Boston College men’s hockey has reached the point where it’s more exciting when it doesn’t have a man advantage.
Unlike most teams that get power plays, the No. 14 Eagles become anemic, not electric. After an 0-for-4 Thursday night on the power play, BC’s special teams dropped to 46th in the nation. That’s a mere 14.7 percent conversion rate (22-of-149) and almost half as effective a rate as its opponents, No. 5 Massachusetts Lowell. It’s not that the Eagles aren’t taking shots—against Tyler Wall, they had 29. But the shots are either unable to create rebound attempts or, when they do, BC has no skater ready to take advantage. As he begins to reflect on this season, it’s something head coach Jerry York knows he must fix heading into the playoffs.
“It’s been disappointing for us on the power play this year,” York said. “We’ve got to get more shots on the power play.”
Yet even the best power play in the nation couldn’t help the Eagles right now, not with this cold streak.
Without any ability to match Lowell’s third period three-goal breakout, BC fell 4-1 in its final regular-season home game of the season. The Eagles’ (18-13-4, 13-5-3 Hockey East) once-strong buffer in the PairWise Rankings has vanished, and now they may need to win the conference to make the NCAA Tournament. BC’s winless streak now stands at six games (0-4-2), its longest since Dec. 2008-Jan. 2009. And York contributes that cold stretch to his team’s inability to score.
“Clearly, we have to score some more goals,” York said. “We’ve got to get shots to the net in traffic.”
It’s not as if the Eagles were without their chances. BC earned a power play just over a minute into the game—a John Edwardh hold on Jesper Mattila—but gave up the same amount of shots on goal as Lowell (21-9-3, 13-7-1) did. Halfway through the opening frame, Mikes Kim and Booth saved BC on a terrible line change. Both swooped in to stop Tyler Mueller and Ryan Dmowski on a breakaway attempt, helping out goaltender Joseph Woll.
After killing off a Ryan Fitzgerald rough to open the second, Matthew Gaudreau put up a couple of golden chances low slot right on Wall to no avail. His attempts drew a hook by Niklas Folin, but was soon negated by another Fitzgerald penalty. Again Woll had to make several impressive saves to keep the Eagles in the game. He went into two full splits after C.J. Smith poked a breakaway attempt at center ice. Joe Gambardella tried corralling the rebounds, but Woll was there again.
Yet the Eagles couldn’t hang on forever against the No. 2 power play in the country. Austin Cangelosi’s weak roughing call set up Chris Forney to blast one from the blue line that just tipped off Woll’s glove for a 1-0 Lowell lead. The Eagles had a chance to close out the second with a power play, but still couldn’t find that magic.
Cangelosi, the senior center, made up for his miscue as soon as the third opened up, with a goal off an initial shot by Gaudreau just 25 seconds into the closing frame. His 17th of the season appeared to give the Eagles all the momentum they’d need to keep pace in the race for a regular-season trophy.
But, as Gambardella mentioned after the game, Lowell merely got better as the game went along. The Staten Island, N.Y. native went top shelf past Woll’s right shoulder on a feed from Smith behind the net to reclaim the River Hawks’ lead just three minutes later. Gambardella returned the favor for Smith with a pass to fellow linemate Edwardh, who sent it cross ice for Smith’s 18th of the season. The trio has been Lowell’s first line for the last three seasons, and a lethal force for Norm Bazin’s crew.
“They complement me as much as I complement them,” Gambardella said.
But to close it out, Gambardella worked on his own. He broke away after a turnover at center ice, skating untouched until Connor Moore hooked him right in front of Woll. No matter, as Gambardella simply went low past Woll for Lowell’s fourth of the game.
With one game remaining in Lowell tomorrow, BC’s lead for the Hockey East regular-season title has now dwindled to just two points with a game at Lowell remaining. Because of that, the team no longer controls its own destiny. The Eagles are still locked into a first-round bye, and can fall no lower than third. But there are other teams chasing them down fast.
“Lowell plays for trophies, too,” Bazin said, noting that his team can claim the title if Boston University splits with Notre Dame this weekend. “It’s not just BC.”
For York, it’s all about remaining positive. His team is in far better shape than he had anticipated entering the season, given the massive exodus of upperclassman talent. And, as he said after the game, the path to the Frozen Four at Chicago’s United Center was never going to be easy.
“I never thought it was going to be a linear line from October to Chicago without some bumps and dips,” York said. “We’ve put ourselves in a situation where we can a trophy in the last week of the season. Now we have to close it.”
Don’t turn out the lights on BC just yet, because the party technically isn’t over. But it’s time to start dimming them and closing the shades.
An earlier version of this story stated that this was BC’s longest winless streak since Jan. 11-27, 2002. That fact is incorrect. BC had a six-game winless streak from Dec. 5, 2008 to Jan. 17, 2009 that was separated by a two-game exhibition series against the University of New Brunswick, in which the Eagles won a game.
Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Editor