LOWELL, Mass. — It would have been easy for Boston University to overlook this game and focus on Monday night’s Beanpot Championship against Boston College. Instead, they came in looking to climb the ladder up Hockey East and they got one step closer, knocking off No. 18 University of Massachusetts-Lowell, 3-2, in front of 5,296 screaming fans at Tsongas arena.
“I thought it was a great college hockey game and I thought we were as thorough as we been in a while on the defensive end,” said Terriers’ coach Jack Parker. “The fact we gave up only two shots in the third period is a testament of how focused we were and how competitive we were.”
Lowell scored 22 seconds into the game to take an early 1-0 lead, but it didn’t last for long, as the Terriers scored three unanswered goals to give them a 3-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
River Hawks’ forward Ben Holmstrom started off the scoring with a blistering snap shot from the right faceoff circle that beat netminder Kieran Millan (16 saves) over the right shoulder.
The River Hawks’ goal jump started the Terriers’ offense, going right down and tying the game up with a goal by Ross Gaudet 40 seconds later. Ross received a pass in the slot and was able to find the back of the net, putting it through Nevin Hamilton’s (30 saves) five-hole.
“The biggest goal of the game was Gaudet’s,” said Parker. “We haven’t won a game all year in which we give up the first goal.”
In the middle stanza of the first, Lowell had two power-play opportunities, but it was the Terriers’ short-handed ability that scored two goals less than two minutes apart.
Zach Cohen tallied the first one with a breakaway, deking Hamilton to his left, and going back to the forehand, flipping it over his right pad. The breakaway came on a pass by Kevin Shattenkirk, splitting two River Hawks’ defensemen and threading the needle to Cohen.
David Warsofsky notched the second short-handed goal by stealing the puck at the blue line of the defensive zone. He hustled up the left side, beating the last defensemen back and firing shot from the left circle, beating Hamilton top shelf. That goal gave the Terriers a commanding 3-1 lead after one.
In the second period, Lowell cut the lead to one, as Scott Campbell scored a power-play goal on a tip in down low, sneaking it around Millan’s left pad. That goal came at 7:03.
The storyline of the third period was the solid play of the Terriers’ defense and their domination on faceoffs, going 14-for-17. Through the first two periods, Lowell had a huge advantage, winning 34-of-50. The Terriers also gave up only two shots in the third.
Throughout the whole game, the Terriers never let Lowell get any momentum going. They did an outstanding job of clogging the shooting lanes with their bodies and not giving Lowell any good scoring chances.
River Hawks’ coach Blaise MacDonald was pleased with the way the game started, but then he thought his team lost their focus and concentration.
“We started the game the way we hoped with a beautiful shift, and then we didn’t buckle down on our left front defense a minute later and they scored,” said MacDonald. “Then essentially we lose our concentration, focus and execution and give up two breakaways short-handed. That will rock your confidence a little bit.”
Boston University (11-11-3 overall, 8-9-2 Hockey East) will play next on Monday Night at the TD Garden to take on Boston College for the Beanpot Championship.
Lowell (14-11-2 overall, 8-8-2 Hockey East) now travels to Merrimack on Saturday night to take on a Warriors team that lost to Northeastern 5-1.
Parker is very pleased with the way his team has been playing since the break. They are now 7-2 since the Christmas break, and have won three in a row.
“We’re coming, and I think other people know we’re coming,” said Parker. “That’s good for us. As they said in “Bad News Bears,” it’s bad news for the other clubs. I was really pleased with my team tonight in everything in their poise, playmaking, effort and their team defense.”