CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — On the strength of a hat trick from forward Brian Boyle and a school-record sixth shutout on the season by netminder Cory Schneider, Boston College reversed recent fortunes with a 6-0 win over visiting Massachusetts-Lowell.
Boyle has had a remarkable season against the River Hawks, as he scored all four BC goals in a 4-3 overtime win in Lowell in January. With Thursday’s hat trick, the 6-foot, 7-inch junior now has nine career goals in seven games against UML.
“I’ve had a good couple of games against them,” said Boyle. “It’s been easy for me to get open. My linemates were taking pucks off the defensemen’s sticks and were able to get them to me. I was just in the right place at the right time.”
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Eagles, who were swept by Maine last weekend after a loss to rival Boston University in the Beanpot title game. The skid saw much inconsistent play from BC, the youngest team in the nation with seven freshmen dressed. But Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald said he saw a team on a mission.
“That was a team that was trying to reestablish itself as a top team in the league and in the country,” said MacDonald. “And they showed it tonight.”
“It was important for us to play well,” echoed Jerry York, BC coach. “We’ve been on a straight line for most of the year, but we’ve been on a zig-zag lately. When that happens, you need to work through it.
The difference in the game came in the number of shots allowed in the slot. While UML was able to generate plenty of shots, 26 for the game, most of them were kept to the outside of the offensive zone, where goalie Schneider was able to see and stop them all. That was a target area that the team concentrated on in practices all week.
“It was night and day with the defense clearing out guys in front,” said Schneider, comparing the team’s performance to last weekend’s games.
The offense for Boston College, on the other hand, came from repeated chances where an Eagle forward was able to receive a pass while open in front of the net. The first three BC tallies were all scored that way, and at that point the game was all but decided.
“They got a lot of goals from in front of our cage that squirted in,” said MacDonald. “That didn’t happen for us.”
Boyle wasted no time in scoring his fifth goal of the season against the River Hawks when he redirected a pass from freshman Brock Bradford from across the goalmouth past a sliding Peter Vetri just 1:09 into the first period. The goal was scored on the first shot of the game.
“The first goal was very significant,” said York. “When you have a goal scoring drought, getting a quick goal on a crash bang play really set the tone for the game.”
The best scoring chance for Lowell came later in the first period, as Brad King rocketed a shot past Schneider that clanged off the post. Even that shot, however, came from the point.
The second period saw the difference-making goal of the game. After Benn Ferriero scored from right in front of the goal on a tap-in of a Joe Rooney pass to make the score 2-0, Boston College’s Stephen Gionta took a penalty for holding. After 30 seconds had transpired with little offense from Lowell, King went to the penalty box for tripping, and in addition, UML was called for too many men on the ice.
Once the initial BC penalty expired, that created a 5 on 3 advantage for the Eagles, and it didn’t take long for Boyle to cash in. The power play unit was moving the puck well with the two-man advantage, and freshman defenseman Brett Motherwell found an open Boyle in front of the net. Boyle skated across the goal mouth to draw Vetri out of position and lifted the puck for the goal.
“The turning point in the game was when the score was 2-0,” said MacDonald. “We took a couple of penalties, and then we made a mistake on the change that BC managed to capitalize on. To go from 2-0 to 3-0 was a big difference.”
Things went from bad to worse for Lowell in the third period, as BC sophomore Matt Green scored on a drive to the net, followed by a Dan Bertram tally. Boyle then completed his hat trick 13 seconds after the Bertram goal, when Brock Bradford won a faceoff and found Boyle driving to the net.
The sixth goal saw Vetri chased form the net for Vinny Monaco, who stopped all four shots he saw in the last half of the third period.
The shutout was the sixth of the season for Schneider, which marked a new school record for shutouts in a single season at BC.
“I’ve never been a shutout goalie through my career — I’ve always let in a few,” said Schneider. “[The record] is a testament to the way the defense has been playing in front of me.”
The two teams travel to Lowell for a Saturday night rematch.
Boston College finds itself in an unexpected race for the league crown. A month ago, the Eagles had a large lead in the conference standings, but second place BU had managed to close the gap to just two points before Thursday’s game. With this win, BC clinched a home-ice spot in the Hockey East playoffs.
Massachusetts-Lowell, on the other hand, is fighting to make the playoffs at all. The River Hawks have a six point lead over the nearest team, Northeastern, but could still be eliminated from post-season play.