|Photo from Lowell Athletics|
The Eagles suffered their first loss of 2016 last night as UMass-Lowell used a third period shorthanded goal to upend BC, who will now get a week off before hosting a Hockey East quarterfinal matchup on March 11-13. Give Lowell all the credit in the world for the outcome- they looked like the faster, hungrier, and to be honest, better team for the majority of the night. BC had their moments and I'm pleased that they were able to stay in the contest despite bringing their C game, but the team that generated more chances and played better defense won the game. I will never buy into the notion that BC was "not motivated" to play last night because they had clinched at least a share of the regular season title on Friday. Coach York gets his guys fired up more so than any other coach in college athletics and trust me, BC's poor performance had nothing to do with preparation- you don't play in this program unless you're ready to go every single day, it doesn't matter whether you're playing BU in the National Title or the club team in a daily scrimmage.
I actually thought BC came out of the gates well, especially considering the crowd and what was at stake for the opposition. Teddy Doherty had a golden opportunity to give them a lead when he intercepted a Lowell clearing pass in the defensive zone, which led to a breakaway but UML goalie Kevin Boyle made his first of many key saves on the night. Just under ten minutes into the game, the River Hawks took their first lead of the weekend when senior AJ White banged home a terrific backdoor pass from Mike Louria. Obviously, it was a nice play by Lowell but BC's defense just lost track of White who was camping in front of Thatcher Demko. Both defensemen were facing the puck carrier on the right side of the zone and it looked like Louria made a nifty no look pass to fool the maroon and gold defenders. Nothing Demko could do.
Five minutes into the second period, Casey Fitzgerald made a ridiculous pass to a wide open Alex Tuch, who banged home his 13th of the season. With 28 points thus far, Tuch has matched his total from a season ago which, amazingly, led the team. I think Casey Fitzgerald should be in consideration for freshman of the year in Hockey East. After that goal though, it was all River Hawks, all the time. Demko made some unbelievable saves on two Lowell power plays, including a couple where Lowell defenders just walked in and ripped slap shots from the top of the circle- only to see them covered up by BC's star goaltender. The #1 positive to take out of this weekend, and over these past three weeks really, has to be BC's penalty kill. Not only did Lowell go 0 for 10 on the weekend, they didn't generate a whole bunch of quality looks outside of a few point shots. Not to mention the fact that BC was missing one of its go to killers in Colin White.
The turning point in the game came just 30 seconds into the third period. With 2 seconds left in the second, the Eagles were handed a crucial power play but gave up a bad shorthanded goal to UML defenseman Tyler Mueller, who just roofed one past Demko. Now, Blogger's New Years resolution was to stop criticizing officials but if you look at the highlights of the game, they missed a clear trip against Casey Fitzgerald who, because of the missed infraction, fell and turned the puck over to Mueller. It was a blatant trip and I'm sure the league will take a look at it to make sure it does not happen again. Missed calls aside, you can't give up shorthanded goals and I think one of the sour points over the course of both games was BC's power play. Of course, White is their go to man but they didn't create anything at all and there are some of the most talented forwards in the country on both units. I thought they tried too hard to drive the puck into the middle of the zone in order to create backdoor plays that they hoped would lead to goals and when they opted to fire at will from the point, Lowell blocked everything they could. UML put the cherry on top when John Edwardh capitalized on a brutal defensive stretch for BC midway through the period. They just could not find a way to get the puck out of the zone and every time they did, Lowell's neutral zone trap was there to throw them off. We may not like the way Bazin's teams play but no one can deny that if you want to beat teams like BC, there may not be a better option.
All in all, disappointing result, sure, but it is not the end of the world. This team needs two weeks off in order to gear up for the stretch run because they've played more hockey over the past month than perhaps anyone in the country. Blogger has never and will never be in the "losing is good for them" camp but I do think last night was a valuable teaching moment for the team. Now they know they can't just show up and beat anybody. I thought the fourth line, especially Joey Dudek, had another outstanding game and that is two weekends in a row where they have been a force on the ice. Once Calnan is back, the staff will have some interesting decisions to make with regards to the bottom four or five forwards. Defensively, it was one of their weaker games and it was the first time in a while where they just looked a bit lost in their own end. As good as Demko is, he can't stop everything and I think BC just left him out to dry with the amount of time they spent in their own end. They don't keep these type of numbers in college hockey but I think Lowell dominated time of possession, which does not happen often against these Eagles.
Hopefully, they will use this week to rest up and get healthy for the impending Hockey East and NCAA tournaments.
Why BC lost-
1. Lowell just outplayed them. Not much more to say. They played a better hockey game than BC did last night and they got the result they deserved. It's not rocket science.
2. Can't give up a shorthanded goal like that. What a killer.
3. Top lines were off. After an outstanding month of hockey, Cangelosi, Wood, and Gilmour were shut down and had a tough time creating any offense.
1. They're still in a good spot. Yes, PC is now the fourth #1 seed but if BC can win the Hockey East tournament, they will be either the #2 or #3 overall seed. Lots to play for in the coming weeks. It was just an off game- no one can complain about the regular season these guys had.