LOWELL, Mass. –– Ryan Greene and Quinn Hutson stepped up, shook off the snakebite and sealed a 3-2 Terrier win at Tsongas Center on Friday night.
The two sophomore forwards scored in the Boston University men’s hockey team’s defeat of the UMass Lowell River Hawks (4-5-0, 1-4-0 HE), in which the Terriers never gave into their opponent’s system.
“We know how they’re going to play, they’re a very patient team, they clog up the neutral zone, they clog up the front of their net,” BU head coach Jay Pandolfo said postgame. “I thought our guys for the most part did a pretty good job of staying patient, not trying to force too much – we stuck with it.”
Freshman forward Macklin Celebrini was out of the lineup for the Terriers (5-3-1, 2-1-1 Hockey East) after skating in a non-contact jersey in practice this week. Postgame, Pandolfo said he would be “shocked” if M. Celebrini did not return on Saturday and that the team just wanted to hold him out an extra game due to “residual soreness.”
Junior forward Jack Hughes slotted into the first line center role between senior forward Luke Tuch and Q. Hutson, while sophomore forward Devin Kaplan moved down to the second line with fellow classmen Greene and Jeremy Wilmer.
“He’s played center most of his college career, so I think he’s more comfortable in the middle of the ice – it looked that way to me tonight. I really liked him there,” Pandolfo said of Hughes.
In his first game action since Oct. 13 against the University of New Hampshire, freshman forward Jack Harvey filled the left wing on the third line with seniors Nick Zabaneh and Dylan Peterson, and the fourth line remained untouched.
BU also shook things up on the back end. Graduate defenseman Cade Webber skated with freshman Tom Willander on the third pair, and freshmen Aiden Celebrini and Gavin McCarthy were together on the third pair. Sophomore defenseman Lane Hutson and captain Case McCarthy held their first pair positioning while junior Ty Gallagher was listed as the extra defenseman.
“We wanted to try Willander with Webber, so we did that. And then we kind of rotated the other three and I thought it worked out pretty well,” Pandolfo said. “They all had really good games, so we’ll probably continue to play seven [defensemen] here for a little bit and see how it shakes out.”
The Terriers looked hesitant in the first period, but the River Hawks didn’t counter with any high-danger chances as shots on goal stood at 7-5, in favor of BU, by the end of 20 minutes. Both squads mucked it up in the middle, but there were limited sustained cycles on either end.
Lowell dominated at the face-off dot, though, besting BU 16-3 in the opening frame.
Despite a River Hawk power play at 5:21 of the first with Q. Hutson in the box for tripping, the score remained 0-0 heading into the second, marking the first time BU has held its opponents scoreless in the first period since its season opener against Bentley.
“I thought we played behind them well. We weren’t selfish on the blue line,” Greene said postgame. “I thought we won a lot of battles down low as well, which I think helped us out.”
BU made good on its first power play of the night at 5:50 of the second period and gained a 1-0 lead just 15 seconds into the man advantage with sophomore defenseman TJ Schweighardt off for tripping.
Wilmer set up a pretty tic-tac-toe play, dumping the puck down to Lachance – stationed by the goal line to the right of senior goaltender Henry Welsch’s net – who knocked it to Greene in the slot. Welsch made the save on Greene’s initial shot, but the center followed up and backhanded in the rebound on the left doorstep for his third goal of the season at 6:05.
“It’s definitely big. It feels good to get a goal and at a key time as well. I thought our power play was clicking well and we were able to make a low play there that turned out well,” Greene said. “At the time, we ended up getting their guy high and it opened up down low, so it worked out.”
The Terriers’ penalty kill looked solid, albeit, against a Lowell power play that was 4-for-31 coming into Friday’s matchup. PK stalwarts Sam Stevens, C. McCarthy and Webber sacrificed the body, and newer addition Doug Grimes did a good job taking space away from the River Hawks. Zabaneh was tenacious, per usual, on the second unit and made some key clears by the blue line as well.
Hutson, who had a total nine shots on net, finally cashed in on a goal that didn’t quite reflect the quality of his previous looks, but was an important one to go in nonetheless.
“It feels pretty good, I wish it wasn’t that one, but I guess that’s how it has to go,” Q. Hutson said postgame. “I had the shot, so I guess one of them’s got to go in.”
The winger’s floater from above the left circle bounced off of Welsch’s blocker and then deflected off of junior defenseman Isac Jonsson’s skate in front. The wonky tally made it 2-0 at 13:29 of the third period.
“Sometimes you need a bounce like that to get you going,” Pandolfo said. “I would expect now he’s gonna have a little confidence and when he gets in the slot area, it has a good chance of going in the net.”
Freshman defenseman Ben Brunette got the River Hawks within one at 14:06, but L. Hutson soon widened the deficit with a sharp wrister from below the left dot – dished to him by fellow Montreal Canadiens prospect Tuch – to pull BU ahead 3-1 at 17:06. The goal was L. Hutson’s fifth in three games, and seventh of the season.
Lowell had one last push with under a minute remaining in the closing stanza, bringing the game to its final 3-2 score thanks to a rebound goal from Jonsson. But, with 19.2 seconds on the clock, the Terriers closed out the game and junior goaltender Mathieu Caron shut it down in his 18-save showing.
“You know they’re going to be coming late in the game like that, and you can’t give them a chance – and we did. Listen, we stuck with it and found a way to get a win,” Pandolfo said.
BU and Lowell will meet for the second game of the conference series at Agganis Arena on Saturday night with a 7 p.m. puck drop. The Boston Hockey Blog will have full, on the ground coverage so be sure to follow along on Twitter (X) @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog.
“We know how they play now,” Q. Hutson said. “We just have to score the first one and let them sit back. And try to score, I guess.”