BOSTON -- In sports, it’s not always about how a team starts.
While starting fast is no question a positive, Boston University will take its fast finish to Saturday night’s Hockey East game against UMass Lowell any day.
Sophomore Bobo Carpenter scored two of BU’s three third-period goals and added two assists to lead the way offensively while freshman Jake Oettinger made 33 saves, lifting the top-ranked Terriers to a 4-2 win over No. 7 UMass Lowell on Saturday night Agganis Arena.
The win lifted BU to 17-7-2 on the season and 10-4-2 in league play, and it was the perfect recovery a night after BU dropped its second straight game to Merrimack.
“Just a great win,” BU head coach David Quinn said. “Obviously, we’d been in a little bit of a funk. In a short period of time, we went from sitting on top of the world, just feeling good about ourselves and the way we were playing, to the ‘the world’s about to end.’ It’s the ebbs and flows of a hockey season.”
Carpenter picked up all three of his points in latter half of the third period, scoring off freshman Clayton Keller’s sweet feed from behind the goal line at 10:07 before adding an empty-net tally with 56 seconds to play.
The North Reading, Mass., native picked up the lone assist on Keller’s 12th goal of the season at the 12:47 marker, which stood as the ultimate game-winner. Carpenter now has nine goals on the year, but his 20 points rank fifth on the team.
“He makes life miserable for people out there,” Quinn said of Carpenter. “He’s a hard-nosed player, he shoots it, has good vision. He’s a guy you don’t want to play against, and that’s what this game is all about. … You line up next to someone, I want the other team going, ‘Oh god, I have to face him?’ That’s what Bobo is.”
The start was not BU’s best. The Terriers were outshot 14-6 in the opening period, but managed just seven total attempts. Fortunately, it was only a 1-1 hockey game after 20 minutes.
Lowell’s outstanding power play worked to perfection on its first chance in the opening period as freshman Ryan Lohin lifted the visitors to a 1-0 lead at the 8:36 mark. Lohin took defenseman Chris Forney’s feed in the left circle and placed a beautiful shot past Oettinger’s blocker side.
The Terriers did respond in just over a minute with Gabriel Chabot picking up an unassisted goal at 9:40. The freshman from Quebec picked up a loose puck at center ice and quickly ended a transition sequence with a wrister past UML freshman Tyler Wall, who would hold BU scoreless in a ten-save second frame.
Oettinger came up big all night, but especially in the middle frame as he stopped junior John Edwardh on a shorthanded breakaway about midway through and then flashed his glove at junior C.J. Smith on the doorstep with ten seconds to play.
“My job is to step up when my name is called, and fortunately I did that tonight,” Oettinger said. “I thought I got better as the game went on, and it just was a really good win for our team.”
In Lowell head coach Norm Bazin’s mind, he was the difference in the game.
“That kid was excellent. He was the first star of the game,” Bazin said. “It’s finish. When you get breakaways and 3-on-1s, at some point you have to finish. … Some days, it’s not meant to be. That goaltender had a hell of a game.”
BU played its best when the game mattered most and picked up its freshman netminder from Lakeville, Minn., who made nine saves in the final frame en route to his 14th win.
Carpenter scored his first goal on a hard wrister from the low right dot, and came as a result of hard work behind the net by Keller and sophomore Jordan Greenway. After Keller pried the puck free from the end wall, he made a perfect center to Carpenter for the finish.
“That’s what they do best, so I was just trying to get in the open area,” Carpenter said. “Keller, he sees the ice so well. He slid it out and I just wanted to get it on net. I got the lucky bounce and was in the right place.”
Just 2:40 later, Carpenter set Keller up for a pretty rush down the wing, at the end of which he deposited a backhander over Wall. Keller’s goal and assist extended his point streak to 13 games and lifted him over classmate Patrick Harper for the team scoring lead.
Smith’s great individual rush and move to his backhand between his legs allowed Lowell back into the game at 16:57, but Carpenter scored an empty-net tally to ice the win for the hosts.
“We got better and better as the game went on,” Quinn said. “We weren’t in a great place mentally before this game started, and I give our guys a lot of credit for being mentally tough enough to hang in there and play their best hockey at the most critical time.”