Entering the season with high expectations, the Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks faced their true litmus test over the weekend with a two-game home-and-home series with No. 1 Boston College.
While Friday night, a 1-0 loss at home for Lowell, might have earned a satisfactory grade, Sunday’s game may have been a bit of a failure.
The River Hawks, coming off their best season since 1996, were manhandled throughout the game by the Eagles, falling behind 3-0 before dropping a 6-3 decision. The loss drops the River Hawks to 1-3-1 (0-2-1 Hockey East) on the young season, while the Eagles improve to 4-1-0 (4-1-0 Hockey East).
“We lost to a good hockey club tonight,” said Lowell coach Norm Bazin. “We’re going to find watching the film that there were certainly quite a few instances where we lacked execution in critical moments.”
Those moments Bazin alluded to specifically came in the second period, when Lowell rallied to within a goal at 3-2 before surrendering back-to-back goals before intermission and again in the third when the River Hawks got within a goal and couldn’t score on a lengthy five-on-three power play.
At the same time, Boston College received most of the offense it needed from its second line. The trio of Bill Arnold (goal, two assists), Kevin Hayes (2g, 1a) and Destry Straight (goal) paced the high-potent Eagles’ offense that capitalized on a number of defensive breakdowns by the River Hawks.
Rookie defenseman Teddy Doherty also added three assists.
“I was oblivious to it, but someone mentioned the other night that we lost 42 percent of our scoring from last year and yet only brought in one freshman that’s playing as a forward,” said BC coach Jerry York. “We have two lines now that are going to have to be really scoring for us and I think Billy [Arnold’s] line stepped up for us tonight.”
The Eagles, in particular Arnold and Hayes, put Lowell in the three-goal deficit by the 5:31 mark of the second period. After Arnold netted his second goal of the season at 4:23 of the opening period, Hayes followed with back-to-back power-play tallies at 18:41 of the first and a second at 5:31 of the middle stanza.
Lowell battled back, getting the first-career goal by Michael Colanton at 7:40, a tally that ended a 158:05 shutout streak for BC netminder Parker Milner (25 saves). A power-play tally from Derek Arnold at 11:14 brought Lowell within one, but the Eagles’ offense was simply too potent, exploding late in the middle frame.
With both teams skating four-on-four, BC blue-chip recruit Michael Matheson fed a pretty pass to Johnny Gaudreau on a three-on-one with the sophomore doing what he does best, burying a shot around Lowell netminder Doug Carr (23 saves) at 13:40 of the second.
Just 66 seconds later, it appeared the Eagles rebuilt their three-goal cushion when Doherty had a shot bounce off his skate into the net. After video review, though, the officials ruled the puck was kicked in.
Without batting an eyelash, BC scored again. Another Lowell penalty led to a bouncing puck in front of Carr that eventually banked off the goalie’s back and into the net. Straight was credited with the goal at 17:00 of the second, his second of the season.
The River Hawks made a go of it in the third, getting within two on reigning Hockey East rookie of the year Scott Wilson’s first goal of the season at 4:39. That was followed by back-to-back BC penalties that gave Lowell a five-on-three power play for 1:28. The best scoring opportunity, though, was a Joe Houk shot off the left post at 7:20.
And while Lowell maintained constant pressure in the ensuing minutes, the Eagles put the game away after a crafty move by York.
An icing with 3:44 left seemingly gave Lowell a golden opportunity to get within a goal, particularly against a tired BC five that had been on the ice for close to a minute. York, though, called timeout, allowing him to rest his line. Nine seconds later, Pat Mullane finished of a three-on-two for his third goal of the season to ice the victory.
While the Eagles will have a week off before facing Massachusetts in another Sunday matinee, Lowell will have a full weekend off prior to hosting a two-game series against a struggling Maine team beginning Nov. 2.
“Unfortunately, this upcoming week we don’t have any games, because we’d like to be playing,” said Bazin. “You want to get rid of this feeling as quickly as possible.”