Mueller’s third-period short-handed goal lifts Lowell over Boston College, clinches bye in playoffs


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The second-ranked Boston College Eagles entered Saturday night’s tilt with No. 11 Massachusetts-Lowell having already clinched, at least, a share of the Hockey East regular season crown. The River Hawks, meanwhile, were looking to clinch a first-round bye in the Hockey East playoffs with both a win over the Eagles on Saturday night at Tsongas Center, and a little help from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, whom the River Hawks needed to defeat the Terriers of Boston University in South Bend in order to get the open date next weekend.

Two third-period River Hawks goals catapulted Lowell to a 3-1 victory over the Eagles while the Fighting Irish held off the Terriers out in South Bend to clinch the bye for the River Hawks. Following the win, Lowell coach Norm Bazin praised his team’s response after losing 3-1 in Chestnut Hill to the Eagles on Friday night.

“Yeah, it was a great overall effort. (I was) glad we gutted that one out. The urgency was there. The goaltending was excellent. Solid overall performance.”

At 9:17, Lowell’s Michael Fallon won an offensive zone draw back to defenseman Tommy Panico, who fired a shot from the point. Eagles goaltender Thatcher Demko turned away the shot but the puck fell right onto the tape of Michael Louria, who dished a pass across the crease to A.J. White on the back door of the net. White took the pass and slammed it home to put Lowell up one early. White gave credit to his linemate, Michael Louria, on his goal following the win.

“We tried having a little faceoff play there. Lauria made a nice play to get it to the net and I was lucky enough to have a wide-open net. It sounds cliché, but good things do happen when you go to the net.”

Lowell took the 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but it did not take long for the second-ranked Eagles to respond in the second frame. At 4:34, BC’s Zach Sanford broke the puck into the Lowell zone and fed a pass to Casey Fitzgerald in the high slot. Fitzgerald put on a beautiful spin move and fed a pass to Beanpot hero-Alex Tuch at the left faceoff dot. Tuch clapped a one-timer past the right pad of Kevin Boyle to knot the game at one.

Both the River Hawks and Eagles got their fair share of solid scoring opportunities throughout the remainder of the second frame, but the game remained tied at one heading into the second intermission.

At 19:59 of the second period, Niklas Folin went off for charging the goaltender on a mini-breakaway, meaning that Boston College began the final period on the power play. Despite being down a man, it was the River Hawks who were able to capitalize in the opening minutes of the third, as Tyler Mueller grabbed the puck at center ice off a turnover and flew down the right wing. After entering the Eagles zone on a one-on-two, Mueller put on the breaks and fired a shot over the glove of Thatcher Demko, off the bar and in to give the River Hawks back the lead just 21 seconds into the third period following the loss.

Lowell picked up its intensity off of the momentum from the short-handed go-ahead goal, and it did not go unnoticed by BC coach Jerry York, who praised the River Hawks on their effort.

“I thought Lowell played with a little more urgency to their game than ours, especially in that third period. Lowell played well and they executed so all the credit to them. We’ve got to get more shots on goal. We only had 20 shots tonight. They’re a good club. I thought they were quick tonight.”

At 6:47, the River Hawks struck again when John Edwardh took a pass from C.J. Smith in between the hashmarks. Edwardh drove the net and waited for Demko to bite. The patient Edwardh shot the puck past the blocker of Demko and into the back of the net as soon as Demko bit on his fake shot, giving the River Hawks a 3-1 advantage.

Boston College pulled the goaltender with just under a minute to play for a six-on-four advantage after Lowell’s Dylan Zink went off for interference, but the River Hawks stepped up defensively and kept the Eagles from notching another goal, holding on for the two-goal victory.

After the game, a good portion of the crowd at Tsongas Center stuck around to watch the end of the Notre Dame-Boston University game on the video board. The Irish held on in the final seconds for a 1-0 victory, and the Tsongas Center crowd erupted as the River Hawks clinched the first-round bye. Lowell captain A.J. White talked about his team’s reaction when they found out they had earned a bye next weekend.

“We didn’t get to see the end (of the BU/Notre Dame game) because we were waiting for coach but we heard the reaction of the fans, so that was a relief. Definitely going to be nice to get some rest next weekend.”