LOWELL — Boston College went into the final weekend of the regular season sitting in the Hockey East driver’s seat. But the Eagles fell out of first place and lost control of their destiny after sustaining a 3-1 loss to UMass Lowell on Friday night.
No. 14 BC (18-14-4, 13-6-3 Hockey East) closed with a seven-game (0-5-2) winless streak and also fell off the PairWise bubble after starting the week at No. 17. The River Hawks (22-9-3, 14-7-1 Hockey East) overtook the Eagles for first place on the head-to-head tiebreaker, taking 4-1 and 3-1 wins in a 24-hour period.
“To stay alive and advance we’ve got to score more goals,” BC coach Jerry York said. “It’s evident to me. Otherwise, you’ve got to play the perfect, perfect game.
“We have goal-scorers who haven’t scored goals – that’s certainly a level of frustration. But the way you work out of it is just keep working hard and getting shots to the net and getting to gritty areas. Goals – you don’t go to CVS and buy them – it’s hard to get goals.”
The fifth-ranked River Hawks, who closed the regular season with a seven-game winning streak, displayed resilience in holding off the Eagles in the opening period, then took command.
“We didn’t think we had our best effort in the first,” UML coach Norm Bazin said. “But at the same time you have to give credit where credit is due. They came in and threw the kitchen sink at us. Shots were 7-4 — not like we got really killed on shots, but they owned the majority of play in the first period.
“So, we wanted to improve on that. That was one of the best parts of the game for me as a coach, because we showed some maturity in responding in the second period. Third period we responded very well and we closed the game out — the last eight minutes I didn’t think they got a whole bunch.”
BC dominated the opening period, David Cotton producing the best opportunities as UML’s Tyler Wall made seven of his 22 saves.
“I thought our team played well,” York said. “I’m encouraged, not by the outcome but how we played — a lot more moxie than in the last five or six games.
“We’ve got to keep on concentrating on scoring goals in gritty areas. I thought we took some good steps forward to doing that tonight.”
The River Hawks took the lead as John Edwardh scored 19 seconds into the second period, slipping a shot from the left circle under Joseph Woll. Ryan Lohin upped the lead to 2-0, finishing from the crease off a deflected Jake Kamrass attempt at 10:02. BC squandered an extended power play late in the second period, the Eagles’ best chance a Matthew Gaudreau attempt off a faceoff during a 13-second span of 5 on 3.
Colin White cut the deficit, finishing the rebound of a Cotton shot at 3:30 of the final period. Edwardh got a chance to extend Lowell’s lead when he earned a penalty shot off a breakaway, Luke McInnis called for hooking at 6:15. Edwardh broke in on the right, then cut toward the middle, Woll making a stick side stop on the penalty.
Kamrass upped the UML edge to 3-1 with a wraparound finish at 10:04.
The River Hawks hold a 1-point advantage over Notre Dame and a 2-point lead over BU. The Fighting Irish and Terriers close the regular season Saturday night.
“I mean, we’ll see how it plays out tomorrow,” Bazin said. “It wasn’t necessarily a goal of ours heading into the season. We want to be the best team at the end of the year, that’s my only concern. But if we end up winning the regular season that would be a huge thrill for some of these kids.”