Ice Hockey, Sports

Higgins’ redirect lifts No. 4 BU to fourth win in five games

Backed by a 22-save effort from freshman goaltender Kieran Millan, the No. 4 Boston University men's hockey team sidestepped the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, 3-2, Friday night at Agganis Arena to head into the winter break with 11 wins for the first time since the 1999-00 season.

For the second straight game against BU (11-4-1, 6-4-1 Hockey East), UMass-Lowell (8-8-0, 5-6-0) lost its starting goaltender, as junior Nevin Hamilton was helped off the ice with less than four minutes remaining in the second period.

'I couldn't believe it,' BU coach Jack Parker said after the game when jokingly asked if he had a second-half hex on the River Hawks.

Sprawling to his left to prevent BU senior forward Brandon Yip from poking the puck across the goal line, a grimacing Hamilton fell to the ice 30 seconds later as UML pulled the puck out of its own zone in transition.

Stopping 25 shots in his shortened outing, Hamilton departed in favor of junior Carter Hutton, who had not played since spraining his left ankle Nov. 7 against BU.

In his first night at BU since the Terriers left Tsongas Arena victorious after sophomore forward Colin Wilson's game-winning goal with 14.5 seconds left, Hutton faced 10 shots in just over a period of play, conceding the game-winner on a redirected slap shot from BU sophomore defenseman Colby Cohen at 7:38 of the third.

Despite opening the season with a two-man rotation of Millan and freshman Grant Rollheiser, Friday marked the fourth consecutive game in which Millan has started in net for the Terriers.

Improving to 3-0-1 since Nov. 29, Millan, coming off a pair of stellar games in last weekend's home-and-home series with No. 7 Boston College, continued to exude his poised demeanor.

'I thought our goaltender played very well,' Parker said. 'He had to make a few tough saves.'

Millan rebounded from UML freshman forward David Vallorani's converted wrister 1:04 into the contest by locking his pad to the ice as junior forward Kory Falite pounded away at the doorstep less than two minutes later.

Allowing just one more goal the rest of the night '- a screened slap shot from the point by sophomore defenseman Maury Edwards at 14:17 of the second period '- Millan put the final stamp on a special teams stretch during which the Terriers have killed off 17 straight man-advantages.

'I thought we dodged a bullet flurries in our net in the last four, five minutes,' Parker said. 'Especially when they pulled their goalie [in the final minute].'

Cauterizing 24 of 25 man-down opportunities since the University of Vermont took two wins from the Terriers at Agganis Nov. 21-22, BU has continued to solidify its special teams play.

Ranked third in the nation in power-play conversions '- the Terriers are tops in Hockey East with a 22.9-percent rate '- special teams has become a strong suit for a team that had just four wins last year heading into the winter break.

'We did a great job killing penalties this time out,' Parker said. 'We were much better off playing them through center ice. We played pretty well down low, not getting outnumbered at the crease and that has really helped us. Sometimes we get out of position and we get out of the shooting lanes, but we aren't leaving the goalie out to dry.'

What has gone somewhat overlooked in the Terriers' last four games has been BU's fourth line. An energy trio comprised of sophomore Joe Pereira and juniors Zach Cohen and Luke Popko, the line put together another strong outing Friday, finishing the night at +2.

Opening the Terriers' scoring at the 19:03 mark of the first, freshman defenseman David Warsofsky fired a slap shot into a pile in front of Hamilton. Waiting on the doorstep, Pereira collected the bouncing puck on his stick and extended it around Hamilton's left pad to tie the game at one.

With BU down a goal in the second after Edwards' tally, Pereira spun Lowell junior defenseman Jeremy Dehner around behind the net to free up the passing lane. Pereira slipped the puck into the crease past Dehner, freeing up Zach Cohen to slap it between the blocker and left pad of Hamilton.

'That was a huge goal,' Parker said. 'They were dominating down low and then they got a reward for us.'

BU forward Chris Higgins, after getting a goal revoked midway through the second after the puck careened in off the senior's right skate, was credited with the game-winner at 7:38 of the third. Wilson found Colby Cohen at the point on a half-board cycle. As Cohen released a slap shot, Higgins clipped the puck with his skate and deflected it past Hutton.

Lowell peppered Millan with five shots in the game's final three minutes, but the rookie turned away each bid to preserve the Terriers' fourth win in five games.

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