LOWELL, Mass. — For each of the four Beanpot coaches, the weekend game played right before the annual Beanpot tournament always brings with it worry that his team might overlook the game.
Well, Jack Parker, you have nothing to worry about.
In absolutely dominating and convincing fashion, Parker’s Boston University Terriers manhandled the Mass.-Lowell River Hawks, 5-1, at Lowell’s Tsongas Arena on Friday night sending the Terriers into the 54th annual Beanpot tournament on a high note.
Five different skaters potted goals for the Terriers, and junior netminder John Curry made 32 saves to extend his career-best winning streak to eight games.
“I get nervous about how the team is going to play before the Beanpot especially on the road,” said Parker. “I thought we played extremely well start to finish. I thought it was one of our better road games. We didn’t have anything about Beanpot on our minds.”
All of BU’s goals came off the transition game, with players either making rushes up the ice from the defensive zone or forcing turnovers and immediately capitalizing.
Parker noted that the Tsongas Arena rink, designed with a smaller neutral zone and less room behind the net to comply to professional hockey standards, makes bounces and decision making key. He felt that his Terriers got most of the bounces on both sides of the puck.
“Everything happens quicker here,” said Parker. “We got six or seven bounces where the puck just kept coming to us so that we were getting 2-on-1′s or it was keeping [Lowell] from getting 2-on-1s.
“We were quick all night but not in a hurry. We weren’t a bit jumpy with the puck.”
Lowell was the complete opposite. Its defense looked nervous and made constant mistakes. Three miscues in the defensive zone led to BU goals, leaving goaltender Peter Vetri (27 saves) out to dry much of the night.
“We played very jumpy and turned over way too many pucks,” said Lowell head coach Blaise MacDonald. “We can’t afford to gift wrap as many goals as we did tonight.”
Early penalties to Brian McGuirk and Jason Lawrence put the BU penalty kill to the test right out of the gate. Limiting the River Hawk power-play chances, the Terriers were able kill penalties and take over the momentum.
That momentum translated into goals almost immediately. Less than a minute after Lawrence’s penalty ended, the Terriers capitalized on a Lowell miscue.
Skating into the zone, two Lowell defensemen converged on one Terrier, leaving defenseman Sean Sullivan wide open at the bottom of the left faceoff dot. When the puck found Sullivan, he had a wide open net to bury the game’s first goal at 10:23, giving BU a 1-0 lead.
The fact that BU scored first looked to be a very good sign. The Terriers entered the game 8-1-0 this season and 26-2-4 over the past two seasons when scoring the first goal of the game.
Just 19 seconds later, the Terriers doubled their lead. Another defensive miscue, this time a poor clearing pass that was intercepted by Eric Thomassian, wound up behind Vetri. Thomassian found a wide open Brad Zancanaro, who fired a hard wrist shot over the shoulder of Vetri giving BU a 2-0 lead at 10:23.
In the second, the offensive flow of the game opened up for both teams, but only the Terriers were able to take advantage. Pete MacArthur lifted a puck over Vetri at the right post at 4:16 and Brandon Yip finished off a goal-mouth feed at 11:31 to give BU a comfortable 4-0 lead through two.
The third period saw each team trade goals. BU rookie Chris Higgins stole a clearing pass and walked in alone, scoring unassisted for his fourth goal of the season at 5:23. Kim Brandvold spoiled Curry’s bid for his third shutout of the season with 1:46 remaining, beating the junior goaltender with a hard slap shot from the point.
The victory improves the Terriers’ record to 15-8-2 and 13-6-1 in the Hockey East. Combined with Boston College’s 3-2 loss to Massachusetts on Friday, BU is just four points behind the Eagles for first place.
The win also extends BU’s winning streak to a nation’s-best eight games, the school’s longest since the 2001-02 season.
Lowell drops to 10-15-1 overall and 7-11-1 in Hockey East play.
Boston University will remain idle for the remainder of the weekend and can now begin focusing on its much-anticipated Beanpot semifinal matchup with Harvard on Monday night. Lowell will face its sister school and rival Massachusetts Saturday night at the Tsongas Arena.