With less than three minutes remaining in the first period, senior captain Garrett Noonan took a shot from the slot that No. 10 University of Massachusetts-Lowell netminder Connor Hellebuyck blocked.
In any other game, that shot would mean little, but during Saturday’s contest between the Boston University men’s hockey team and the River Hawks (15-6-2, 5-3-1 Hockey East) it marked the first time BU had a shot on goal in the contest.
Although the Terriers (7-13-2, 2-7-1 Hockey East) had more shots in the second, they suffered from more of the same in the third. Ultimately, the team could not overcome its offensive struggles at the Tsongas Center as it fell to the River Hawks 3-1.
With the loss, BU is now winless in its last eight games, a mark that stretches back to its Red Hot Hockey win at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 30 against Cornell University.
“We were slow, we didn’t have the urgency that we did in the first and third periods [Friday night] against Boston College,” said BU coach David Quinn. “It’s a tough way to win a hockey game.”
Despite not possessing the puck in its offensive zone for much of the first, BU kept Lowell off the board until 12:09 in the first frame. With the Terriers having killed off senior captain Patrick MacGregor’s penalty for interference just seconds earlier, River Hawk wing Scott Wilson flung a shot from the slot that made its way by sophomore netminder Sean Maguire for the early 1-0 lead.
Lowell doubled its advantage about eight minutes into the second when left wing Terrence Wallin picked up a long breakout pass from defenseman Michael Kapla. With no one in front of him, Wallin tallied his second goal of the season after he put it by Maguire stick side.
By the end of the period, the Terriers struggles went beyond their difficulties in the offensive zone, though, as Lowell defenseman Christian Folin kneed sophomore defenseman Ahti Oksanen, who immediately crumbled to the ice, writhing in pain until MacGregor and freshman Tommy Kelley assisted him off the ice.
Folin received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for kneeing.
The play left the Terriers with another missing defenseman, as sophomore Matt Grzelcyk is done for the season after separating his shoulder in practice last week.
“It’s tough to manage,” Quinn said of working with only four or five defensemen in a game.
BU was already dressing only 17 skaters. Later on in the game, freshman wing T.J. Ryan also appeared to suffer an injury, but he returned to the ice before the game ended.
“It’s a tough time,” Quinn said of the injuries his team has dealt with. “Sometimes teams have seasons like that, and we happen to be going through that right now.”
BU came back onto the ice in the third without Oksanen, but the team had 1:41 left on the power play that resulted from his injury. With just seconds left on the power play, freshman wing Kevin Duane wristed a shot over Hellebuyck’s shoulder to cut Lowell’s lead to 2-1.
Duane’s shot was one of only two Terrier attempts on goal for the entirety of the third period and matched the team’s total from the first frame.
“A whopping four,” Quinn said, clarifying the amount of shots in two frames.
River Hawk center Joe Pendenza finished off the win for Lowell with an empty netter, which he scored with 1:10 left in the game. That goal marked the sixth empty net tally that BU has given up in the past six games.
While Lowell had more than triple BU’s shots, a 39-save performance by Maguire kept the Terriers in the game.
Nonetheless, Quinn was not ready to say if Maguire would get the nod next week in the Terriers’ weekend series against the University of Vermont.
“I’m not thinking about next Thursday,” Quinn said. “I’m thinking about getting back on the bus and pulling my thoughts together here.”