MEN'S HOCKEY: BC Slowed Down By Lowell
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 00:02
The first time UMass-Lowell came to BC this season in late October, Hurricane Sandy made its way to Boston. When the River Hawks were again scheduled to faceoff with the Eagles at Chestnut Hill a few weeks ago, winter storm Nemo battered campus with blizzard conditions.
Yet when the two squads faced each other Tuesday evening in Conte Forum, Lowell found another way to wreak havoc on the Heights—playoff-style intensity amidst a close chase for the Hockey East title.
“I think when we get to this stage in the season, late February, early March, the games take on so much more of a playoff type atmosphere,” said head coach Jerry York. “I thought tonight was a playoff-type hockey game.”
Despite a gritty effort to regain the conference’s top spot, the Boston College men’s hockey team fell to Lowell by a score of 4-2. The loss not only marked the Eagles’ first home loss to their conference rival since 2009, but also allowed the River Hawks to join BC in a four-way tie for first place in the Hockey East.
“I thought our team battled hard, played very well, as did the River Hawks,” York said. “Not a lot of difference between those two teams tonight.”
BC lived up to the matchup’s urgent nature right out of the gates, as freshman Michael Matheson placed a couple of bone-rattling hits on his opponents to set the tone, and forward Kevin Hayes returned from a three-game suspension to give his team a boost on the ice. Hayes, however, suffered a quad injury late in the third period, which will keep him out the rest of the year.
In a night full of momentum shifts, however, Lowell drew first blood.
With the Eagles playing shorthanded, Lowell’s Chad Ruhwedel waited with the puck for a play to develop before dishing it to sophomore Scott Wilson for a one-timed slap shot. The line drive scorched its way past goalie Parker Milner for a power play score to give the River Hawks an early advantage.
BC struck back minutes later, when freshman Travis Jeke sent a pass to forward Bill Arnold, who snuck a quick shot past Lowell goalie Connor Hellebuyck for the game-tying score.
Yet just when it seemed the tide had shifted in the Eagles’ favor, the River Hawks responded only 23 seconds later when Josh Holmstrom corralled a loose puck in front of BC’s crease and notched the visiting team’s second goal of the frame. The brief offensive volley rendered a 2-1 Lowell lead that stood strong for over 35 minutes of play.
After a scoreless second period defined by BC penalty kills and missed opportunities, the Eagles finally fought their way back into the game almost halfway through the third frame.
Taking control of the puck near the point, Arnold took it to the net himself and beat Hellebuyck with his second goal of the night to draw even at two.
The second of Arnold’s two scores proved to be the last bit of offense BC could muster against Lowell, however. Unable to capitalize on opportunities in enemy territory, the Eagles were left to depend on a locked-in Milner to hold the River Hawks at bay.
Though the senior goalie had found a groove en route to 25 saves on the night, he was soon confronted by a River Hawk duo eager to claim momentum. Center Joseph Pendenza charged up the side of the ice with the puck, dishing it to freshman teammate Christian Folin on the run before getting it back after another exchange. As if in the midst of playing keep-away with the Eagles, Pendenza quickly set up a go-ahead Folin score that caught a befuddled BC defense off guard.
York’s squad tried to rally and mount a comeback, but the Eagles could not create any chances menacing enough to outduel a dominant Hellebuyck.
After an empty-net goal from Lowell captain Riley Wetmore put the River Hawks up by two with under a minute to play, BC’s dismal fate was sealed.
“You have to eliminate frustration from your game, shift after shift, because that leads to tight sticks,” York said. “We had a couple of near misses, but so did Lowell.”
In the middle of playing four games in a seven-day stretch heading toward the regular season’s conclusion, the Eagles must keep pace as they remain deadlocked atop the conference.
One of the closest Hockey East stretch runs in recent memory can cause even the most composed teams to be distracted by potential scenarios and results that impact conference standings. Yet York and his squad will remain focused on one objective: taking care of their own business on the ice.
“We try to say that scoreboard watching is for second-place teams,” York said. “We’re going to just do our job. There are just so many variables, you could drive yourself nuts doing that. So we just concentrate on playing our game and just do the best we can with it.”