BOSTON, Mass. — The No. 7 seed has never beaten the No. 2 seed in 20 Hockey East quarterfinal series.
Tonight Boston University looked a little like they took that for granted, and it almost cost them.
No. 14 BU (17-15-4) struggled to put UMass-Lowell (15-15-4) away before finally pulling out a 5-3 victory to take a one-game lead in the best-of-three series in front of 3,863 fans at Agganis Arena.
Pete MacArthur led the way with two goals and an assist for the Terriers, and linemate Chris Higgins potted a pair as well. Maury Edwards and Paul Worthington each contributed a goal and an assist in a losing effort for the River Hawks. The two teams scored a whopping five power-play goals on just nine power plays.
Number one, I was very pleased with our effort in the first period, Terrier coach Jack Parker said. We played real well; we played real sharp. And after that, once we made it 3-1, we started playing out of our system, out of our style — something different. I was real disappointed with our special teams tonight. We gave up three goals with them playing the BU power play against us. We were pathetic killing penalties.
For River Hawk coach Blaise MacDonald, there was a sense of pride in his teams refusal to quit.
In general, battling back from 3-1 and 4-2 deficits to make it a ballgame — I was proud of our effort, our resiliency, and really overall our attitude on the bench that we were going to get it done. Clearly our special teams for both sides played a huge role for both teams.
BU didnt exactly burst out of the gate. At 4:10, Terrier freshman Colin Wilson got the puck in front of his own goal and handed it over to River Hawk centerman Scott Campbell for a great chance. BU sophomore goalie Brett Bennett calmly saved it and controlled his rebounds well early on.
Still, the River Hawks took the surprising lead at 6:09. During the waning moments of their first power play, defenseman Barry Goers passed the puck from the right point to Mark Roebothan low in the right-wing faceoff circle. Despite the bad angle, the left winger somehow got the shot through Bennett. The goal ended a 128:55 shutout streak for the Terriers.
At 13:40, Luke Popko and Brandon Yip showed off their passing skills to tee up a shot for Wilson, but Lowell goalie Carter Hutton made the save. The River Hawks countered less than a minute later, when Paul Worthington set up goal-scoring threat Kory Falite all along in front of the net, only to have Falite try to pick the far corner and shoot wide.
BU tied it at 16:10 when Wilson and co-captain Brian McGuirk cycled the puck in the left-wing faceoff circle before McGuirk wheeled and shot a slow roller that went through a Ryan Weston screen and snuck past Hutton for a soft one. Carter Huttons been playing real well for us, MacDonald said. Thats just the rub of the grain some time; he just didnt see it, and it went in.
Less than two minutes later, the Terriers struck again. Matt Gilroy got the puck along the right-wing boards and flipped a backhander at Hutton. Pete MacArthur collected the rebound on the doorstep and buried it, marking the second time that BU had scored on a pretty harmless looking series of events.
In the last ten seconds of the period, Terrier senior Bryan Ewing took a smart penalty, tackling Falite as he crashed the net. Then Falite took a dumb penalty, throwing Bennett to the ice after their bodies tangled, negating a power play.
BU gained momentum in the second period. At 3:20, Ryan Weston raced in, stopped, then teed it up for John McCarthy crashing the net for a great chance. Hutton made the save. Then Joe Pereira blocked a Barry Goers shot and raced off, ultimately drawing a tripping penalty.
BU took the two-goal lead at 12:41 when Kevin Shattenkirk fired a heads-up pass from the top of the right-wing circle across the slot to Chris Higgins, who redirected it into the net from ten feet.
Paul Worthington had a pair of River Hawk chances around the 15-minute mark, and Hutton flashed a good glove to stop Higgins at 17:12.
UML drew closer at 1:28 of the third period, freshman defenseman Maury Edwards blasted a power-play slap shot from the point to beat Bennett through traffic.
John McCarthy almost got that one back with a bid for BU just a half-minute later. Then, at 6:56, BU got a pretty goal.
Kind of a broken play on the power-play breakout, MacArthur said. Yip kind of threw me the puck in the middle, and I slid it over to Boomer at their blue line. Both of their defensemen committed to him and gave me a free lane right to the net, and Boomer made an unbelievable pass right to my tape, just deflected right under the bar.
The Terriers had the save of the night at 10:15 and it wasnt even by the goalie. With Bennett down and out of position, UMass-Lowell had two-thirds of the net to shoot at, but freshman defenseman Colby Cohen slid down in the crease to make the great save, preserving the two-goal lead.
That was an unbelievable play, Higgins said. If they get that goal, its a whole different game. He made a great play to stop that; it was definitely the defensive play of the night.
No question about it — that was the game, Parker said of Cohens save.
But BU couldnt put the River Hawks away. Once again, Maury Edwards took a power-play slapshot from the point. This time it went wide, but Paul Worthington corralled the rebound behind the net and tucked it in to make it 4-3 with over six minutes remaining.
It didnt seem an exciting a 4-3 game as it should have been, Parker said. It was tense because it was important, but it looked like a sloppy hockey game for both clubs — especially after the first.
Finally, Higgins buried an empty-net goal with 5.3 seconds to end it. A win is a win is a win, MacArthur said. We know we didnt play our best hockey. Sometimes you need a little bit of luck. Our goalie played well, and we got some timely goals.
The two teams face off again at Agganis on Saturday night. As planned before the series started, Karson Gillespie will be in goal for BU. Weve got to get more out of everybody than we did tonight, Parker said. A lot of guys had bad nights tonight.
Regardless, Parker said the lineup would remain intact tomorrow with the exception of the netminder.