BOSTON — Four nights before Halloween, the young kids from Lowell came in and basically threw eggs all over Agganis Arena.
Playing with 11 freshmen in the lineup, Massachusetts-Lowell showed more poise and energy than the defending Hockey East Champions, beating hosts Boston University in a game that was not really as close as the 2-1 score indicated.
A crowd of 5,805 watched freshmen netminder Carter Hutton stop 17 of 18 shots, while fellow rookie Kory Falite and sophomore Mark Roebothan scored for the upstart visitors. John Curry played extremely well in a losing effort, making 24 saves including several gems.
“As most coaches will tell you, Hockey East gets tougher and tougher every single year,” River Hawk coach Blaise MacDonald said. “I think the gap from the bottom to the top — or at least the middle tier — gets tighter. So getting our first win in Hockey East is big for us, in particular getting it on the road against a nationally-ranked team that we certainly have a lot of respect for. I thought our goaltender was solid. I just thought it was a game where we moved our feet, got a little jump, and got fortunate.”
Terrier coach Jack Parker was dismayed by his team’s showing. “Overall evaluation was that I thought Lowell played great, and I thought they didn’t get much competition,” Parker said. “We stood around; we got beat to every loose puck in both areas of the rink. They had the puck all the time; we’d get it and they’d just take it away from us. I thought it was a fabulous game by Lowell. That game should’ve been 6-1; John Curry played terrific for us. Other than that, I didn’t have one guy who was playing anywhere near the level Lowell was playing at.”
After trailing for the better part of the first period in all three of their previous games, BU could feel moderately pleased with the scoreless 20 minutes that started tonight’s action. Peter MacArthur had a close-range slapshot on a power play at 8:20, but Hutton stopped it. Around the six-minute mark, Lowell ‘s Jeremy Hall set up first-line centerman Jason Tejchma in tight, only to have Curry make the point-blank glove save.
Curry followed that up with another great glove save on the doorstep after John McCarthy coughed up the puck just outside his own crease at 7:30 , teeing it up for Tejchma.
The wheels started to fall of the bus in the second period for BU. One ominous sign was a two-on-oh breakaway for Falite and linemate Paul Worthington, with Curry making a stellar pad save on Falite to keep it scoreless at 1:28.
UML took the lead on a furious exchange in the period’s fifth minute. In the River Hawk end, d-man Dan McGoff took a pass at the right point, made a nice move to evade a sliding defender, and then drilled a slapshot that clanged off the crossbar. However, Worthington collected the rebound and fired a long cross-ice pass out of the zone to set up Falite racing in on the left wing. His shot pinpointed the top corner of the net on the glove side.
“I missed the two-on-oh right before that,” Falite said. “We were getting fast breaks; coach is always talking about transition. It was good to capitalize on a good transitional play.”
Curry kept it a 1-0 game at 14:34 when fourth-line winger Mike Potacco showed tremendous wheels, outracing the defense for a breakaway, only to have Curry make yet another glove save.
The ultimate back-breaker came 1:11 into the final frame on a weird play. Tejchma got the puck away from Chris Higgins on the point and raced in on the left-wing side for a shot. “I probably would have had the rebound on any other shot,” Curry said. “He shot it up around my neck, took a bounce right over to the guy’s skate. I haven’t seen the replay as far as him kicking it in; it certainly wasn’t anywhere near his stick.. Regardless, that doesn’t even come close to explaining why we didn’t win.”
The Terriers showed some signs of life with a goal at 14:18 on the power play. Kenny Roche made a great play, diving to poke a loose puck over to freshman defenseman Brian Strait over at the left point. Strait looked to pass into the slot; instead the puck took an odd carom off a defenseman.
“I got caught; I thought I actually read the play pretty well,” Hutton said. “The d-man went to make a pass across, and I anticipated it. I think it went off [Ben] Holmstrom’s skate and caught me going the other way. It was almost like it was in slow motion, watching the puck go in the net. The crowd started getting into it, but we kept our composure.
They certainly did, as the Terriers didn’t muster very much of a rallying effort in the waning minutes.
“The difference between their quickness, their tenacity, their will and ours was like night and day,” Parker said. “It was beyond what I could have imagined. I could imagine that Lowell would play that hard, but I couldn’t imagine that we would wilt under their pressure. We almost looked like we were mad that they skated. It was a total inept effort on our part except for our goalie.”
BU (2-1-1 , 2-1-0 Hockey East) will look for revenge at Lowell on Friday before hosting No. 1 Maine on Saturday. Mass.-Lowell (2-2-1 , 1-0-0) returns to action Saturday night at home against Providence before hosting BU and Merrimack next weekend.