For the first thirty two games of the season, the most intriguing aspect of this team, to me, was their ability to hold a lead late in hockey games. They play hard in their own zone, get consistent goaltending, and capitalize on their opponents mistakes. Last night, it just didn't happen. Thanks to a two goal third period, the UMass-Lowell River Hawks tied up the #1 Eagles and ended BC's winning streak at eleven games, although the unbeaten streak now sits at 19 games, a streak that ties the record under Coach York. It should be pointed out before we dive into the game analysis that Lowell's crowd was as good as any opposing crowd I have seen on the road this season. There was not one open seat in the whole building and it was certainly a tough environment for the Eagles to play.
Thanks to the suffocating traffic outside of Tsongas Center, I got in the building five minutes into the game but for the most part, I thought BC's first period was solid. There were no goals but BC outshot their opponents by a 14-11 margin, playing the game at their tempo, and generating some quality chances. Lowell was able to gain some momentum late in the period with a power play but BC did, as they have all year, an exceptional job on the penalty kill.
Undoubtedly, the second period was BC's best of the game. They generated a lot of quality scoring chances (18 shots), controlled the play in the neutral zone, and didn't allow the River Hawks much in the offense end. For the first five period this weekend, I don't think Lowell had more than five real quality scoring chances and when they did, Demko was there to make the saves. Lowell did a much better job defending against the big three all night, even though Johnny G stretched his scoring streak to an astonishing 28 games. Just two minutes after G's tally, Isaac Macleod made a sick pass to a streaking Ryan Fitzgerald to give BC the 2-0 advantage over a team that isn't really built to come from behind.
The third period, well, it flat out wasn't good. It was a disaster. For the first two period, I thought the fourth line of Adam Gilmour, Chris Calnan, and Matty Gaudreau was arguably BC's best line. They cycled the puck extremely well, played physical on both ends of the ice, and didn't turn the puck over. Then, about six minutes into the period, those guys were sustaining offensive zone pressure, cycling it behind the Lowell net, generating chances, doing their jobs, and all of the sudden the refs call Chris Calnan for high sticking. To say it was a questionable call would be the understatement of the century. Anyways, credit Lowell for capitalizing on that power play chance, it got to a point where I didn't know if we were ever going to let up another power play goal again. On tape it looks like, for some reason, a Lowell forward was able to camp out in front of Demko and screen him from the shot near the top of the right circle. Our defenseman have to make sure that guy is cleared out, or at least have a body on him. It looked like Isaac Macleod was in a good position to block a shot and he clearly made a great effort to do so but somehow the puck went through him and Demko. The amount of chances BC had to make this a two goal lead once again midway through the third was incredible. Teddy Doherty hit a post, Pat Brown hit a post, Johnny G had a shot sit on the goal line for a good second and a half but somehow none of them went in and with ten minutes to play Lowell tied it up. The second goal wasn't all that different from the first one, a Lowell defenseman fired a one timer at Demko, BC blocked it but since the Eagles had three guys all bunched in front of the freshman netminder, a Lowell forward had all day to gather the rebound and fire it home. It's not really a calculus problem, BC just didn't pick up their assignments in their own end. If you look at it, Billy Arnold did a tremendous job of getting on his knees and attempting to block the shot but the Lowell forward absolutely snipped one by him and Demko.
Overall, it's certainly frustrating to walk out of there with a tie but let's not forget, that's a really good hockey team. For the final twenty minutes of regulation, they were the better team and they certainly deserved at least a point. The problem with winning 11 straight and not losing since Thanksgiving is you are expected to win every game and utterly dominate your opponent. I think when we all settle down and look at the way we played this weekend, our position in the pairwise, the fact that we were missing arguably the best defenseman in college hockey, and played a team desperate for a win, we should all be somewhat pleased with this weekend. We can talk about the Hockey East tournament all we want but the biggest thing left to achieve in the regular season is the #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
1. The second and fourth lines. Without a doubt, BC's best lines tonight. The big three didn't play all that well while the third line was just average.
2. Power play is really starting to click. Having a potent power play is a big key this time of year.
1. BC just didn't have it in the third period. Maybe they ran out of gas, maybe Lowell worked that much harder, but for some reason, the Eagles just didn't have a lot going in the final stanza.
Next up- Senior night vs Notre Dame next Saturday, 4 PM.
Go Eagles !