CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Success is hardly how you could describe Mass.-Lowell’s history when facing Boston College.
Entering Friday’s game against the Eagles, Lowell had just 30 victories in 89 meetings, and sported an ugly 8-29-0 record since the beginning of the 1997-98 season.
In one evening, the River Hawks released much of their pent-up frustration.
On the strength of to two power-play goals, two short-handed tallies and a 27-save shutout by goaltender Nevin Hamilton, Lowell routed No. 15 Boston College, 6-0, in front of 3,847 at BC’s Kelley Rink. It was BC’s worst home loss since October 2006, when they fell 7-1, to Notre Dame and it was their worst home shutout loss since a 6-0 loss to Clarkson at Kelley Rink in November of 1992.
The River Hawks’ victory was paced by a tenacious forecheck, particularly in the third period, when Lowell put the game away. Holding a 2-0 lead entering the frame, the River Hawks plastered the BC goal with shots, holding a 21-6 edge in the period, and scored four times, including two short-handed goals.
“We’ve been in a lot of one-goal games this season and unfortunately we’ve been on the wrong side of a lot of them,” said Ben Holmstrom, who scored a goal in each of the first two periods to spot the River Hawks the 2-0 advantage. “We’ve tried to learn to not sit back when you get a lead we’re trying to get better in the third period every game.”
In essence, Lowell played a near-perfect game on Friday. They outworked the Eagles, getting to more loose pucks, they played a physical game that stifled BC along the boards, and they scored timely goals at even strength, on the power play and short-handed.
Lowell’s only downfall was penalties, allowing the Eagles nine power plays, but given the fact the River Hawks were a perfect nine-for-nine on the penalty kill and they scored two short-handed goals, even that could be forgiven.
A penalty-filled opening period saw little flow, with penalty killing taking the place of five-on-five play. Not surprisingly, the period’s only goal came on the power play, as Lowell struck just 2:05 into play.
Maury Edwards blasted a shot from the left point that BC netminder John Muse (29 saves) stopped with the left pad. Holmstrom was right on the doorstep for the rebound, firing not one, but two shots, the second of which beat Muse inside the right post for the period’s only goal.
BC held an advantage in shots in the opening frame, 10-7, thanks in large part to four power play chances.
In the second, the BC offense continued to get scoring chances, but Lowell’s Hamilton was solid between the pipes, shutting down the Eagles offense and allowing little in the way of rebounds.
Midway through the frame, the River Hawks extended their lead. Holmstrom netted his second goal of the night at 10:59, burying the rebound of a Patrick Cey shot at the left post to give the River Hawks a 2-0 advantage heading to the third. Lowell carried a 9-2-0 record into Friday’s game when leading through two.
That’s when the River Hawks’ killer instinct showed. Despite a David Vallorani tripping penalty with 14:06 remaining, the River Hawks pressed the Eagles and eventually forced a turnover at the blue line. Holmstrom and Mark Roebothan both mustered quality scoring chances, with Muse turning each aside. Finally, Nick Schaus buried a backhander past Muse to give the River Hawks a 3-0 goal cushion at 6:44.
“The short-handed goal was a real backbreaker for us,” said BC coach Jerry York. “The whole third period was dictated by Lowell. They controlled all facets of the game.”
From there, the River Hawks offense exploded. At 8:05, Vallorani pushed home the rebound of his own shot after Paul Worthington forced a turnover. It was the fourth Lowell goal of the night to be scored off a rebound.
“[Rebounds] are something we’ve been trying to get better at,” said Holmstrom. “Scoring goals is not easy. You have to get those dirty ones to get things going.”
From there, the River Hawks buried two shots right under the crossbar, Vallorani’s second of the night at 12:15 and a short-handed tally by Nick Monroe in the closing seconds of play to account for the 6-0 final.
It was the biggest single-game win for the River Hawks in their 25-year, 90-game history against Boston College. It was also their largest margin of victory since beating Maine on December 29, 2007, in the final of the Florida College Classic by an identical 6-0 score.
The win pulls the River Hawks into a tie with New Hampshire, which drew with Providence, 4-4, on Friday, for fourth place and the final home ice spot in the league playoffs. Both UNH and the River Hawks are now two points ahead of Boston College, which currently sits in sixth place.
The Eagles hope to salvage the weekend on Saturday when they travel to Lowell, looking to avoid being swept in the season series by the River Hawks for just the second time in series’ history.
“[Tonight] was a tough loss,” said York. “I told the guys afterwards, I didn’t want to talk about the game tonight. We’ll go over things when we meet [on Saturday] and try to find a way to split [the weekend] series.”