LOWELL, Mass. – In front of an energetic 5,162 fans in the home opener at the Tsongas Center, the UMass-Lowell River Hawks hung tough for the majority of the contest despite ultimately falling by a 4-2 count on Friday night to the No. 1 Boston College Eagles.
“It’s important to secure away-from-home victories,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “On the road, it’s very difficult in our league over the past decade…We achieved that objective.”
Both teams got off to a sluggish start in the early stages of the first period, but the River Hawks took advantage of their chances despite not finding the back of the net.
“I thought we had some opportunities in the first,” said first-year UML head coach Norm Bazin. “But we just couldn’t convert. It might have changed the game.”
“I think we just need to convert. Quite honestly, it’s not really that complicated. Their goaltending was good, credit their team…for having good net-front sticks, but I think we just need to have better urgency in the net-front.”
As the period came to an end, the Hawks were able to out-chance the Eagles by a 20-18 count and were holding a commanding 13-5 shots advantage.
“It’s actually good to get a few shots early to get in a rhythm,” said BC junior goaltender Parker Milner, a Pittsburgh, Pa. native. “The guys were keeping their shots outside, so if they can do that, I can take that many shots a game.”
The opening stanza was just BC’s second scoreless period to open a game this season.
BC came out strong in the second period and beat UML sophomore Doug Carr for a pair of scores within 66 seconds of play. At 3:18, Paul Carey got the puck from Brian Dumoulin in the right circle and he beat the Hanover, Mass. native on a clean wrist shot to give BC a 1-0 lead.
Steven Whitney doubled the BC count at the 4:24 mark of the second period as he banged home a rebound on the left post to make it a 2-0 game.
The River Hawks got to BC’s junior netminder at the 8:02 mark as Michael Budd found the back of the net on a second-chance effort, beating a stickless Milner on the blocker side to half the lead.
Matt Ferreira put Lowell even at 15:57 when he one-timed a pass from the middle of the slot, beating Milner who was able to get a small piece of what would tie the score at two per side.
“They passed it on the sweet spot and Patch [Alber] did a great job getting a stick on it,” Milner said. “It actually looked like it was going in the netting and it hit a guy’s helmet in front and just kind of dropped in the net. One of those unlucky ones, I guess.”
The lead was short-lived as Carr allowed a very soft five-goal score off the stick of BC freshman Johnny Gaudreau with just 1:18 left in the stanza.
In the second, the River Hawks still held a 25-20 advantage in total chances, including 15-11 in shots on goal.
The teams committed matching minor penalties late in the contest, allowing for the Eagles to jump ahead for the two-goal cushion with 1:05 to play.
Pat Mullane fed Barry Almeida into the offensive zone, as he was untouched en route to potting the empty-netter and securing BC’s fourth road win of the season, after ousting Northeastern in overtime last Saturday at Matthews Arena.
The River Hawks out-chanced the Eagles by a commanding 11-4 margin in the final period as well as a 39-20 count in the entire game. UML made 64 total attempts in the contest in comparison to BC’s 46.
Milner was strong all night long for the Eagles, making 37 saves in the contest to earn top star honors. On the River Hawk side, Doug Carr was also solid between the pipes despite having to make 16 stops.
“Lowell played very well,” York said. “We gave up, from our prospective, a lot of shots, but Parker [Milner] was again, very confident and poised in net. I thought he was square to the puck. I thought the game was in doubt for 59 minutes or probably deeper than that.”
“We’re excited to get the two points and know that we need to play better on defense. It’s a bad situation to get yourself into when your goaltender is making that many saves.”
Following two straight wins to open the season at Minnesota State, the River Hawks have dropped their next two games and sport a 2-2 record. BC has won four straight and six of the first seven contests to open the season.
BC has gone a perfect 5-0 in the most recent five contests between the two teams, which followed a five-game unbeaten streak for the River Hawks that spanned from Jan. 16, 2009 to Feb. 12, 2010.
The River Hawks and Eagles will finish their back-to-back weekend series on Saturday night with a 7 p.m. date at Kelley Rink.