CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — With 2:50 remaining in regulation of a 1-1 game between No. 10 Boston College and No. 20 Massachusetts-Lowell, things looked a bit ominous for the host Eagles.
BC defenseman Edwin Shea was whistled for boarding, putting Lowell on a power play in the second game of a weekend series that, to that point,hadn’t had an even-strength goal scored.
“It was a harmless play and [Shea] got a little bit antsy,” said BC coach York of the penalty.
With Lowell seemingly in the driver’s seat, BC put forth a perfect penalty kill, limiting Lowell to just two perimeter shots, and once the penalty was killed, the Eagles’ offense used the momentum from the kill to grab victory from the jaws of defeat.
Just 36 seconds after Shea returned to the ice, rookie Chris Kreider found a loose puck in the slot and rifled a shot on edge that beat Lowell netminder Carter Hutton (32 saves) for the only five-on-five goal of the weekend to give BC a 2-1 victory in front of 5,715 Saturday at Kelley Rink.
“We were really focused and very aggressive; we weren’t back on our heels,” said York of the power play and the ensuing shift the led to the game-winning goal. “That [penalty kill] really energized our bench. We then had terrific [offensive] chances in the last 35 or 40 seconds of the game.”
The goal for Kreider capped off a solid offensive week for the young rookie, who scored a highlight reel goal in BC’s 4-3 victory over Boston University in the Beanpot title game before becoming Saturday’s hero.
“We kind of had a makeshift line [after the penalty kill],” said Kreider of Saturday’s game winner. “The puck just kind of popped free. I got my stick on it and threw it on net and it went in.”
The win gives BC a split of the weekend series after falling 4-1 on Friday at Lowell. More importantly, BC gained two points on first-place New Hampshire, which was idle on Saturday, pulling the Eagles back to within three points of first place.
The Eagles opened the scoring at 14:11 of the opening period on a power play. Ben Smith wheeled out of the left wing corner and made a nice cross-crease pass to Brian Gibbons. Gibbons was patient, grabbing a solid hold on the pass before roofing it over a fallen Hutton to give BC a 1-0 lead.
In the second, Lowell evened things with a power-play goal of its own. Scott Campbell fired home a puck from the slot after Maury Edwards’ original bid was blocked, bouncing right to Campbell’s stick. The goal at 8:11 of the second was the combined fifth power-play goal of the weekend series, combined with two empty-net goals by the River Hawks in Friday’s 4-1 Lowell win.
In the third, each team had an early bid to take the lead. BC’s Paul Carey rang a shot so hard off the crossbar at 2:18 that the water bottle on top of the net went flying into the corner. On the counterattack, Lowell’s Nick Schaus fired a shot off the right post to keep the game deadlocked.
Minutes later, Campbell picked the pocket of a BC defender and walked in alone on rookie netminder Parker Milner (25 saves). Campbell was patient in attempting to find open net space, but Milner stayed with him all the way and eventually got a glove on the shot.
From there, BC gained momentum offensively. Cam Atkinson looked to have the game winner on his stick with 7:23 remaining, but as he fired the shot, his stick broke and Hutton was able to move across the crease for the save.
Lowell, though, had its shot on the power play after the Shea call. However, the River Hawks struggled to gain possession through much of the man advantage, and when they did, BC kept the River Hawks to the perimeter.
“Those are defining moments of the game,” said Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald of the late-game power play. “You make decisions [thinking], ‘Maybe I should shoot the puck’ and you [instead] throw the puck diagonally and they get all sorts of breaks from it. We had some chances. We had the puck behind the net and threw it out front. It just takes one shot, as you can see [on Kreider's goal] at the end.”
The loss may be a difficult pill to swallow for Lowell, which is entrenched in a battle for the final home playoff spot. The River Hawks, picked to finish second in Hockey East, entered the evening tied with BU for fifth place and two points behind Massachusetts for fourth place.
Things won’t get much easier for Lowell, which travels to Maine next weekend for a two-game set. The River Hawks are 1-14-1 in their last 16 games in Orono, the lone win coming last season.
BC will face off against Northeastern in a Friday-Sunday home-and-home series beginning Friday night at Matthews Arena.