CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — The No. 3 Boston College Eagles used three power-play goals, including a third period tally with the man advantage that put the Eagles ahead to stay, to stave off an upset bid and earn a 5-3 win over last-place Massachusetts-Lowell Saturday night at Kelley Rink.
“That’s the best three-win team I’ve seen since I’ve been in Hockey East,” said Boston College coach Jerry York of Lowell. “They gave us all we could handle.”
The Eagles never led in the game until Paul Carey scored with 9:03 remaining after Lowell’s Riley Wetmore was sent off for goaltender interference. The penalty also negated a Patrick Cey goal that would have given the River Hawks their own 3-2 lead.
Prior to the penalty, the River Hawks were pressing and Wetmore took a feed out front that BC netminder Parker Milner (22 saves) stopped. Wetmore’s momentum carried him into Milner while Cey dug for the loose puck and lifted it over the fallen players. Referee Dave Hansen immediately signaled no goal on the ice and didn’t even choose to look at video review on the play.
“I’d have to watch the video,” said Blaise MacDonald when asked for his thoughts of the play that became a major momentum shift in the game. “The goaltender has to be able to play his position. If we get knocked into the goaltender, that’s questionable, so that’s why I’d have to watch the video.”
After seizing the lead with Carey’s tally, Joe Whitney buried a Brian Dumoulin pass at 15:59 to give the Eagles breathing room at 4-2. But that was short-lasting, as Cey responded with a goal of his own at 16:18 to draw Lowell back within one at 4-3.
The River Hawks had ample opportunities to knot the game, including a crazy scrum in front of the net with two minutes remaining. Both Cey and Wetmore peppered the net, only to be stoned by Milner.
“The puck was squirting out front and [the Lowell player] pulled it out of the scrum and got a shot off,” said Milner. “I got it with my blocker and it went into the corner and the guys got it out quickly after that.”
BC’s Jimmy Hayes added an empty-net goal with 30 seconds remaining.
The loss spoiled a terrific performance by Lowell freshman netminder Marc Boulanger. Boulanger entered the game ranked 70th of 72 goaltenders in the nation in both goals against average and save percentage. On Saturday, though, the rookie played a career game stopping 41 BC shots only to come up short.
“[Boulanger] read the play really well [throughout the game],” said MacDonald. “He did what you have to do to beat a team like this on the road. You need to have goaltending that keeps you in it late into the third period.”
Despite Boston College holding the early territorial advantage, it was the River Hawks who got on the board first. Shayne Thompson finished off a puck cycle behind the net with a wraparound bid that bounced off Milner and into the net at 7:49 for a 1-0 lead.
Lowell, the least penalized team in Hockey East, gave the Eagles the first power play of the game when Maury Edwards was sent off for cross-checking at 9:50. That led to BC drawing even when Jimmy Hayes finished off a nice tic-tac-toe passing play with Chris Kreider and Brian Dumoulin at 11:28 to even the game at one.
Lowell regained the lead midway through the second as Chris Ickert scored his first career goal, blasting a shot through a screen on the power play at 10:32 to give the River Hawks a 2-1 lead.
It looked like the game would head to the third that way, mostly thanks to incredible goaltending by Boulanger, who finished the frame with 15 saves, but a Lowell penalty late in the frame, just the team’s second of the game, led to the equalizer for the Eagles.
With Derek Arnold off for high sticking, Tommy Cross walked in from the right point and fired a shot over Boulanger’s glove at 18:49 to knot the game at two and set up the wild third period.
BC finished the game a perfect three-for-three on the power play, while Lowell scored once in it’s the chances with the man advantage.
The win catapults BC (17-6-0, 13-5-0 Hockey East) into sole possession of first place, two points ahead of New Hampshire, which fell, 2-1, at home against Boston University on Saturday. UNH still has three games in hand on the Eagles.
For Lowell (3-19-2, 3-15-0), it was a near miss on putting together by far the most successful weekend of the year. The River Hawks upset No. 13 Merrimack on Friday and nearly hit the daily double on Saturday.
“We’re building right now,” said MacDonald. “We’ve overcome a lot of adversity. But we’re playing with better pace, better organization and more believability. These two games will help us build.”