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First-period onslaught helps River Hawks soar to season-opening win

UMass Lowell put together all the offense it would need with a three-goal outburst midway through the first period en route to a 5-2 win over Boston College.

Matt Dewkett

LOWELL, Mass. -- Boston College didn’t seem to be intimidated by the raucous Tsongas Center crowd, jumping out to an early lead in the first period on Friday night.

But there was an emphatic answer.

UMass Lowell put together all the offense it would need with a three-goal outburst midway through the first en route to a 5-2 win over the No. 4 Eagles in the season and Hockey East opener for both teams.

"I thought it was a very good hockey game," UML head coach Norm Bazin said. "Boston College came in and gave us all we could handle, but the crowd certainly helped us get over the top."

The game was played in front of 7,326 fans, including a new record student crowd which set the tone early, filling in for country singer Jilly Martin as the on-ice microphone failed during the national anthem.

"I thought the student section was not only noticeable," Bazin said, "but they carried the momentum. I've been involved with many things over my years in hockey, but them singing the anthem right off the top really set the tone. It was one of the greatest things I've seen."

UMass junior transfer Kevin Boyle got the start in goal for the River Hawks, but surrendered the opening goal just 2:26 into the first. BC sophomore Chris Calnan put home a loose rebound in front off a shot from junior defenseman Teddy Doherty to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.

From there, it was all River Hawks in the opening stanza as they scored the next three goals and outshot the visitors, 10-6. First at 7:57, sophomore Evan Campbell took a cross-ice feed from A.J. White in transition and roofed one over the glove side of BC sophomore Thatcher Demko.

"We had a lot of guys who contributed tonight," Campbell said, "and against a team like BC you have to have that. It was a big win, but it was only one game. We're going to come to the rink every day and get better."

UML used a power-play chance at 12:10 of the period to take a 2-1 lead as Michael Fallon picked up his own rebound on top of Demko’s crease. Sophomore Joe Gambardella took the initial shot, but Fallon was able to follow the play and whack in the go-ahead goal for the home team.

Just over two and a half minutes later at the 14:43 mark, the River Hawks upped its lead to 3-1 as Michael Lauria easily redirected a cross ice pass from freshman classmate C.J. Smith by Demko.

The River Hawks had nine of the first ten shots on goal in the second period, but BC buried the one shot that counted to bring the score within 3-2 at the 18:19 mark. Boston Bruins draft pick Ryan Fitzgerald stripped the puck in the left faceoff circle and found a sliver of daylight under Boyle’s blocker for the first goal of his sophomore season.

Western Michigan junior transfer Robert Francis put Lowell back up by two goals at 7:48 of the third period. Sophomore Chris Maniccia took the initial shot, but it was blocked and could not be cleared out from the slot.

Francis picked up the puck in stride and potted it into a yawning cage from the left side to close the scoring and lift UML to its 25th all-time win in a season opener.

"I know it's awfully frustrating and tedious for those guys to work everyday knowing they're not going to get into any games," Bazin said of his two transfers who had an invaluable impact on the victory. "They've been very workmanlike, first-class about coming to work every day."

Boyle saw ten shots in the third period, one more than he saw over the first 40 minutes combined.

He held the Eagles off late, with much thanks to a pair of point-blank saves on BC sophomores Steve Santini and Adam Gilmour, to earn his first win as a River Hawk in his first regular season action since February 2013.

BC had plenty of opportunities, including a pair of power plays with four shots on net, but could not come any closer in the third period. Head coach Jerry York said the team needed to keep things simple.

"Our game became way too complicated as far as passing," York said. "I like a much simpler approach and I thought we were doing a little too much criss-crossing and turning away from pucks. ... It's a simple game and once you get away from that, it's hard to play."

The Eagles will also have to monitor the status of freshman Washington Capitals draftee Zach Sanford as he was absent for the third period due to "dizziness."

Both teams will have the rest of the weekend off to sit on the results. UML returns home next Friday night to face Quinnipiac, while BC will be on the road a week from Saturday at RIT.