Boston College men’s hockey’s trip to the Tsongas Center on Friday night marked the Eagles’ first time playing UMass Lowell since they lost the Hockey East Championship and, in effect, an NCAA bid to the River Hawks last March. Three hundred fourteen days had passed, but nothing had changed.
Just like last year’s conference title game, neither team stole the show in the opening frame. Once again, UMass Lowell dominated the second period, logging a pair of momentum-shifting goals. Right on cue, the Eagles fired back—over the course of the final 20 minutes of play, BC outshot the River Hawks, 11-3, tying the game in the process, only to see its comeback fall short. Chris Schutz recorded the game-winning goal and goaltender Tyler Wall held on to seal UMass Lowell’s 3-2 victory, its fifth straight over the Eagles.
As soon as the puck dropped, both sides turned on the jets. The first period was fast paced but far from pretty. No. 16 BC (12-10-3, 12-5-0 Hockey East) and the River Hawks (15-11-0, 10-7-0) traded possession after possession, failing to control the puck. Eventually, though, the game got a little more physical, and UMass Lowell began to generate scoring chances. Racking up seven of the game’s first 10 shots, the River Hawks soon made a home in the Eagles’ zone, forcing BC goaltender Joseph Woll to work for every one of his nine first-period saves.
The Eagles were called for two penalties in the opening frame—the second of which bled into the next period. Luckily for BC, it had no trouble on the kill. After regrouping during the first intermission, the Eagles shut down UMass Lowell’s power play. Head coach Jerry York’s team wasn’t as fortunate when the teams returned to even strength, though. A minute and a half after the River Hawks’ power play, Mattias Goransson relayed the puck to Colin O’Neill in BC’s zone. While the sophomore surveyed the ice, Ryan Collins set up shop near post. Seconds later, O’Neill evaded an Eagles defenseman and delivered a pass to Collins. Without hesitation, the Newton, Mass. native slid the puck into the back of the cage, giving UMass Lowell the lead.
BC had its chances to equalize. In fact, the Eagles were awarded two power plays in a three-minute span prior to the midway point of the period. Yet, even though BC was proactive on the offensive end, it couldn’t seem to squeeze the puck past Wall. On the Eagles’ second go-around, Graham McPhee whipped a shot from the point that Wall instinctively deflected. Before the River Hawks could clear the puck out of their own territory, Christopher Brown scooped up the rebound in the slot and ripped a shot—the only problem was, it was aimed directly at Wall. The puck hit the UMass Lowell netminder in the chest protector, and, soon after, the Eagles’ power play expired.
It was only a matter of time before the River Hawks were back in the driver’s seat. Following BC’s flurry of one-man advantages, UMass Lowell rattled off nine-consecutive shots, enough to overwhelm Woll. Connor Wilson tracked down the puck in his own zone and then dished it out to Ryan Dmowski in the neutral zone. Wilson quickly caught up with Dmowski, and the two skated toward Woll. At that moment, Jesper Mattila lost his footing and took a spill, leaving Connor Moore all alone on the back end. Now on a 2-on-1, Dmowski eyed a wide-open Wilson, but instead of making the pass, he flung a shot into the back of the cage for the River Hawk’s second goal of the period.
Desperate to cut into its two-goal deficit, BC recorded five shots in the final five minutes of the frame. Although the Eagles didn’t light the lamp, their momentum carried into the third period. Two minutes in, UMass Lowell’s Niklas Folin was sent to the box for interference, and for the fourth time in as many games, BC came through on the power play. Hovering around the point, Connor Moore rifled a shot in traffic. The puck ended up at the feet of Aapeli Räsänen, who tried to muscle it past the goal line. Wall was there to make the stop, but he didn’t account for a charging McPhee, who capped off the scoring play.
The sophomore wasn’t done yet. Three minutes and 16 seconds later, he received a feed from Brown, posted up in the right circle, and sniped a wrister through a handful of River Hawks, including Wall. Single-handedly, McPhee erased UMass Lowell’s lead and recorded his second two-goal performance in the past three games.
But the stalemate, which lasted all of 66 seconds, was short-lived. Ryan Lohin caught the Eagles sleeping and located Schutz along the blue line. Out of position, BC’s defense was helpless. A couple of strides and a wrist shot was all it took for the redshirt freshman to put UMass Lowell back in front.
Looking for another game-tying goal, the Eagles did all they could to even the score. Naturally, BC’s offense upped the ante toward the end of the game, but so did Wall. The Leamington, Ontario native survived a host of Eagles shots, not to mention both a 5-on-4 and a 6-on-4, as BC went on the power play and pulled Woll in the game’s final minute.
With the loss, the Eagles moved to 1-5-1 in their last seven games at UMass Lowell. Up until the 2014-15 season, BC owned the Tsongas Center, boasting a 17-5-1 record in the facility. Since then, the River Hawks have thrown the Eagles off their game, frequently calling upon their physicality and veteran-like experience. If BC is to maintain first place in Hockey East standings, it’ll have to do just as good of a job protecting its home ice in the back half of the home-and-home series.
Featured Image by Andy Backstrom / Heights Editor