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How many times do you see a pair of top 10 college hockey teams looking to end losing streaks against each other in a matchup?
That was the case tonight as No. 1 Boston University faced off against No. 7 UMass Lowell. The Terriers earned the top spot in the USCHO poll on Monday due to an eight-game winning streak, only to get swept by Merrimack in a home-and-home series on Tuesday and Friday.
“Obviously, we were in a bit of a funk,” BU coach David Quinn said. “In a short period of time, we went from sitting on top of the world — and I don’t mean that because we were ranked number one, but just feeling good about ourselves — and in four short days, suddenly the world’s about to end. It’s the ebbs and flows of a hockey season.”
Meanwhile, the River Hawks saw their seven-game winning streak come to an end last weekend, and that loss turned into a three-game losing streak coming into tonight.
“There’s no question that we’re going through some adversity right now, and we’re going to find out what we’re really made of,” UMass Lowell coach Norm Bazin said. “You go through seven games, and everything’s working out pretty well, and then, much like what BU’s going through, we go through some adversity. We’re going to have to work our way out of it.”
So what would happen when a suddenly resistible force met a recently movable object? That remained very much in doubt through 50 minutes tonight. UMass Lowell dominated the early going, enjoying a startling 29-7 edge in shot attempts in the first period.
The only reason it was a 1-1 game going into the third period was the stellar play of BU freshman goalie Jake Oettinger. The 6-foot-4 freshman, who only turned 18 just over one month ago, made a few five-star saves in the second period that kept his team in the game. At 8:36 of the second period, BU coughed up the puck on a power play and John Edwardh raced in all alone on the breakaway, only to have his backhander stoned by Oettinger’s lunging glove save.
The River Hawks followed that up with two more strong chances in the last minute of the period. First, Oettinger somehow made a glove save on Chris Forney’s shot from the left point, somehow snaring it around the body of a BU teammate. Then he stopped C.J. Smith when the left winger had a good bid after getting the pass on the tail end of a three-on-one break.
Buoyed by those saves, BU finally broke it open with a Bobo Carpenter goal at 10:07 of the third period, followed by a beautiful backhander that freshman sensation Clayton Keller lifted over the glove of River Hawks goalie Tyler Wall less than three minutes later. UMass Lowell made it interesting with a C.J. Smith goal coinciding with a BU penalty, but Carpenter’s empty-netter sealed it in the final minute.
“I thought the kids battled hard tonight,” Bazin said. “I thought we deserved better, but it didn’t happen. We couldn’t finish, couldn’t get that second goal, and it came back to bite us in the ass. That’s the result of the game, and you can print that, too.”
For Quinn and the BU program, the win was a big relief after a roller coaster week.
“We were fragile,” Quinn said. “I felt like Dr. Phil over the last four days, trying to figure out what’s going on. I dug deep, put the white coat on, and we figured out as a group what we needed to accomplish.”
“When you’re named number one, every team you play, you’re going to get the team’s best,” Oettinger said. “That was the case against Merrimack. We learned that no matter what the atmosphere, playing here at Agganis or on the road, we’ve got to bring our best game because every team is going to be gunning for us.”
Hockey East roundup
No. 13 Boston College 6, No. 15 Notre Dame 4
Through a period and a half, the Fighting Irish played a classic road game: Andrew Oglevie’s short-handed goal midway through the second period gave Notre Dame a 4-2 lead and threatened to deflate the Eagles. Instead, BC responded with four unanswered goals for the 6-4 win. Chris Calnan had a pair of goals for the home team, including the game-winner, while David Cotton and Casey Fitzgerald added three assists apiece.
Maine 2, Massachusetts 1
In a low-scoring battle between the two bottom teams in the Hockey East standings, Maine withstood a whopping 45-22 shot advantage from the Minutemen to pull out the 2-1 win at home. Sophomore goaltender Rob McGovern’s 44 saves tied his career high, set back in the first game of his freshman year against North Dakota. Blaine Byron had a goal and an assist for the Black Bears, while Cam Brown assisted on both Maine goals.
No. 19 Providence 3, at New Hampshire 2
Providence completed a difficult road sweep at UNH, extending its winning streak to five games in the process. The Friars came out strong, outshooting the Wildcats by an 18-5 margin in the first period, only to have UNH goalie Danny Tirone keep the game scoreless until Brian Pinho’s goal midway through the second period. Tirone ended up with 45 saves, his second-highest total of the season.