By James Garrison
Looking to build off strong weekend splits against the University of Michigan and UConn, the No. 9 Boston University Men’s Hockey Team (3-3-0, 1-2-0 Hockey East) took a quick trip up route three to take on the No. 18 UMass Lowell River Hawks (5-2-0, 2-0-0 HE). The Terriers dropped a close contest to the River Hawks, 2-1.
Having garnered a reputation as a tight-checking team that limits their opponents’ opportunities, the River Hawks frustrated the Terriers offensively tonight, backed by a 32-save performance from junior goaltender Henry Welsch.
“We’ve just got to find a way to get to the net more and recover pucks,” BU head coach Jay Pandolfo said following the loss. “They do a good job pressuring, they have great sticks. They’re a good pressuring team, and we just didn’t do enough.”
In the first period, the Terriers struggled to penetrate high-danger areas in the offensive zone against a defensively stout River Hawks squad. BU was, however, able to find seams up-ice that led to some quality chances off the rush.
“You’ve got to be willing to get inside against them,” Pandolfo said. “They want to keep it to the outside…we have to do a better job as a group to get inside.”
After junior forward Dylan Peterson was sent off for cross-checking late in the first period, senior Sam Stevens was awarded a questionable tripping penalty on Welsch.
If not for a roughing call on River Hawks forward Brian Chambers after the whistle, the Terriers would have gone down 5-on-3 at 19:12 of the first period. The two sides would play out the final 48 seconds 4-on-3 and exit the ice scoreless.
“I thought we had a pretty good first period,” Pandolfo said. “We didn’t find a way to score a goal… I think that hurt us.”
A troublesome trend for the Terriers reared its ugly head once again early in the second period. Freshman forward Devin Kaplan was awarded a five-minute-major for boarding River Hawks sophomore defenseman Gabe Blanchard.
“Again, we take a five-minute-major and we end up giving one up there,” Pandolfo said. “They end up getting the lead and listen, they’re a good hockey team when they have the lead.”
The River Hawks capitalized just 16 seconds into the ensuing penalty. Freshman forward Scout Truman went upstairs on Terrier goaltender Vinny Duplessis, who was sliding from right to left across his crease.
Despite the Truman tally, the Terriers effectively limited the River Hawks for the remainder of the major. Case McCarthy was able to draw a hooking penalty on Stefan Owens, nullifying the final 40 seconds of the River Hawks man-advantage.
After going up 5-on-4, the Terriers found the equalizer. Senior forward Ethan Phillips collected his second goal of the season on a high-slot tip off the shot from Domenick Fensore. The Terriers newfound momentum would be short-lived though, as Truman collected his second goal of the game just five minutes later.
Truman finished off a 2-on-1 that was generated from a risky pinch by freshman defenseman Lane Hutson, recapturing the River Hawk’s momentum and carrying it into the second intermission.
After generating some offensive momentum in the latter half of the third period, the Terriers were unable to convert on a late power play opportunity. A late scramble in front of Welsch yielded similarly empty results for the Terriers as the final buzzer sounded at Tsongas Center.
“It’s the chaos that ensues when you’re playing good teams,” River Hawks head coach Norm Bazin said after the game. “[BU] showed a lot of speed early and that’s something that we had to adjust to as the game went on.”
Mistakes proved costly tonight against a tight-checking Lowell squad. In what should be an equally even matchup Saturday night, the Terriers will need to tighten up in order to avoid a weekend sweep.
“Against a team like Lowell – who’s really structured, really disciplined – they compete hard around their net, they have good sticks all over the ice. You got to make sure you’re not making costly mistakes,” Pandolfo said. “Tonight, a couple of mistakes really cost us.”
The Terriers will face the River Hawks again tomorrow at Agganis Arena. Puck drop is set for 7 P.M. at home, and we’ll have live coverage on Twitter @BosHockeyBlog and Instagram @Boston.Hockey.Blog.