BOSTON, Mass. — This weekend, No. 14 Boston University has learned that it’s one thing to spot Mass.-Lowell a one-goal lead, but quite another to dig a three-goal hole in the first period.
After rallying to win after an early deficit Friday night, the Terriers played very well for the last 40 minutes but never recovered after going down 3-0 in the first 18 minutes, as Lowell evened the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series with a 4-1 win in front of 4,116 at Agganis Arena.
Paul Worthington led the way offensively for the River Hawks, factoring in all three first period goals with a goal and two assists. UML goalie Carter Hutton also had a stellar night with 41 saves, including 20 in the third period alone. Chris Higgins scored the lone Terriers’ goal.
I’m really proud of my team,” Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald said. “Their backs were against the wall and for a young team this was an opportunity. Great moments come from great opportunities, to play a tremendous team like BU and get through it.”
“Last night I wasn’t pleased with how my team played after the first period,” Terriers’ coach Jack Parker said. “Tonight I was real pleased with my team after the first period. We just couldn’t put it by Hutton. I thought he played great; I thought we played very well after we gave them a 3-0 lead, but you’re not going to win too many games when you only score one goal, and that had a lot to do with how hard they played us down low and how they killed our power plays.”
It looked to be a potentially ominous sign when BU came somewhat close to putting the puck in their own net on a delayed penalty call at 1:10. They didn’t threaten much on that power play, and then Lowell took the lead on their first power play.
Early in that man advantage, Ben Holmstrom had three whacks at a rebound. Karson Gillespie stopped those bids, but another rebound did him in seconds later. Jeremy Dehner took a slap shot from the left point, and Holmstrom buried the rebound that time. It was the River Hawks’ fourth power-play goal over six chances in the series up to that point.
Lowell made it 2-0 at 10:50 when Kory Falite got the puck low in the right wing faceoff circle and fired a short-side shot just as Gillespie pulled off the post.
BU’s fourth line of John McCarthy, Brian McGuirk, and Ryan Weston seemed to ignite the Terriers temporarily. McCarthy made a great individual effort leading to a scoring chance at 12:45. On the lines next shift, Weston dug the puck out of the boards at center ice and sent McCarthy racing into the zone, where his last-second pass to McGuirk almost led to a goal.
However, the turnaround was short-lived, as the River Hawks made it 3-0 at the 18-minute mark. On a pretty harmless looking rush with the attackers seemingly covered, Barry Goers took the puck up the right wing and crossed to Paul Worthington for a one-timer and a goal.
Worthington came into the night with just four points all season and nearly matched that with three points tonight.
“It’s actually a terrific story,” MacDonald said. “Paul Worthington had a concussion here back on February 3, 2007 [actually February 2] and couldn’t play for a whole year, but for spring, summer, and fall, he was at 6:00 a.m. workouts, every single workout, every team activity. It was killing him not to play. All of a sudden he was able to deal with his symptoms and get back in the lineup. It’s a great story and a great tribute to intestinal fortitude.”
Brett Bennett replaced Gillespie between the pipes to start the second period. Parker said it was more trying to give the team a spark rather than because of Gillespie’s play. It also was announced that Eric Gryba would miss the remainder of the game with an injury to his right MCL.
“He’ll be out a while,” Parker said.
With Colin Wilson already out tonight (day to day with a hip flexor injury), it was yet another setback for the Terriers.
A ray of hope arrived at 10:17. Bryan Ewing got the puck behind the UML goal line and threaded a nice pass to Chris Higgins high on the slot. The centerman was covered, but patiently looked for a seam and fired a shot that went off Carter Hutton’s skate and in.
Then a fantastic BU penalty kill got the crowd into it for the first time all night at 13:00. Nick Bonino got it going with an incredibly tenacious effort to keep Lowell stuck in their own end, where they remained for most of the power play. It culminated with a too many men penalty on the flustered River Hawks, and the crowd gave the home team a standing ovation.
Luke Popko had a good shot on the ensuing power play, with Bonino having a crack at his rebound as well at 15:45. Paul Worthington countered with a rebound chance at 18:00. Chris Auger glanced a shot off the post in the period’s last minute for the River Hawks. BU then had three great chances in the last 20 seconds, but Hutton came up with the saves, making an especially dazzling one on Brandon Yip on a rebound attempt in tight.
“Shattenkirk took a slap shot, and I have up a big juicy rebound,” Hutton said. “It kind of hit me just above the pads; I couldn’t contain it. I was able to stay with it and come across, and I got my glove on [Yip's rebound shot].
Lowell still had their two-goal lead, but BU appeared to have all the momentum.
The intermission seemed to help the River Hawks get things under control, as the first eight minutes of the third period were uneventful. Gradually, BU built up a big shot advantage. A lengthy scrum in front of the UML net led to a great chance for John McCarthy among others at 8:15, then Nick Bonino fired just wide a minute later. Brian Strait had a good look at 11:40 but was stopped as well.
Then a brutal giveaway by Strait in his own end gave Lowell a 4-1 lead. Strait attempted a cross-ice pass in his own end but put it right on the stick of freshman left wing Patrick Cey. All alone with the goaltender, Cey got Bennett to go down and put the puck around him on his backhand.
With just over three minutes, Colby Cohen blasted a one-time slap shot off the post.
“We were able to hold off BU, and it starts with our goalie Carter Hutton, who was terrific,” MacDonald said. “He provided the underbelly of confidence that certainly a young team needs, and we were fortunate to yield at a high rate for our opportunities.”
The teams face off at 7 p.m. Sunday night to see who goes to Friday’s semi-finals at the TD Banknorth Garden.