Coming off a resounding 4-1 win against the No. 14 Providence Friars, the Boston College Eagles (8-12-3) were presented with a perfect opportunity to gain traction and move up the Hockey East standings in a weekend series against the No. 19 UMass-Lowell River Hawks (14-8-2).
Tied for second place in the Hockey East with Northeastern, the Eagles had a shot to grab hold of first place this weekend, especially after losses from UMass, Northeastern, and Boston University.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, they didn’t do enough to rise up the ranks, mustering only one point against the River Hawks, first with a 3-1 loss at home on Friday night and a 4-4 tie at Tsongas Center on Saturday night.
BC has historically had UML’s number — they hold the lead in the all time series, 66-42-10. In recent years, however, the two programs have matched up well, with UML winning five of the last eight games against BC. The 117thmeeting between the two programs marked their first matchup this season.
The River Hawks were ready to go right from puck-drop on Friday night, maintaining total puck-control for the first couple minutes. After a penalty on BC’s Christopher Brown for interference, UML played the man-advantage perfectly, as Reid Stefanson tacked on the game’s first goal with a wrist shot from the left-side faceoff circle.
BC goalie Joseph Woll made strong saves throughout the penalty kill, but the dominant River Hawk powerplay unit proved to be too much for the Eagle’s netminder.
Things went different for the Eagles when they went up on the powerplay. After UML’s Nolan Sawchuk went off for hooking, the Eagles couldn’t hold the puck in the River Hawks’ zone and ended up with zero shots on goal. Granted, UML holds 14thfewest goals allowed in the NCAA with 55, but this initial powerplay foreshadowed sloppy play from the Eagles for the rest of the night.
The Eagles stepped up defensively after giving up the powerplay goal. They killed off another penalty and even had some shorthanded offensive chances. The Eagles entered the game with the 18thranked penalty kill unit in the country (83.5%).
BC picked up the aggressiveness to start the second period. All throughout the game, BC’s Logan Hutsko showed laudable hustle on both ends; despite not showing up on the stat sheet, he was easily one of BC’s players on the ice Friday night.
Overall, the team rattled off a couple good chances, putting together some positive shifts early in the second period after being outshot 10-6 in the first period.
BC’s first goal of the game came late in the second period from a tough angle shot by Jack McBain to knot the game up at one a piece. BC’s Oliver Wahlstrom provided a fantastic screen in front of the net to block UML’s Tyler Wall from seeing the shot.
Momentum started to swing BC’s way after the goal as the fans and players started to feel some energy come back into Conte Forum. BC’s Marc McLaughlin oohed the crowd with a nasty deke on a one-on-one breakaway chance but ended up getting cross-checked by UML’s Mattias Goransson to put the Eagles on the powerplay.
Though they didn’t come away with anything, BC had a couple great chances off shots from the point and rebounds down low in the crease. The Eagles outshot the River Hawks 13-9 with the score tied heading into the third period.
However, less than five minutes into the period, the River Hawks wiped away all BC momentum. UML’s Ryan Dmowski picked up his eighth goal of the season off a snipe from a one-time pass by Conner Sodergren. Following that, BC’s Michael Kim headed to the box with an elbowing penalty. Things quickly started falling apart for the Eagles for the rest of the period.
The Eagles looked lost on the offensive end. In a ten-minute stretch, no players were set and the Eagles constantly had to dump and chase every time they had the puck. Shots flew everywhere but the net for the Eagles and players whiffed on chances in the slot. UML did a great job blocking the passing lanes and forcing turnovers, but even when the Eagles created chances, they still couldn’t convert.
BC pulled Woll for an extra-attacker with a couple minutes left, and the River Hawks scored the dagger empty-net goal to put the game away with a final of 3-1. Another slow start for the Eagles will have to force Head Coach Jerry York’s hand to potentially shift around the lines. Unfortunately, it may be too late to build chemistry between young players with the season nearly winding down.
Saturday was a different story for the Eagles. The Eagles came out fast to start the period in Tsongas Center, getting pucks and bodies to the net right away. The Eagles also went up early on the powerplay after David Cotton suffered a major collision and drew a five-minute hitting-from-behind penalty from Charlie Levesque. Cotton would remain in the game despite being shaken up after the play.
The Eagles took advantage of the major penalty and went up early on a wrist-shot from Oliver Wahlstrom for his sixth goal of the season. Eight minutes later, the Eagles added on to the lead with a rebound goal from David Cotton. JD Dudek did a nice job setting up the play for Logan Hutsko, who couldn’t convert in front of the net. Luckily, Cotton was positioned perfectly to score, and put BC up two heading into the first intermission.
After strong play the whole first period, the Eagles were completely outmatched in the second period. UML outshot the Eagles throughout the period and were easily able to slice through the BC defense. Minutes into the second period, the River Hawks stormed back to cut the lead in half. UML’s Kenny Hausinger played a breakaway chance to perfection while on the powerplay for his eighth goal of the season.
After a UML penalty for holding, Christopher Brown extended the BC lead to two after great play in front of the net from Hutsko and Cotton. Cotton has continued to play phenomenally as BC’s top offensive skater. Outside of the powerplay goal however, the Eagles did not have many second period bright spots to build on heading into the third.
The River Hawks continued their dominance with a quick goal in the third period by Ryan Dmowski and less than two minutes later, Chase Blackmun added another goal to tie the game up at 3. What was a great start for the Eagles now swung in the complete opposite direction. York was forced to call a timeout right after Blackmun’s goal to keep his team in the game before things got out of control.
A clutch goal by JD Dudek gave BC the lead and hope that they could squeeze out a victory after being outplayed for a majority of the contest. However, BC suffered an unfortunate penalty from Graham McPhee to give the River Hawks an opportunity to tie the game. Sure enough, the River Hawks took advantage of the powerplay and tied the game with 2:01 left in the period after another goal from Dmowski.
A brutal ending to regulation for the Eagles was followed by improved play to begin the overtime period. However, neither team had many opportunities, except for a close chance with seconds to play; Woll managed to keep the puck from sliding into the net with a beautiful kick save. The game would end with a score of 4-4.
UMass-Lowell’s resume keeps getting stronger and stronger. After picking up wins against UMass, Colgate, Vermont, and now BC, the River Hawks have stretched their point streak to seven games after Saturday night. Still, UML sits one point behind the Eagles in the Hockey East standings, highlighting BC’s typical dominance in their conference schedule. They head to Northeastern next Friday in a ranked Hockey East matchup.
Joseph Woll had a phenomenal second game despite allowing four goals. He recorded 33 saves, the most important of which came at the end of overtime in the second game, salvaging one point for the Eagles on the weekend.
Given the play in both games, BC was lucky to walk away with any points at all. The Eagles fell behind after another slow start in the first game and couldn’t hold either of their leads after fantastic play to start the second game. What was an opportune chance to make noise in the Hockey East turned into a setback as the Eagles head into the home stretch following the Beanpot.
The Eagles now turn their focus to UConn as they head to Storrs next week in a Friday night rebound game. The Huskies currently sit in last place in the Hockey East with six points. The Eagles look to build some momentum before heading into the historic Beanpot tournament, facing Harvard University in the first round on February 4th.