LOWELL, Mass. — It was supposed to be a tight battle, one most likely decided by the slimmest of margins, between first-place Massachusetts-Lowell and Boston University, which trailed by just a single point. Instead, it was a flexing of muscles by the Terriers, seizing a 3-1 first period lead and never letting the margin get any closer en route to a 7-4 victory.
The Terriers expanded the lead to a seemingly insurmountable 5-1 margin by late in the second period, but Mass.-Lowell rallied to make it 5-3 before a Russ Gaudet goal reestablished the three-goal margin and took back the momentum.
Alex Chiasson led the scoring with a power-play goal and three assists. Chris Connolly and Matt Nieto both added power-play goals and two assists.
Mass.-Lowell outshot the more opportunistic Terriers, 42-29, but decidedly lost the special teams battle. BU scored three power-play goals in five chances to Mass.-Lowell’s one. The Terriers also killed a five-on-three that lasted over a minute, then added insult to injury by scoring on a breakaway when Adam Clendening came out of the box.
“We’re the best team in the league on the power play in league games, and we’re the best on the penalty kill,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “So we’re going pretty well on special teams. That’s the sign of a team that can win something things later on.”
With the win, the Terriers leapfrogged the River Hawks into a share of first place with Boston College, which defeated Merrimack, 4-2. Even so, Parker was unhappy with how his team played after taking the lead.
“It was too wide-open of a hockey game,” he said. “Once we got up, we started playing a little sloppy.
“Most everybody played okay in the offensive end, but a couple guys had brain cramps in the defensive end, turning pucks over and making bad decisions with the puck. I’d rather see us win that game 5-2 than 7-4.”
Mass.-Lowell has now lost two straight, falling into a tie with Maine for third place, a point behind BU and BC. The River Hawks play a rematch against BU on Saturday at Agganis Arena.
“We responded very badly to the momentum shifts,” River Hawks coach Norm Bazin said. “We’d score, then allow a goal right away in the same shift. That isn’t us.
“We weren’t very good at the net-front stick battles and on the penalty kill. We’ll have to get better if we’re going to have success [on Saturday.]”
BU grabbed control in the first period, despite giving up the first goal at the 5:53 mark. Lowell’s number 18, Michael Budd, collected a rebound that caromed off a skate and whacked it in for his fifth of the year. A minute later, Wade Megan, BU’s number 18, roofed in a rebound goal of his own. It would be the first of five consecutive Terriers goals.
Chiasson gave the Terriers a lead they would never relinquish at 13:18, converting from the slot on a pass from Connolly. Yasin Cisse made it 3-1 four minutes later, also on a shot from the slot.
In the second, Connolly backhanded a rebound in from the left side of the net as a power play drew to a close. The River Hawks received a golden opportunity to get back into the game in the form of a five-on-three power play lasting over a minute. The gold turned to rust, however, when the BU penalty killers not only stymied the man-advantage but when it ended, Clendening emerged from the box, collected a breakaway pass from Chiasson, and put extra mustard on his deke of goaltender Doug Carr, and stuffed it in.
With the game seemingly over at 5-1, Mass.-Lowell charged back with a goal in the final minute of the second and another in the first minute of the third. The first of the two came on the power play from junior defensemen Malcolm Lyles, his first collegiate goal. The second came from a more expected source, Riley Wetmore converting a pass from Scott Wilson.
It took only two minutes for BU to respond to the seismic shift in momentum. Russ Gaudet collected a loose puck on a partial breakaway, pushed the puck ahead to get free and with Carr coming way out of his net, stuffed the puck around the goaltender. Carr was then relieved by Marc Boulanger.
Matt Ferreira again narrowed the margin to two goals at 7:32, but minutes later Nieto’s power-play goal on a nice pass by Chiasson sealed the win for BU.