UMass Lowell upsets Terriers 2-1 in Hockey East Quarterfinals

BOSTON — One week after beating the UMass Lowell River Hawks 9-8-1 in a shootout, the Boston University men’s ice hockey team (10-4-1) lost 2-1 in regulation, ending their Hockey East tournament run after one game. The Terriers entered as the No. 2 seed, but costly turnovers and a stout Lowell defense led to the upset.

The biggest play came with 11:41 left in the third period with the game tied 1-1. A miscommunication behind the net between sophomore defensemen Domenick Fensore and Case McCarthy allowed Lowell forward Reid Stefanson to gain possession of the puck. 

His pass bounced awkwardly off teammate Andre Lee’s skate and landed in the left faceoff circle, where forward Brian Chambers was all alone to bury a shot past freshman goaltender Drew Commesso’s glove side. That go-ahead goal would end up being the difference in the tightly contested matchup.

“We said it from Day One: If you turn pucks over at your blue line or their blue line, a lot of times that’s how you lose seasons,” BU coach Albie O’Connell said.

Lowell ultimately outshot the Terriers 76-36 on total attempts, while piling up 29 shots on goal compared to BU’s 17, but with BU blocking 20 shots and Commesso making tricky saves in net, the game stayed close. 

Sophomore forward Jamie Armstrong scored the lone goal for the Terriers, and Commesso made 27 saves. Five River Hawk skaters got on the scoresheet with one point apiece while goaltender Henry Welsch picked up the win with 16 saves.

The Terriers didn’t take long to get started, as an odd man rush led by freshman forward Dylan Peterson sparked the first goal just 2:17 into the game. Using his speed to get behind the defense, Peterson had just Welsch to beat, but instead chose to cross the puck to Armstrong trailing on the left side. Armstrong received the pass at the doorstep and pushed the puck in to give the Terriers a 1-0 lead.

Lowell responded quickly, as just over two minutes later, Lowell defenseman Jon McDonald fired a shot from the blue line. Commesso stopped it with his pad, but with no one marking forward Matt Brown, the sophomore knocked in the rebound with ease to knot the score at 1-1.

“We basically gift wrapped them two goals, so you know, you can’t do that if you want to win a championship,” O’Connell said.

Play resumed with neither team dominating possession, but the River Hawks were getting more pucks on net. Through 10 minutes, Lowell had seven shots on goal compared to the Terriers’ two. A handful of River Hawk chances came off sloppy turnovers, but Commesso stood tall, executing acrobatic saves to keep the score even.

The Terriers ramped up the forechecking efforts to try and sway momentum, but the period expired before they could establish a stronger offensive output.

BU came out much stronger in the second period. The River Hawks did their part to clog shooting lanes, so the Terriers did not have as many prime opportunities, but the passing and offensive zone presence improved significantly. With BU taking up most of the possessions, 9:49 passed before Lowell recorded their first shot on goal of the period.

The tide began to turn near the halfway point, as Lowell woke up and started to test Commesso and the defense. A Chambers holding penalty with 7:33 to go halted their offensive run, but with the Terriers unsuccessful on the power play, the score remained 1-1.

The River Hawks picked back up with the offensive pressure following their penalty kill, but the Terriers were successful getting in front of shots, leading 14-3 in the blocked shot count through two periods. Any pucks that did get through were snuffed by Commesso, seemingly unfazed by the mounting pressure. 

The period closed with no change in score, but a boarding call against sophomore forward Robert Mastrosimone with 11 seconds left set the River Hawks up with a power play to open the third.

Lowell was unable to capitalize on the man advantage, and play evened out over the first five minutes of the period. The River Hawks returned to the power play after graduate forward Max Kaufman was assessed a penalty for hooking.

The penalty kill got even more contentious when Peterson’s stick snapped, leaving the Terriers with just three skaters with sticks for the last portion of the penalty. Penalty time expired without any score, but just over 90 seconds later, Chambers scored the go-ahead strike off the turnover. 

With time running out and urgency picking up, the Terriers had more success with their zone entries, but Lowell responded without giving up dangerous chances. With around a minute and a half left, BU pulled Commesso to bring out the extra skater.

A rush by Chambers nearly iced the game with just 46 seconds left, but he hit the pipe and the Terriers regained possession. Both coaches used their timeouts in immediate succession with 33 seconds left, BU using theirs first. The Terriers generated a few chances in the final seconds, but Lowell held on to secure the 2-1 victory.

“All in all, it’s a pretty disappointing loss,” O’Connell said, “They [Lowell] were really difficult to play verse, you know, especially when they got the lead, they clamped it down pretty tight.”

Now the Terriers have to wait a week to learn the fate of their season. O’Connell believes the Terriers have made their case to be selected for the NCAA tournament, citing the team’s success against Hockey East’s better teams and overcoming multiple stoppages throughout the year. 

“It’s our 15th game this year, and it’s the playoffs, so it’s a weird feeling,” O’Connell said, “I think the locker room is pretty bummed out about the result, but hopefully we’re still playing hockey.”

