Last season, the University of Massachusetts-Lowell counted on star goaltender Connor Hellebuyck to steal points in tough games. This year, the Riverhawks hope that their goaltenders don’t give any points away. Before Friday’s game, the Riverhawks had given up 82 goals through 31 games, compared to 61 at the same point last year. Still, they were in the driver’s seat for a first round bye in the Hockey East Tournament heading into the weekend. Even a tie would keep them within striking distance of Boston College in the conference standings. They would win the head-to-head tiebreaker due to Lowell’s win over the Eagles in October.
To come away with that point, though, they needed netminder Kevin Boyle to be the reason why. After the Riverhawks controlled the run of play for much of the first two periods, BC got off 14 shots on goal in the third. Boyle let an Ian McCoshen power play missle get behind him. That would be one of many firecrackers let off from the Eagles’ defense corps, which is littered with NHL-caliber shooters. Boyle tracked all of those shots through traffic and limited his rebounds in the third, which is usually a weakness of his. He also had a prime blocker save on a Zach Sanford wrister from close range late in the third that helped send the game into the extra frame.
“I told him right after the game I thought he was excellent,” Riverhawks head coach Norm Bazin said of Boyle. “He made some timely saves.”
The timeliest saves came in overtime on powerful rushes from two of the biggest Eagles, Destry Straight and Noah Hanifin. Straight came barreling in from the left wing and tried to cut across the crease, and minutes later Hanifin tried the same move from the right. Boyle stoned them both and prevented BC from stretching the gap between the clubs from two to three.
“The save that [Boyle] made on Destry Straight when he tried to cut across in front was quite a save,” BC coach Jerry York said. “Hanifin also had a chance to win it, also coming down the right side there and cut across, but [Boyle] played well in goal.”
In Hockey East games, the officiating is as much a part of the experience as “sieve” chants from student sections. No one knows what the referees and linesmen going to call or when their going to call it, and that can keep sleepy November games that much more interesting.
Officiating does affect games, though, and late in the season, referee’s calls can have major impacts in the conference standings and Pairwise Rankings. In Friday’s pivotal matchup, with the score tied at two late in the third period, Lowell forward Adam Chapie got the puck near the right faceoff dot in his own zone and tried to skate it out of trouble. He didn’t see BC’s Ryan Fitzgerald barreling down on him and Fitzgerald blew up Chapie with an open-ice hit.
After Chapie fell to the ice, Hanifin—possibly the Eagles’ most gifted offensive player—grabbed the puck and raced into the slot, looking to create a potential game-winning scoring chance. The play was blown dead, though, as Fitzgerald was called for “kneeing” Chapie. The Riverhawks failed to convert on the power play, but because Hanifin’s golden opportunity went into the wind, the call was not forgotten by the Kelley Rink crowd. A few minutes later, a linesman received a roaring, sarcastic ovation for an obvious icing call against Lowell.