LOWELL — The Boston University men’s hockey team’s postseason hopes took another hit this weekend as they were swept by the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. Here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong in Saturday’s 3-1 loss.
Three up Two up
The penalty kill
With the characteristic parade of Terriers to the box on Saturday, the BU penalty kill had plenty of time to continue sorting itself out after struggling in Maine last weekend. And it acquitted itself well, allowing one goal on 13 shots in 16:16 of UML power-play time and improving to 82.5 percent on the year.
Killing off an early 5-on-3, with junior defenseman Garrett Noonan and then sophomore forward Cason Hohmann in the box, helped keep the game close, although BU didn’t get the momentum boost it could have from the kill.
As in many of his starts this semester, freshman goalie Sean Maguire played better than his final stat line indicates (and the final line – 36 saves on 39 shots – is nothing to be ashamed of). Lowell forward Joseph Pendenza’s goal, which snuck through Maguire’s five-hole to give the River Hawks a 3-1 lead, was the only one that reflected badly on the goaltender.
On the River Hawks’ first goal, Lowell forward Scott Wilson executed a near-carbon copy of his play from the night before, taking advantage of a badly timed BU change to rip a shot from the top of the circle into the net.
The second goal came from an overzealous shorthanded rush from which BU couldn’t recover when a UML defender sent the puck back toward BU’s zone quickly. Maguire made the initial save on Pendenza, sprawling to rob him of a sure goal, but couldn’t get up in time to stop defenseman Chad Ruhwedel’s shot off the rebound.
“On the second goal, he made an unbelievable save and the guy just buried the rebound,” sophomore forward Evan Rodrigues said.
Offense stifled again
All year, the Terriers have struggled with aggressive forechecks, finding themselves pinned in the defensive zone and unable to establish possession in the offensive zone. This weekend, they faced the opposite in UML – a team that sits back and focuses on overwhelming teams in its own defensive zone – and fared no better.
BU finished Saturday’s game with 16 shots. UML had 39, more than twice as many. They failed to challenge freshman goalie Connor Hellebuyck on rebounds or
The forwards’ issues were apparent at even strength, but they were underscored further when, in eight minutes of power-play time, BU got just one shot through to Hellebuyck.
“When we tried dumping it in, it was just little battles that they were winning,” said Rodrigues, the only BU player to score. “They were getting bounces, the puck and from the refs. It just wasn’t our weekend.”
Penalty troubles continue
No matter how hard the penalty killers work, it’s difficult to win games by taking 36 minutes’ worth of penalties, especially when those include two prolonged 5-on-3 disadvantages.
Junior defenseman Garrett Noonan received a 10-minute game misconduct, bringing his total penalty minutes on the year to 86. Parker said he thinks some of the calls made against BU were questionable.
“Most of the time I think we deserve our penalties,” Parker said. “I think we probably deserved about six or seven of those.”
PairWise, Hockey East standings take a hit
BU is now looking up at five teams in the Hockey East standings, sitting in sixth place with 24 points. In their final five games, they face fourth-place Merrimack College, the seventh-place University of Vermont, and tenth-place Northeastern University. They have clinched a playoff spot, but nothing else – certainly not home ice – is guaranteed.
The Terriers also fell to 22nd in the PairWise rankings. That puts them just ahead of Merrimack, as UML jumped into a tie for 11th.