BOSTON — Freshman Connor Hellebuyck recorded his third shutout in nine decisions, backstopping Massachusetts-Lowell to a 3-0 win over Boston University. With the win, the River Hawks drew even with BU in the Hockey East standings, good for fifth place, two points out of a tie for third.
Scott Wilson scored on a rocket of a shot in the second period, followed closely thereafter by a Joseph Pendenza centering pass that caromed off a BU defender. Riley Wetmore closed out the scoring late in the third period with a power-play goal.
Hellebuyck extended his record to 8-1 and made 25 saves, while the River Hawks improved their mark since Dec. 1 to 13-2-1.
“Tonight was a team shutout,” Mass.-Lowell coach Norm Bazin said. “I don’t think we gave them a whole bunch of second opportunities.
“They’re a very skilled hockey team. They’re especially strong on the weak side of the ice. We did a fairly nice job of trying to close that down. But it’s really about the second opportunities at the net front, and I thought we protected his back side fairly well.”
With Providence leapfrogging BU into a tie for third place, Mass.-Lowell and the Terriers now find themselves the last two of six teams fighting for four home ice berths, all six within three points of each other.
“It’s going to be a fight till the end,” Bazin said. “There’s such parity in this league that it’s going to come down to the last weekend. We’re cognizant of that.
“Anytime we can come out and get some points, we’re going to do that. We’re down to six games.”
BU, which had been comfortably inside the home ice drawing line as well as the PairWise Top 10, now finds itself on the outside looking in on both counts. With a 4-8-2 mark since the holiday break, the Terriers are now outside of the NCAA tournament bubble, tied for 17th.
“These games are huge,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “It’s even more important for the NCAA tournament. [The players know that.] They know how to read. They have a computer.”
With the loss, the Terriers extended their home winless streak to five games, a drought unmatched since 1971.
“Lowell played a great road game,” Parker said. “We didn’t generate enough offense. They really shut us down, mostly on the initial rush.
“They had four guys back all the time once they got the lead, and they really did a great job of clogging up center ice and
then keeping us from getting anything going on the initial rushes or even in the zone.”
The scoreless first period featured strong defense and limited opportunities. Mass.-Lowell outshot BU, 7-4, largely on the basis of enjoying the only two power plays of the period.
The action opened up in the second to BU’s detriment. At 5:35, Wilson rifled a shot from wide of the right faceoff dot and rattled it in off the pipe. The goal was the first BU had allowed during five-on-five play in 172 minutes and 18 seconds.
Unfortunately for the Terriers, they allowed another one just two minutes later. Pendenza centered the puck from along the left boards, and although it initially appeared that A.J. White redirected it in, the puck actually caromed off BU defenseman Sean Escobedo’s chest.
Parker took a timeout, but barely more than a minute later, the Terriers took a penalty and remained on the defensive. Fortunately for them, they killed the penalty and then O’Connor bailed them out when Derek Arnold walked in all alone just after the penalty expired. One of the league’s hottest players and the reigning Hockey East Player of the Week, Arnold deked and tried to score off the backhand, but O’Connor foiled him.
The Terriers finally went on a power play at 14:08 and generated good pressure, keeping the puck in the attacking zone almost the entire time, but to no avail.
At 14:55 of the third period, Wetmore added an important insurance goal, converting a backhanded rebound from the doorstep despite mostly whiffing on the attempt.
The two teams will complete the back end of their home-and-home series at Lowell on Saturday.