Milner leads Eagles
River Hawks fall in home opener
LOWELL - The University of Massachusetts-Lowell opened its Hockey East season last night against the nation’s top-ranked team. It was the first home game for the River Hawks, who have a new coach, Norm Bazin, four freshmen on defense, and a sophomore in goal.
But instead of a displaying a green game against Boston College, the River Hawks went right at the more experienced Eagles with speed and an unrelenting forecheck, testing goalie Parker Milner 13 times in the first period, and jumping into BC’s shooting lanes to block shots.
Still, they could find no openings.
It was not until late in the second period of a 2-2 game, when BC freshman Johnny Gaudreau spun through the Lowell zone with dizzying speed to turn a pass from Tommy Cross into a blind-shot goal, that the Eagles found a little room.
With Milner keeping the River Hawks off the board the rest of the way and Barry Almeida adding an empty-netter, BC finished with a 4-2 victory, the front end of a home-and-home series.
“It’s always important to secure victories, any time you’re on the road,’’ said BC coach Jerry York, who said he didn’t feel the result was secure until the game’s 59th minute. “Lowell played very well.’’
Ultimately, pocketing the victory gives York and his junior goaltender, who had 37 saves to Doug Carr’s 16, another shot of confidence.
“Parker was confident, poised,’’ said York.
“It’s good to get into a rhythm, in both the games and getting into a lot of the games,’’ said Parker, noting the first-period’s flurry of shots was a boost for him.
The Eagles (6-1-0, 4-0-0) took most of the first period to find their feet, repeatedly losing steam on offensive rushes with offside calls or missed passes. The Eagles took five shots at Carr.
“I thought we had some opportunities in the first that we just couldn’t convert on, and that might have changed the game,’’ said Bazin.
“The goaltending was good - credit their team for having decent goaltending and having good net-front sticks. We just have to find a better level of urgency around net-front.’’
Lowell senior David Vallorani paced his team’s first-period effort, firing off a pair of dangerous shots and then turning around and controlling play for a long shift during BC’s only power-play opportunity of the period.
But when BC got another power-play chance early in the second, the Eagles used the time to straighten out their passing, crisscrossing the puck across the zone, from Kevin Hayes on the right to Brian Dumoulin on the left, back across to Paul Carey for a sharp wrist shot from the top of the right circle that beat Carr at 3:18.
It was the second goal of the season for the senior from Weymouth.
Only 66 seconds later, BC’s Steve Whitney pounced on a rebound off Carr’s pad and the Eagles were in front by two goals.
Lowell (2-2-1, 0-1-0) refused to come undone.
With the teams skating four aside after penalties six seconds apart to Lowell (too many men) and BC’s Chris Kreider (hooking), Michael Budd deflected a centering pass from William Eiserman into Carr’s pads. Budd then reeled in his own rebound, and with Carr momentarily without a stick, Budd lifted a shot into the top of the net to get the River Hawks on the scoreboard at 8:02.
Vallorani’s constant-motion game paid off at 15:57, when he got the puck on his stick at the left circle of the BC zone, with his back to the net. He spun and shot in the same fluid movement, and the puck deflected past Milner off Matt Ferriera to tie the game.
BC junior defenseman Patrick Wey underwent surgery to repair a severed tendon in his right foot Monday, so freshman Mark Begert from West Vancouver, British Columbia, got his first chance to dress for the Eagles. Wey is expected to miss 6-8 weeks.