On Friday night, the UMass Lowell Riverhawks will open a playoff series against the Boston University Terriers from Tsongas Arena. BU (21-10-5) defeated UMass Amherst in a sweep this past weekend and is the #5 seed in the Hockey East tournament, while Lowell (21-8-5) is #4. It will be a rematch of the 2015 title game, a game in which the Terriers won at the TD Garden.
It was a tale of two games for certain this season, as the two clubs split their contests at their home arenas. BU won a Friday night contest with an overtime goal from Minnesota Wild prospect Jordan Greenway, while Lowell won its home game the next night, 6-3.
This is the tenth time these teams will play each other in the Hockey East playoffs and the second quarterfinals matchup. BU is 9-2-0 all time in the playoffs against Lowell, and 2-1-0 in the quarterfinals.
BU defeated Lowell 5-3 in the Hockey East championship game last season, led by Jack Eichel, now no longer with BU.
BU’s offense has undergone several changes since the start of the season. Nick Roberto, suspended amid gambling investigations, did not suit up all season. Sophomore forward AJ Greer left the team before winter break to go to Canada. Jack Eichel, the second overall pick to the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, is no longer running the offense.
Instead, it’s been an offense led mostly by three seniors and three freshmen on the top two lines. Danny O’Regan has played most of the season on the top line, now without Eichel and Evan Rodrigues. Instead, he has stayed on the line with freshman center and Boston Bruins prospect Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, and recently Greenway, also a freshman, has made up the rest of that line. O’Regans 42 points were third in Hockey East in the regular season.
Senior Ahti Oksanen has led the second line, alongside freshman Bobo Carpenter, who scored both goals in the game one victory over UMass Amherst. New addition Oskar Andren, who joined the team right before the second half, has fluctuated between the top three lines, and its been sophomore Matt Lane who has seen time on the second line as of late.
The 120 goals scored by the Terriers in the regular season were the second most in the conference, behind just the 134 from Boston College, the conference’s first team.
The Riverhawks are another story.
The 105 goals from Lowell are sixth in the conference, behind even 10th place New Hampshire. Sophomore forward CJ Smith has led the way for the Riverhawks with 33 points, while senior Adam Chapie had 31 and junior Joe Gamberdella had 30. Those three have produced most of the offense for the Riverhawks all season.
While its offense might not be the tops in the conference, defense is where the Riverhawks make their mark. 63 goals against were the least allowed in Hockey East, with even one less than the top seeded Boston College Eagles.
Junior defenseman Dylan Zink is fourth on the Riverhawks with 22 points on the season. Junior Michael Kapla has also added 19. Zink had a hat trick late in the season, the first by a Lowell defenseman in 20 years.
BU’s 91 goals allowed is rather high, but it is also a number that reflects an unstable goaltending situation that has mostly been resolved. The Terriers strength on defense oddly enough is scoring. Charlie McAvoy had 23 points in his freshman season, while team captain Matt Grzelcyk has been known for being able to put the puck in the net. Despite injuries in the middle of the season, he has 21 points in 24 games played.
Lowell’s power play hasn’t been strong this season, at a .196 percentage, but a .144 power play goals allowed is superb.
BU has had trouble staying out of the box at times this season, though late in the year, that has improved. The Terriers have a penalty kill percentage .822, and an in conference percentage of .812. BU’s power play is at .219, a bit higher than the Riverhawks.
Sean Maguire will be between the pipes for the Terriers, and his play in the second half of the season has been the reason for BU’s turnaround. Maguire has started every game except for two since December 11th, and that was due to an injury sustained in practice. Maguire has a goals against average of 2.18 and a save percentage of .928, and should be expected to start every game in this series.
Kevin Boyle also has seen a breakout year with the Riverhawks. The transfer from UMass Amherst has a career best 1.84 goals against as the starting goalie for Lowell this season. Boyle has been the backbone of a Lowell team that has, at times, struggled to score and has relied on its goaltender and defense.