9 thoughts on “UMass Lowell upsets Terriers 2-1 in Hockey East Quarterfinals”

  1. Really down after the game. I was sure of a win by our guys. Started great but —-.
    They jammed up the points in the O zone and stopped our best D man who has not done much after coming back from injury
    Looks like the team did not set their alarms ahead and we’re in another time zone all day . Hard to explain how this group can not score but there was no cycle all day in our O zone. Goalie and D have to be much better to win if we go on.
    To be continued—–

  2. These squads of the past few years can’t seem to accept that winning is earned through discipline and commitment. Not pedigree. Those terrier jerseys aren’t magical. They’re emblematic of a rich history of players and coaches who inspired each other to stay disciplined and committed to winning. 

    Yesterday I watched a phoned-in effort from a team who’s performance intensity has been in steady decline since February 6th (arguably one of the least demanding stretches of contests in Division 1 this year). I saw a highly touted defensive pairing abdicate their responsibilities to win puck battles in the D-zone—directly leading to the game deciding goal. I saw veteran players—players with C’s and A’s on their jersey—turn over the puck so many times I stopped counting. I saw an opposing coaching staff playing an effective game of line pairing chess, outmaneuvering the home team every step of the way—contributing to lop-sided puck possession numbers and an impenetrable D-zone perimeter. 

    The 2-1 score doesn’t paint an accurate picture of how one-sided this game was.

    And it was against Lowell. 

    “Hopefully we’re still playing hockey” didn’t have to be the sentiment coming out of this game. But it begs the question, if you are still playing hockey, will you actually play to win?

    • UML’s comeback victory took away some of the sting that I was suffering from our loss. Norm Bazen has consistently beaten teams comprised of USA and NHL picks with his blue collar squads, and their adherence to his style of play. It is confounding that his style of play has not changed since he took over at UML several years ago, yet consistent counter-strategies have not been forthcoming in all these years. Hockey East should have held off with their “Coach of the Year” award, as evidenced by UML’s late season dominance (again) of the star studded squads. PSD

      • I absolutely agree with you P.S. Lowell has older and bigger players who push you around and somewhat intimidate smaller, younger, and more skillful teams. Bazin’s been doing it for years with a fair level of success but with NO nat’l championships. He can’t compete with the BUs and BC s of the world for better players so this is the strategy he employs. What’s unacceptable is the non compete level the Terriers showed in this matchup after almost ( and in fact via shootout) beating this team just a week before. Of course its up to the coaching staff as well to come up with antidotes to Bazin’s style.

  3. I was Hoping for better for this squad but I’m not about to say bu played terrible. U mass Lowell is a tough team like coach said Lowell executed there game plan. We made one too many mistakes.
    I do believe it’s a mistake to criticize this season because of one game. If this game never took place folks would say how great a year it was. With the pandemic it’s one and done unfortunately bu did not prevail. I’m sure the kids are down but I’m very confident we will make ncaa tournament if we don’t it’s because of fuzzy math. Respectfully I don’t subscribe to the theory that these kids think success is handed to them. With this being a pandemic year I have not met any freshman but I can tell you I have seen the summer workouts of some of these guys and it’s clear to me that if they work that hard in July they certainly want it in March. I saw lots of mistakes Sunday but that’s what good teams like Lowell do they bang they clog and they work and capitalize on opportunities. Bu tried to spread the ice it just did not work. I don’t like playing at Walter Brown it’s small size hurt our style of hockey. As I stated bu was not sharp but the effort was there Sunday as it was all year. The season is not over go bu 🐾

  4. A very disappointing effort after a fairly consistent regular season run. We saw some of the ugly mistakes of the pass several years resurface again. Turnovers in the defensive end and an inability by the Terriers to generate sustained attack zone time in the opponents end. Really the riverhawks dominated the game as their 76-36 edge in shot attempts indicates. If not for Commesso and many blocked shot attempts by our defenseman the game would have been a rout. I just hope that this years Terriers do not turn out to be a “fraud” team if we go on in the NCAAs. The only thing that takes the sting out of this is that the riverhawks also upset the eagles and both BU and BC have to wait around for the selection committee to decide on an at large bid. With the eagles losing and having the previous #1 ranking in the nation this will only hurt the terriers chances of getting an at large bid since the committee must take automatically the tourney winner.

    • Hey Vito- you’re 100% right. If Lowell wins the HE Tournament, they’ll get the autobid to the NCAAs. My guess is that the next picks would go to BC and UMass Amherst and that we’d be a third choice, but we don’t know how many picks the league will get. One spot of optimism though is that the ECAC and Atlantic Hockey will likely only have one pick, giving HE more spots (in theory). Just have to cross our fingers for Amherst to win the HE trophy and leave a spot open for us.

      • Thanks Caroline! I found your pathway to be much more palatable than cheering for BC LOL. And Belle, keep an eye on Zac Jones for Amherst. He is one of the top NYR prospects.

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