Prior to UMass Lowell’s Hockey East affair with Boston College men’s hockey, no team had managed to score a single first-period goal against the River Hawks. But the Eagles backed up their status as the No. 1 team in the nation on Friday and less than a minute into the first period snapped UMass Lowell’s first-period shutout streak.
BC gained possession of the puck and made its way into the attacking zone, quickly applying pressure to UMass Lowell’s defense. Gabe Perreault sent a lead pass in front of the crease where Ryan Leonard waited patiently and potted a slap shot from close range to give BC the early lead. UMass Lowell goaltender Henry Welsch never had a chance to react.
“The floodgates are gonna open for him at some point,” BC head coach Greg Brown said of Leonard. “You can see when they get the tempo, their passes are really moving quickly in the zone, which you might not expect from freshmen, but guys who have played together that long have a great feel.”
This was one of two first-period goals that helped the Eagles (6–1–0, 1–0 Hockey East) to fend off a gritty UMass Lowell (4–3–0, 1–2) squad, and Aram Minnetian’s third-period goal allowed BC escape with a hard-fought 3–2 win.
“You know, we talked about having a good start,” Brown said. “I think it’s very important to get a good jump in the game, and it has been working. I think every team would tell you they want to start well, it’s been good for us.”
BC maintained its momentum following the early goal, and after a brief scoring pause, the Eagles made it a two-goal lead with just over 10 minutes to go in the first frame. On a power-play opportunity, the puck made its way to the stick of Cutter Gauthier, who sent a rocket into the net for his fourth power-play goal and seventh overall goal of the season.
But only 41 seconds after Gauthier’s goal made its way past Welsch, the River Hawks tallied a swift goal of their own to make it 2–1. Filip Fornåå Svensson slipped the puck past goaltender Jacob Fowler for the UMass Lowell score.
While BC entered the second frame with a one-goal lead, it did not last long. Matt Crasa sent a weak shot right toward Fowler, who failed to corral it and allowed Scout Truman to knot the game at 2–2 apiece at the 18:40 mark from close range.
“We knew they’re gonna push hard,” BC captain Eamon Powell said. “They’re always a really hard-fought team, they keep it close. They’re really structured defensively. So when they made that push in the second, I think it was just kind of calming everyone down, getting back to what works and sticking to our game plan.”
With 11 minutes left in the second frame, UMass Lowell notched its third penalty of the night, and despite a plethora of high-quality scoring opportunities, BC could not break the tie, finishing the second period scoreless. BC totaled eight shots in the period.
The Eagles entered the final period of play having not scored since the 10:11 mark of the first period, narrowly missing goal opportunities in a game of inches.
But freshman defender Minnetian wasted no time ending that scoring drought, as he tactfully skated with the puck along the wall and made his way to just inside the crease before sliding the puck off his stick and into the net for his first collegiate goal. The score gave BC the 3–2 advantage 1:19 into the frame.
“He’s a great skater,” Brown said of Minnetian. “And he’s been making little plays like that. It was great to see him get to the front of the net. That’s not an easy move. There wasn’t a lot of space there. But he used his edges very well and was able to get across the crease.”
At the 5:23 mark, Mitchell Becker received a penalty after tripping up Will Smith, and BC went on the power play. But less than a minute after UMass Lowell killed the advantage, the Eagles were called for a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty, their fourth in just seven games.
UMass Lowell subsequently pulled its goalie and went on a 6-on-4 man advantage in a desperate attempt to tie the game. But in a resilient stand anchored by Fowler, who totaled 27 saves in the game, the Eagles killed the penalty and evaded the hard-nosed River Hawks with a 3–2 victory.
“Yeah, that was an unfortunate call,” Brown said. “But, you know, the guys really dug in. There was a lot of chatter on the bench. The guys were into it. And the guys who went on the ice did very well. We were able to even create a little bit of pressure, and not just back into a tight little box. So we did our best to keep them off balance and we had to work and scrap and fight, get a good block, and were able to weather the storm.”