been a fun team to play on so far.”
The early going wasn’t much fun for the Terriers. Referee Jeff Bunyon called a flimsy penalty each way in the opening two minutes, and the River Hawks capitalized at 3:18. After winning an offensive-end faceoff, the Hawks got the puck over to Andrew Martin just inside the blue line, and his long slapshot eluded Stephan Siwiec. Curiously, the goal marked the ninth time in nine games this season in which Mass.-Lowell had scored first.
Just over four minutes later, the River Hawks scored another man-advantage goal when Ben Walter redirected a Cleve Kinley slapshot past Siwiec, who was still looking for the puck a second or two after it hit the net.
Last year’s BU team might have folded at this point, but not this year’s model.
“A lot of guys made up their mind that we’re going to be a successful team this year; we’re not going to quit,” McConnell said. “Last year we just got in such a rut, where you’d think, ‘Yeah, I might get a chance, but I probably won’t score because I haven’t scored all year.’ This year, the puck is flying in the net for some guys. When you’re playing good offensive hockey, it helps keep confidence going.”
Sure enough, Van der Gulik spied MacArthur high in the slot, and the freshman’s 12-footer beat Lowell freshman Peter Vestri to make it 2-1. Two minutes later, BU tied it when Van der Gulik crashed the net to tip home a MacArthur pass.
“We’re up two-nothing, and boom — they get a couple of power-play goals,” MacDonald said. “That’s the way the college game is: It’s all about ebb and flow and momentum swings, especially as the visiting team.”
Shortly after River Hawk Chris Fontas whiffed on a shot after a great behind-the-back pass from Elias Godoy, the visitors regained the lead at 3:40 of the second frame. With a goal reminiscent of MacArthur’s first-period tally in the slot, Mark Pandolfo received a pass in the same vicinity and buried it low on the glove side, just as MacArthur had done. It was Pandolfo’s first goal of the season.
Just 41 seconds later, BU got the equalizer when freshman power forward Ryan Weston backhanded home the rebound of a Kevin Schaeffer shot on yet another power play.
Van der Gulik’s game-winner came on a 12-footer in the slot at 9:09 of the third. BU amassed a considerable number of scoring chances in grade ‘A’ territory through this home-and-home series.
“We’re a little quicker than we have been, and we’ve got more skill up and down the lineup,” Parker said. “When you’ve got a third line with MacArthur, [Chris] Bourque, and Radoslovich on it; when you’re second line has McConnell and [Kenny] Roche and Weston, you don’t have to just rely on your first line. Though [on the first line] Van der Gulik had a couple of goals, and I thought [John] Laliberte was immense.”
The River Hawks had a last gasp with 2:04 left when MacArthur was called for a penalty following an after-the-whistle tussle. MacDonald pulled Vestri, but Brad Zancanaro did a great job in forcing an offensive-end faceoff with a minute left, despite being outnumbered three to one.
“BU, to me, looks like night and day from last year,” MacDonald said. “They have a ton of jump, energy. And I think what exemplifies that is Brad Zancanaro’s play at the end of the game, how he hustled down, and had great spirit.”
BU hopes to help Parker earn his 700th coaching win on Tuesday, hosting Harvard. The River Hawks host New Hampshire on the same evening.
“We’re in a tough spot right now, but we haven’t even come close to playing how we can,” MacDonald said.