The Hockey East playoffs don’t start for another three weeks, and the top four seeds will get a bye when they do.
As two of the five strong teams battling for those four spots, Boston University and Massachusetts-Lowell looked like two teams who were already playing postseason hockey Friday.
In a tightly played game that featured solid goaltending, excellent defense, and few good scoring opportunities, Lowell tied up BU in the third period, only to lose on freshman Jordan Greenway’s power-play goal just 29 seconds into overtime in front of 4,134 at Agganis Arena.
Senior Mike Moran scored BU’s other goal, while A.J. White scored for the River Hawks. Hot goaltender Sean Maguire stopped 29 of 30 shots to get the win for the Terriers.
“It’s playoff hockey from here on in, and that certainly had a playoff feel to it,” BU coach David Quinn said. “Every inch was contested for … low-scoring game … I thought we had had some great chances we weren’t able to capitalize on, and they did, too.
“I thought we did a better job of defending in the second and third period; I thought we were a little sloppy early on in the first. Overall, a huge win for us, and we certainly understand the challenge we’re going to face tomorrow [when the teams meet again at Lowell].”
“I thought it was a good hockey game for the most part,” Lowell coach Norm Bazin said. “Both teams had their opportunities. They got the last one and capitalized. … I thought both goaltenders played well. You had to earn your space. I thought that defensively both teams were fairly solid.”
BU had the only grade ‘A’ chance of the first period, when Ahti Oksanen set up Matt Lane for a point-blank shot, only to have Kevin Boyce make the save.
After getting shut out in the Beanpot on Monday night, BU struggled to hit the net until 17:23 of the second period when Charlie McAvoy sprung Moran for a breakaway and a shot that beat Boyce low.
“A timely goal because they really had the momentum at that time,” Quinn said.
“We hadn’t scored against BC in the last game, and Chuck made a great play,” Moran said. “Nice pass, and I just tried to put it under his five-hole. Luckily it went in. It was nice to get our line out there and score a big one.”
For a good while, it looked like it might end that way, but with 7:29 left in the third period, Maguire ended up with the puck behind his own net for a long while before he inexplicably left it there, perhaps thinking one of his defenseman would scoop it up and rush out of the zone. Instead, Ryan Dmowski jumped on the puck and attempted to stuff it in, only to have Maguire make the dramatic save. Unfortunately for the Terriers, the rebound popped out, and White knocked it home to tie it 1-1.
“That kind of turned the tide a little bit,” Quinn said. “You could feel it on the bench; we were a little demoralized. … It looked like it took forever to develop. It felt like he had the puck behind the net for about 15 seconds. The next thing you know it’s in the back of the net.”
The River Hawks rode the momentum of that deflating goal for several minutes until Dmowski slammed Doyle Somerby into the boards to get a boarding call in the final half-minute. When the power play continued into overtime, BU won it. Senior captain Matt Grzelcyk took a wrist shot from the right point and Greenway redirected the midair puck into the net. The River Hawks squawked about it, but the video review led to a ruling that it was not a high stick, and the Terriers were the victors.
“I remember the puck got the point and I was kind of alone in front,” Greenway said. “‘Grizz’ just got the puck to the net, and I got my stick there to deflect it. It was a good goal, pretty exciting.”