LOWELL, Mass. — Boston College rookie Johnny Gaudreau scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal late in the second period and goaltender Parker Milner made 37 saves as the top-ranked Eagles held off a pesky Massachusetts-Lowell club, 4-2, in front of 5,162 Friday at the Tsongas Center.
Steven Whitney notched a goal and an assist, his 50th and 51st points of his career, to lead BC’s offense. David Vallorani picked up two assists to pace the River Hawks.
“It’s always important to secure away-from-home victories,” said BC coach Jerry York. “We achieved that objective.”
Lowell, coming off a year in which the club had just five wins and finished last in Hockey East, gave the nation’s number one team everything it could handle. The River Hawks outskated BC for most of the game, and outshot the Eagles, 39-20. Were it not for the stellar play of Milner in net, the outcome easily could have been different.
“Lowell played very well and we gave up, from our perspective, a lot of shots,” said York. “Parker again was very confident and poised in the net. He was square to the puck an awful lot.”
Lowell’s biggest downfall came on special teams. The River Hawks couldn’t capitalize on any of their four power plays, including one late in the third while BC nursed a single-goal lead.
“The last [power play] in the third was particularly disappointing, because that one is the one where it can tie the game for you,” said Lowell coach Norm Bazin, coaching in his first game at Tsongas Arena since being hired in June. “We didn’t seem to have the steam to get to some of those [clearing] wraps. In [BC's] defense, they had some great clears.”
The River Hawks had the better of the play in a scoreless first period, outshooting the Eagles, 13-5. Milner though, was at his best the entire frame to keep Lowell of the board.
In the second, the River Hawks inability to cash in early hurt them, as BC scored twice in 66 seconds to grab a 2-0 lead.
Paul Carey got BC on the board, firing a shot through a screen on a power play over Lowell goaltender Doug Carr’s (16 saves) right shoulder at 3:18.
With all the momentum, BC forced an offensive zone draw, where Whitney headed to the net to poke home a juicy rebound at 4:24.
His line with Gaudreau and Pat Mullane factored in three of BC’s four goals, tallying five points total.
“My linemates are great playmakers, which fits into my style a little bit,” said Whitney. “We make plays all over the ice. It’s our role on the team to make some plays out there and put up a couple of points each night.”
Despite falling behind, the River Hawks responded midway through the third with two goals of their own to draw even.
After Milner lost his stick, Michael Budd poked home the rebound of his own shot, lifting the puck top shelf at 8:02. Later in the frame, the River Hawks worked the puck to the slot, where Joseph Pendenza blasted a fluke shot that hit Matt Ferreira in the side of the head and squeaked past Milner at 15:57 to knot the game at two.
“It looked like it was going up in the netting,” said Milner. “It hit [Ferreira's] helmet in front and just kind of trickled into the net. One of those unlucky ones, I guess.”
BC regained the lead late in the frame. Seconds after blasting a shot off the left post, rookie Gaudreau turned in the slot and fired a low slot five-hole with 1:18 remaining in the frame to give BC a 3-2 lead heading to the third.
Lowell forechecked tenaciously in the third looking for the equalizer. Ferreira nearly had it with 4:50 remaining, firing two shots into Milner from in close, but the River Hawks couldn’t solve the junior netminder, and Barry Almeida’s empty-net goal with 1:05 remaining sealed the victory.
The Eagles improve to 6-1-0 on the young season (4-0-0 Hockey East), while the River Hawks drop even to 2-2-0 (0-1-0 Hockey East). The two clubs will faceoff again on Saturday at BC’s Kelley Rink at 7:00 p.m.