BOSTON — Coming into tonight’s game, Boston University had lost its last six games against Massachusets-Lowell and scored just twice in the last four games combined.
Down 2-1 in the second period, it certainly was a good time for a goal from a most unlikely source.
Senior Matt Ronan, who played in just two games in his first two seasons and who only became a regular at long last this year, scored his first collegiate goal in his 23rd collegiate game to help BU earn a 2-2 tie in an exciting battle with UMass-Lowell in front of 3,460 at Agganis Arena.
“I didn’t think I was going to ever score at BU to be completely honest, so it’s a bit of a treat for me,” Ronan said. “I’ve always just focused on chipping pucks and playing physical, so it’s a pretty crazy experience to get one out there.”
Beyond Ronan, the big story was Connor versus O’Connor – Terriers’ goalie Matt O’Connor and River Hawks’ netminder Connor Hellebuyck each had an outstanding night with 33 saves apiece in a game that featured any number of great scoring chances and some real momentum swings.
It was quite a turnaround from BU’s performance up at Lowell last month when the River Hawks won a game that was not nearly as close as the 3-1 final indicated. BU was outshot 39-11 in that game and looked thoroughly depleted most of the night.
“It’s always nice to get a point, especially against a team that manhandled you the last time you played them,” BU coach David Quinn said.
The game followed a strong performance in a disappointing loss to Boston College in the Beanpot semifinal Monday night when the Terriers fought hard, only to come up short by hitting a few posts in the third period.
“I sense a change in our mentality and our purpose,” Quinn said. “I think we’re becoming more mature and for the first time in a while, as we were going into overtime, we expected to win a hockey game.”
“Our last two games have been against two top teams in the country and we’ve played real well,” BU co-captain Patrick MacGregor said. “We had chances to win both games, especially tonight, and the morale on the bench and the ice was good.”
BU had to come from behind twice to tie it tonight.
At the 11:00 mark of the first period, the River Hawks took the lead when Michael Fallon backhanded a pass to the far side of the crease, where Derek Arnold beat Dalton MacAfee to the puck for an easy tap-in.
Less than five minutes later, Ahti Oksanen chipped a pass of the boards and onto the stick of Cason Hohmann, who carried it in on the left wing on a two-on-one break. Hohmann took a wrist shot with pinpoint aim, finding the top corner on the glove side.
Asked if he had talked to Hohmann about curbing his strong tendency to pass in these situations, Quinn quipped, “Some people would call it yelling, but yes, I have talked to him about it.”
Quinn praised Oksanen’s indirect pass, citing it as the team catching on to the fact that they don’t need to make plays that will turn up on ESPN’s highlights.
“We’re seeing what happens when you just make the simple play,” said Quinn.
BU took two penalties simultaneously late in the first, setting up a five-on-three power play for a full two minutes. UMass-Lowell eventually capitalized, as Josh Holmstrom knocked in the rebound of an Adam Chapie shot.
Ronan’s big moment came early in the second period.
Racing in aggressively to forecheck, Ronan won a puck battle along the left-wing boards and the puck ended up on the stick of freshman Brendan Collier behind the goal line. Ronan headed for the net and one-timed a shot into the top corner glove side, an improbable, yet pretty goal.
Ronan admitted that he literally hadn’t even scored a goal in his dreams during his four years at BU.
Garrett Noonan came close to getting a power-play goal late in the period, taking a shot that got through the relatively impregnable Hellebuyck. It trickled toward the goal line, but Christian Folin swept it away with inches to spare.
“Our inability to capitalize on the power play cost us a point tonight,” said Quinn, whose team failed to score on four man-advantages.
There were some exciting momentum swings and good chances throughout the third period that led to Quinn having some regrets.
“I’m kicking myself for not calling a timeout when we got a power play in the third period,” admitted Quinn. “Our top unit was tired and I should’ve called a timeout. It dawned on me halfway through, which is a little too late.”
The opportunities continued into overtime, where BU definitely looked like a team pressing to win rather than trying not to lose.
In the end, though, both teams got the fate they deserved.
“I thought it was a hard-fought game tonight,” Lowell coach Norm Bazin said. “I think the shots ended up even, 35 apiece. I was happy with several things and we’ll take the point … I didn’t think we were that sharp as far as puck possession down low, but they did a nice job of spreading the ice out, having good balance and stretching guys.”