LOWELL, Mass. — Boston College’s pot has officially boiled over.
Brian Boyle, that is.
Riding the back of a career-high four-goal game from Boyle, the Eagles staved off a pesky Massachusetts-Lowell team, 4-3 in overtime, to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time this season.
Boyle’s game-winner came with 48.8 seconds left in the overtime period when he broke past the Lowell defense and buried a shot five-hole on Peter Vetri (32 saves), allowing the Eagles to avoid their second loss since becoming the number-one team in the country last Monday.
BC head coach Jerry York called the victory a “sandpaper” win, referring to the Eagles’ grittiness. Three times BC fell behind in the game only to come back and tie, not to mention the fact the Eagles were coming off an emotional loss to archrival Boston University.
“It’s a significant win considering a lot of things,” said York. “We had a difficult loss to our archrival and then had to get on a bus and come play a solid physical team in Lowell.”
Though shots were near even come game’s end, Lowell dominated much of the game. The River Hawks stifled the Eagles with their hard-checking physical brand of hockey. So it’s no surprise that the one BC player to fight through was the club’s most prominent physical presence, the 6-foot-7 Boyle.
The junior center scored goals of every variety — power play, even strength, sniper shots and garbage rebound goals.
“Brian Boyle just carried us on his back,” admitted York.
Boyle’s performance spoiled an impressive performance from the upstart River Hawks. Entering the game with a five-game unbeaten streak (4-0-1), it appeared that Lowell was poised to extend that, but its inability to capitalize on opportunities significantly hurt the club.
In the second period, Lowell was unable to take advantage of a massive edge in offensive chances, scoring just once on 20 shots. With a 3-2 lead in the third, the River Hawks were unable to score on three consecutive 2-on-1 rushes before Boyle’s power-play goal tied the game, after what head coach Blaise MacDonald called a “foolish” penalty taken by defenseman Bobby McCabe.
“Clearly, we’re not burying the chances,” said MacDonald. “We go hard to the net and get our opportunities but we fail to convert.”
Both teams came out of the gate playing physical, and just 93 seconds in BC defenseman Mike Brennan was whistled for a five-minute major and game misconduct for hitting from behind.
That forced York to shorten his bench, moving junior Brian O’Hanley back to defense to stabilize the BC blueline.
Though the Eagles killed the penalty, a second Lowell power play later in the period netted an early lead.
Bobby Robins, standing just outside the goal crease, deflected a Danny O’Brien shot from the top of the left faceoff dot over the shoulder of BC netminder Cory Schneider (34 saves) at 6:55 for a 1-0 lead. It was the eighth goal of the season for the senior and his first in nine games.
BC would have its chances late in the period but Vetri held his own. The best chance came late in the period when fourth-line center Matt Greene picked up a rebound and fired a quick 15-footer that Vetri deflected, allowing the Lowell defense to clear.
In the second, BC evened the game on Boyle’s first goal of the night. He fired home a loose puck from the right faceoff dot at 7:01 to even the game at one.
Lowell retook the lead late in the frame when Robins potted his second of the game. Jason Tejchma’s original bid from the slot was blocked but ended up the stick of Robins, who fired it over a fallen Schneider to get back the lead at 17:15.
The Eagles evened the game early in the third on the power play. Boyle netted his second of the game, redirecting a Brett Motherwell shot past Vetri at 1:01 to knot the game at 2.
The River Hawks, though, answered quickly. With Boyle serving a penalty for contact-to-the-head elbowing, Mark Pandolfo’s shot appeared to be gloved by Schneider. Bumped by his defenseman, Schneider dropped the puck, allowing Mark Roebothan to poke home the rebound at 4:02 to give Lowell the lead once more.
Lowell had ample opportunities to extend the lead, namely on odd-man rushes, but unable to capitalize, and the Eagles evened the game on Boyle’s hat-trick goal.
Just 10 seconds after McCabe was sent off for obstruction tripping, Boyle buried the rebound of a Stephen Gionta shot to tie things at 3 with 7:28 to play.
As the game headed to overtime, it was clear that BC had an advantage in both momentum and in the gas tank. The Eagles outshot Lowell, 7-1, in the extra session and just when the game looked headed into the books as a tie, Boyle finished off his career night.
“In overtime the ice is always tough and on soft ice, [Chris Collins] handled a loose puck,” said Boyle of his goal. “He (Collins) got hit really hard as he threw it to me coming down the left wing. I had one guy to beat and got a step on him wide. I just tried to shoot it and next thing I knew it found the net and the celebration started.”
The celebration of the bench and the large section of Eagles fans in the crowd of 5,986 was accompanied by a number of deep breaths, realizing that the Eagles indeed had survived.
BC improves to 17-5-2 (14-3-1 Hockey East with the win) and remains six points ahead of second place Boston University, a 3-1 winner over Massachusetts on Saturday.
Lowell, which suffered its first overtime loss of the season, drops to 10-14-1 (7-10-1 Hockey East).
Both teams return to action on Friday with Lowell hosting Boston University and BC traveling to Massachusetts to in its Beanpot tuneup.