Saturday thoughts: Clouds of white
Things got far more troublesome than we would have liked in the third period, and that seems to be BU’s wont these days, but at this point can there be any doubt as to which team is the hottest in the conference and, indeed, the nation?
Lowell went into BU and played most of the game as though it were the home team, then came out having won 4-3, picking up two points for the ninth consecutive game. But with that having been squared away right off the hop, we should also note that this was the toughest of these wins by a pretty decent margin, as you might have expected given the detritus that littered the rest of Lowell’s previous eight games.
Things didn’t start out so well for the River Hawks, as BU really took it to them in the opening few minutes. Shots were through the first five minutes or so of the game were 4-1 and there very easily could have been a wider gap than that. The Terriers were just so persistent and Lowell was having trouble catching up to the speed of the treadmill, and not long after that, Matt Lane drew first blood on a not-so-great defensive sequence for Dmitry Sinitsyn, who got burned by Ben Rosen. Rosen got off a backhand shot that hit Doug Carr in the chest, and the rebound bounced off Matt Lane, who was crashing the net. An inauspicious start, but one that seemed to arouse in Lowell the kind of purpose it showed against Providence as well as in the second Vermont game.
Lowell put the next three shots on goal before a Shayne Thompson interference penalty interrupted the flow, but the PK once again stood up and the River Hawks more or less got right back to it. About three and a half minutes later, Joe Pendenza finally drew Lowell even on an absolutely gorgeous pass from Scott Wilson, who was just dynamic throughout this contest. The shot wasn’t so bad either.
The visitors continued to flat-out dominate the final several minutes of the period. From around the 12 minute mark to the first intermission, the River Hawks out-attempted the Terriers a terrifying 14-2, and it looked exactly that lopsided. BU was lucky to escape with the score tied. The second period, shockingly, was more of the same. The first four minutes saw Lowell once again out-attempt the Terriers, this time 12-0, though that was aided by a BU penalty. Still, the game seemed to move in ebbs and flows after that, with each team taking the reins for a few minutes, putting a few shots in the general direction of the goal, and then fall back to see what its opponents had.
Things went like that for a while until BU gifted Lowell an extended two-man advantage. Chad Ruhwedel, though, really only needed about nine seconds. Right off the ensuing draw following Sean Escobedo’s ill-times high-sticking penalty, the junior defenseman absolutely plastered one into the far top corner and staked his team to its first lead of the night at 11:53.
After that point, BU insisted on taking penalties but the Lowell power play began to fall to pieces. It was, as it had the previous night against Northeastern, starting to claw back into the game in a pretty substantive manner, and unlike the previous night, they had a much smaller margin to make up. On the other hand, Lowell’s defense is better than Northeastern’s by a considerable margin (check out the niner they gave up to BC at home tonight for further proof), and though BU began to assault its ramparts in the dying minutes not unlike Providence on Thursday, the River Hawks once again held steady in the face of the late surge.
Then in the third period, things went haywire. Lowell scored just 1:40 in on a beautiful unassisted shot by Derek Arnold, then extended its lead with Adam Chapie’s second shorthanded goal in seven days, on more or less the exact same play that saw him score in Vermont; he broke in on a 2-on-1 and looked shot the whole way. Matt O’Connor never had a chance. At this point, there was a little less than 15 minutes left in the game and Lowell had a 4-1 lead. Things were looking good, but BU came right back and scored on the same man advantage; the first power play goal Lowell had given up in 10 games came at a rather inopportune time and, much as we hate to say it, the tide very quickly turned in BU’s favor.
We want to say the Terriers had already hit something like three posts in the game, and this had all the makings of one of those furious BU comebacks seen the previous night. At this point, Lowell had at least built up its lead to three goals before seeing it cut back down to two, and much as BU continued to take dumb penalties (and this ultimately proved to be its undoing), Lowell really couldn’t do much to get out of its own way. It was immediately following just such a penalty that Wade Megan pulled his team within one with about nine minutes to go, on a gorgeous assist from Cason Hohmann, who’s BU’s most productive player, but was otherwise ineffectual for much of the night.
BU took another penalty, a lazy trip by Sam Kurker who got stranded at the end of a long shift, but even then, Megan went down and hit a crossbar. Of course, that happened before Garrett Noonan speared Carr, who made 29 saves but wasn’t exactly instilling much confidence in doing so. Noonan got the gate and a DQ, and we will go to our graves convinced that his terrible decision there was the only thing that kept BU from pulling level, or even ahead. Lowell continued to outchance the Terriers, as you might expect, but there were a few too many crazy scrambles and nice rushes, and Carr consequently had to make five saves during that time.
Nonetheless, Lowell held on for the win even through it all, and if the shaky moments here weren’t enough to convince us that this is a deceptively very good team that just got off to a deceptively very bad start, then nothing likely will. Lowell didn’t outplay the Terriers for much of this game and win that way, as it did against Vermont and Providence, most recently. If anything, it was evenly played, and given the way BU came back, we might even be persuaded to give them the edge. But that’s the difference, isn’t it?
Lowell didn’t play one of its real Grade-A games tonight, and it still scored four times on the road against a top opponent. This is the point at which the turnaround is no longer a fluke. This is the point at which everyone has to take notice. This is the point at which Lowell said loudly and proudly that it was indeed for real once again this season. Nine in a row. Who’s going to stop them?