CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Down by a goal in the final minute of the game is a familiar place these days for the University of Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks. On Friday, the team faced the same situation against No. 12 Boston College. The only difference on this night was the outcome.
The team has lost six straight games by either a single goal or two goals where the opposition scores an empty netter to cap victory. But on Friday, after surrendering a goal midway through the third to give the Eagles the lead at 3-2, Lowell finally broke through with an extra-attacker goal from the stick of Scott Campbell with 45.5 seconds to play to knot the game at three.
Immediately thereafter, BC’s Nick Petricki was whistled for a five minute major penalty and game misconduct for hitting from behind and at 4:15 of overtime, Lowell’s Nick Schaus scored just his second goal of the season and third of his career on the power play to give the River Hawks a hard-fought, 4-3 overtime victory in front of 4,898 at BC’s Kelley Rink.
“It would be an understatement if I said we needed that game,” said Lowell head coach Blaise MacDonald. “We’ve lost a lot of one-goal games which can get into your psyche a little bit.”
The tying goal came when Campbell drove the net after winning an offensive zone draw. A Jeremy Dehner shot from the point was saved by BC netminder John Muse (36 saves) and after Mark Roebothan, who missed five of the last six games with injuries, took one whack at the puck, Campbell lifted it over Muse’s right pad for the equalizer.
Twenty seconds later, Petrecki, who already had been whistled for two undisciplined minor penalties, buried a Lowell defenseman into the boards as the play was moving towards the other end. Referee Jeff Bunyon immediately signaled hitting from behind, which when occurring next to the boards results in an automatic five minute major penalty.
“We played against Lowell and we played against ourselves,” said a disgusted BC head coach Jerry York, unhappy with his team’s inability to stay out of the penalty box. “Six straight penalties capped off with a five-minute major. Those are self-inflicted wounds. You’re not going to win a lot of hockey games in our league like that.”
Though Lowell didn’t immediately get sustained pressure with the man advantage, over the final 90 seconds, the River Hawks pinned the Eagles in the zone and just seconds before the major expired David Vallorani found Schaus all alone below the left faceoff dot and fired a cross zone pass that Schaus calmly buried into the empty net.
“We set up for an overload [on the power play],” said Schaus. “Vallorani saucered [the pass] over three guys’ sticks. He’s a pretty good passer so we had confidence in the play.”
The win snapped a streak of six straight losses for the River Hawks and was the club’s first win in Hockey East play since a 3-1 victory at Merrimack on November 25.
For the Eagles, the loss extends a streak of futility over the last four games dating back to December 5. It’s the second time in three games that BC has surrendered a lead in the final minute, having done so with a buzzer beater goal by Vermont last Friday in a 3-3 tie.
“We’re not playing our best hockey, that’s for sure,” said York.
A spirited first period saw both teams throw 12 shots on net with ample opportunities for each to score. Thanks to some outstanding goaltending at both ends, though, each team managed just a single tally.
The Eagles got on the board at 4:58 as Kyle Kucharski buried his third goal in as many games. He took a pass from Tim Filangeri as he crossed the blueline on the rush and fired it past Lowell netminder Carter Hutton (28 saves) short side for the 1-0 lead.
Lowell answered on Patrick Cey’s fourth goal of the season. Dehner took the original shot and a big rebound landed on Cey’s stick at the left faceoff dot. The sophomore fired a quick snap shot that beat Muse over the glove and under the crossbar to knot the game at one through the opening 20.
The River Hawks controlled the play territorially in the second, but thanks to some tough luck managed only to leave the frame still tied as each team potted a single marker yet again.
Lowell had a goal disallowed when Roebothan kicked the rebound of a Paul Worthington shot past Muse at 6:27. Then a Campbell shot was pulled off the goal line by Benn Ferriero at 8:26. Both plays went to instant replay but in each case the referee ruled no goal.
“Both of those goals go to review and both end up not being goals,” said MacDonald. “You start saying to yourself, ‘This isn’t happening again.’”
The River Hawks finally scored to take the lead, this time on the power play. After Petricki took the first of three ill-advised penalties, this one for hitting a Lowell play while Petricki was sitting on the bench, Maury Edwards fired a shot that seemed to deflect, likely off a BC defender, and past Muse at 14:52.
The Eagles wasted little time in scoring the equalizer, though, as Barry Almeida made a nice one-handed redirect of a Ben Smith centering pass past Hutton at 16:01 to even the game at two.
In the third, the Eagles grabbed back the momentum, thanks in part to a goal that gave the Eagles their second lead in the game. Bradford took advantage of a Lowell defensive zone turnover and fired a shot through the legs of Hutton at 8:05.
But Lowell never quit and thanks to the late-game drama walked away with just its seventh win over BC in the last 37 meetings.
Both teams will faceoff against rivals on Saturday night with Lowell hosting Massachusetts and BC traveling down Commonwealth Avenue to face long-time foe Boston University.
“This is a hard one to let go,” said York about Friday’s loss. “But we’ll wake up in the morning prepare to face the Terriers.”