The Boston College men’s hockey team took three out of four points from the No. 7 team in the country and extended its unbeaten streak to 19 games over the weekend, but given the Eagles’ high expectations, it didn’t feel like it after the final horn of BC’s 2-2 tie with UMass Lowell on Saturday. The Eagles’ struggles Saturday may have taught them a lesson that will help BC reach those expectations, though: Other elite teams, while maybe not at the Eagles’ level, are elite for a reason, and they won’t fold like so many have in the 18 games previous to this one.
For most of the game, the Eagles played like they have for most of the year. Both sides were held scoreless in the first period as the Eagles outshot the Riverhawks 11-5 and killed off a late Ian McCoshen penalty. In the second, after Riverhawk forward A.J. White got sent off for tripping, Johnny Gaudreau, as he is wont to do, got himself in the right place at a similar time and, after a short delay, deposited the rebound from Kevin Hayes’ point shot past Riverhawk goalie Doug Ward, making it 1-0 Eagles at 10:56. The goal marked the fourth straight game with a power play goal for Gaudreau and extended his point streak-this time to 28 games. Senior Patrick Brown picked up the other assist, extending his own scoring streak to six games, impressive in itself while illustrating the absurdity of Gaudreau’s tear.
Less than two minutes later, Brown added another secondary helper when Ryan Fitzgerald redirected Isaac Macleod’s shot pass from the point to double the lead. The goal highlighted what makes BC so frustrating for opponents in a few ways. If the Eagles are tied, or even down, their offense is so potent, deep, and tends to score in clusters-all factors that combine to make any game perpetually capable of turning from competitive to blowout.
Scoring consecutively, as BC did in this sequence, wouldn’t be possible without that depth. Gaudreau’s line, while it is historic and the best in the country, doesn’t score every goal, and it can’t play every shift. They took to the bench after their goal, and Brown, MacLeod, and Fitzgerald doubled the score. MacLeod, a stay-at-home defenseman, powered down to the inside hashmark from the point and fed Fitzgerald on the tape for the freshman’s 10th goal of the year. Brown’s assist was his 10th point in six games.
After BC strikes like this, most teams either concede or can’t stop the scoring train-or both. Riverhawks coach Norm Bazin’s team isn’t most teams, though, and he must have reminded his players of that when he called a timeout roughly three minutes after Fitzgerald’s goal. From that point forward, the Riverhawks defended like their nation-best goals-per-game average indicates they can, and punched back. BC outshot UMass-Lowell by just two in the third, and the Riverhawks had all the best chances.
Thirty seconds into the third period, UMass-Lowell forward Derek Arnold beat Scott Savage and almost did the same to Eagles’ goalie Thatcher Demko, but his sharp-angled shot hit the crossbar and didn’t go down, leaving the Riverhawks scoreless despite Arnold’s misguided celebration.
Six minutes later, after Chris Calnan was called for high sticking, Riverhawk forward Adam Chapie skated from the left wall to the face-off dot and beat Demko short-side with the help of Josh Holmstrom’s screen to halve the score. The goal was only the second given up on the penalty kill in the last 33 tries against BC.
UMass Lowell tied the game at 9:09 after the BC defense let the rebound from Riverhawk defenseman Zach Kamrass’ point shot skitter all the way into the slot, and A.J. White swooped in and ripped a wrister by Demko. BC head coach Jerry York called a timeout of his own with 2:33 left, but aside from a McCoshen shot catching iron early in overtime, BC didn’t come close to a deciding lead.
A game like this one may help York’s team in the long game, and it wasn’t as if the Eagles left their hearts and minds in Chesnut Hill-they played well. That, even for the number one team in the country, isn’t always enough, but it’s a lesson easier learned now than in Boston or Philadelphia, where the trophies York and his players work for will be awarded.