LOWELL — Heading into BU’s showdown with UMass Lowell Friday night, Terrier head coach David Quinn stressed that his team was not looking past the River Hawks on the way to an appearance in the appearance in the Beanpot Tournament title game Monday.
“We look at it as if we have two Beanpot Finals coming up,” Quinn noted. “We have one Friday and one Monday. When you’re playing a team that’s right on your heels and is the two-time defending league champion and had all the success they’ve had, I don’t think there’s anybody that’s looking past anybody.”
It seems like the Terriers agreed with their coach’s words, with BU handily beating Lowell by a score of 5-2 to win its sixth contest in a row and earn the season sweep over the River Hawks.
While the Terriers now turn their focus back to TD Garden, here’s a quick look at what went right and wrong for BU on Friday at Tsongas Center.
Off to a quick start
It’s been a recurring trend all season long, but the Terriers have had trouble in terms of generating leads over the first 20 minutes of play. In fact, heading into Friday night, BU was dead last in Hockey East with just 12 first-period goals.
In what served as a refreshing change of pace, the Terriers were able to seize the advantage early against UMass, lighting the lamp three times over the first nine minutes of play in what was the team’s first three-goal opening period this season.
Just 38 seconds were eclipsed on the game clock when junior forward Ahti Oksanen fired the puck past Lowell goalie Kevin Boyle to help BU jump out to the 1-0 lead.
Senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues would take care of the rest, besting Boyle both at 3:01 and 8:16 in the first period to help build a comfortable cushion against a challenging conference foe
“To get off to the start that we had, considering the way our season’s gone in the first period, was certainly a surprise to me,” Quinn said. “We did think we were ready to play as a staff, but you never envision getting out to a lead that early and then building on it. I think it really changed the complexion of the game.”
Rodrigues keeps on going. And going. And going. And going….
Another win for BU and another impressive stat line for senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues. Ho hum.
The reigning Hockey East Player of the Month feasted on the River Hawks defense, securing his first career hat trick en route to a four-point night. It may come as no surprise at this point, but Rodrigues has been scoring hot as of late, scoring 27 points over his last 11 games.
Lowell had few answers for BU’s first line of Rodrigues, freshman center Jack Eichel and junior winger Danny O’Regan, with the triumvirate totaling nine points on the night.
For more on Rodrigues’ hat-trick showing against Lowell, be sure to check out Sarah’s sider.
Lane comes up clutch … again
His numbers might not rival those of some of teammates, but junior forward Matt Lane certainly has shown a knack for stepping up in big situations.
The Rochester, New York, product made his presence felt at a critical point in Friday’s match. BU’s comfortable four-goal lead had quickly been carved down to two during the opening minutes of the third — with the River Hawks looking for more.
However, BU’s fourth power-play bid on the night swung the momentum back into the Terriers’ favor, with Lane serving as the benefactor.
A wrist shot from Eichel slammed off of Boyle and created a loose-puck chance in front of the UMass crease that Lane pounced on, forcing it past the goal line to put the nail in the coffin for the River Hawks.
Poor penalties give Lowell life
Through the first 39 minutes of play, it appeared that the Terriers could do no wrong up in The Mill City, jumping out to a 4-0 lead and holding a potent River Hawks offense at bay as the second period drew to a close.
Unfortunately for the Terriers, struggles with staying out of the sin pin proved costly — as Eichel was whistled for tripping at 19:55 while freshman defenseman John MacLeod was later sent away for the same infraction just four seconds later, giving Lowell nearly two minutes of 5-on-3 hockey entering the third.
Lowell would make good on the extra-man advantage, with freshman C.J. Smith firing the puck past BU netminder Matt O’Connor at 1:22 in the final period to get the River Hawks on the board.
Smith’s wrister goal appeared to give the River Hawks the jolt that they needed. A little over four minutes later, another puck found BU netting, this time coming from sophomore Evan Campbell at 5:41 to cut BU’s lead down to two.
Lane’s power-play score less than three minutes later helped stem the tide, but Quinn acknowledged that crucial momentum swing that both penalties could have contributed to during the game.
“I thought we played a really good first 39:47 and then all of a sudden we take two ridiculous penalties at the end of the second period — just ridiculous penalties,” Quinn said. “Then they get the 5-on-3 goal, then they get another one and they got life. And then fortunately we were able to get a power-play goal.”
Penalty on Winter Storm “Linus”, two minutes for interference
As if the brutal snowfall hitting Massachusetts for the past few weeks hadn’t already made most of our commutes/lives miserable over the last few weeks, it even found a way to put a damper on the start of Friday’s game.
Originally scheduled for a 7:15 start time, Friday’s match was delayed until 7:40, as some of the officials were still stuck in traffic in the minutes leading up to the opening faceoff.
With more snow slated in the near future, this “minus” might be a recurring trend over the next week or so. I certainly hope not.