Going into this season, the UMass-Lowell Riverhawks were considered by many pundits and observers to be the second best team in Hockey East. If that's the case, then despite BC showing many areas in need of improvement in the early going, they look to be pretty solidly atop Hockey East as the curtain closes on the season's opening month.
The Eagles completed a weekend sweep of Lowell with a 6-3 win this afternoon at Conte Forum, led by Kevin Hayes' two goals. With the win, BC (4-1) nosed ahead of BU (3-1) for sole possession of first place.
Early on, it seemed like the visitors would provide no contest, as BC cruised to a 3-0 lead. Bill Arnold opened the scoring at 4:23 with an assist from Ted Doherty, who picked up three assists on the evening. Kevin Hayes scored the next two, both on the power play.
Two Lowell goals in under four minutes changed the tenor of the game in the second period as Michael Colantone and Derek Arnold cut the BC lead to one. But Johnny Gaudreau opened up some breathing room again at 13:40, slotting home a goal on a great feed by Mike Matheson (who had one of the best games of his young career, picking up two helpers and coming close to scoring on several occasions).
After Destry Straight extended the lead to 5-2 late in the second the game appeared in hand again. However, the Riverhawks were not quite done yet. Scott Wilson scored 4:39 into the final frame and Lowell followed up the goal by drawing three power plays, including an extended 5-on-3 halfway through the period. But the BC kill stood strong, withstanding over a minute of being two men down, setting the stage for Pat Mullane to ice the game with under four minutes to play.
The most encouraging signs from this game were both the continued development of Doherty and Matheson into two-way forces on the blue line, and the contributions of Billy Arnold and Kevin Hayes, who will need to have strong seasons in order for BC to have offensive depth this year.
The amount of penalty minutes BC is racking up has to be a concern, but the PK has emerged as one of BC's top strengths thus far. Lowell went 2-for-9 on the PP, and while you wouldn't usually praise a team who gave up two power play goals for their penalty killing prowess, the Eagles really stepped it up killing penalties in crunch time, particularly the crucial 5-on-3 in the third period. That being said, if BC continues to give up between 6 and 9 power plays a game, they are going to have problems.
On the whole, though, you have to be happy with where BC is at five games into the season. After Friday night, we were all worried about the offense, and they responded with a six pack today against a stingy Lowell team. Today, we can be worried about leaking in three goals, but they finished the job in spite of some struggles. And if we've learned one thing about Jerry York's teams, it's that if the building blocks are there, they'll start to put it together down the stretch.
BC returns to the ice on Friday night with a trip to Orono to face the struggling University of Maine, before returning to Conte on Sunday to host UMass-Amherst.
A photo gallery from tonight's game will be posted tomorrow afternoon.
Game Summary (Courtesy of collegehockeystats.net)
|Score By Periods||1st||2nd||3rd||Final|
|Shots On Goal||1st||2nd||3rd||Total|
Hockey East Standings (through 10/28/2012)