BOSTON — It looked like UMass-Amherst might just come away with its first win against Boston University in Boston since — would you believe? — 1920.
Once again, though, the Terriers proved to be the Minutemen’s nemesis, as BU spotted its opponents a 2-0 lead before rallying with three unanswered goals — including two in 26 seconds in the third period — to beat UMass-Amherst 3-2 before 2,361 in attendance at Walter Brown Arena.
Capitalizing on a poor decision by Minuteman defenseman Toni Soderholm, Brian Collins got the equalizer with an unassisted goal at 5:49. Before the crowd could finish celebrating, Jack Baker redirected a Chris Dyment slapshot to win it for the Terriers (10-3-1, 5-2-1 Hockey East).
Mike Johnson made 31 saves in a losing effort for UMass-Amherst (6-10-0, 2-7-0 Hockey East).
Although the two teams did not play each other for years and even decades at a time since the UMass win in 1920, BU now holds a 28-2-0 advantage in the all-time series between the teams. The Minutemen’s other victory over BU was a 5-4 win at Amherst back in January 1999. Amazingly, now five of UMass’ last 12 losses against BU have been by one goal.
“We played really well for one period,” said Minuteman coach Don “Toot” Cahoon, who was clearly distraught after losing two winnable games against BU this weekend. “Had a tough chore in the second period — a penalty-filled period — a tough chore of reorganizing.
“Made a couple of blunders that ended up in our net in the third period; played pretty well afterwards,” Cahoon added. “Haven’t figured out how to win yet — don’t score goals.”
“If you were at the game [on Friday night], you can flip-flop my remarks,” Terrier coach Jack Parker said. “I thought we were horrible in the first period; we started to come out of it a little in the second, and I thought we had a great third period.”
“So we don’t give up a goal after the first period, and we get three ourselves: That’s not bad,” Parker said. “I thought that Jacky Baker and Brian Collins and John Sabo played great–had a real good effort the second half especially — and I thought that Brian Miller played real well.
“I would prefer to get a real good 60-minute effort, but it’s nice to get a W instead of an L.”
UMass-Amherst startled BU with a shorthanded goal at 6:56 of the first. Freshman center Greg Mauldin brought the puck in on the left wing and drove toward Terrier goalie Sean Fields from a sharp angle before caroming the puck off the netminder and into the goal for a 1-0 lead.
Just one minute, nine seconds later, Darcy King made a clever pass off the side boards to spring defenseman Samuli Jalkanen on the left wing. Jalkanen went five-hole with a backhander on Fields to make it 2-0.
A few power-play opportunities gave the Terriers some chances to get back into the game, but they couldn’t capitalize. Freshman Brian McConnell had the best bid, but Minuteman goalie Mike Johnson stacked his pads to stop the ten-foot wrister.
Given that the Minutemen were 4-0-0 this season when leading after one period, it looked like they might just get their first win against a BU team in Boston since January 16, 1920.
The second penalty was mired down with a barrage of penalties called by whistle-happy Jim Fitzgerald, so despite numerous man-advantages both teams struggled to get into enough of a flow to generate scoring chances.
As time elapsed, the third goal of the game loomed larger for both teams. The Terriers got it at 9:39 on yet another power play. On the right point, BU co-captain Dyment faked a slapshot before firing a quick-release shot through heavy traffic, and Johnson never saw it.
The Terriers were starting to dominate territorially, and they would have tied the game at 17:30 if not for Johnson’s best save of the game. Johnson saved an initial shot from Dyment at the point, but the rebound bounced right to Justin Maiser crashing the far side of the net. Johnson lunged for an excellent arm save.
UMass countered 30 seconds later with a terrific chance of its own, as Mauldin’s slapshot pinged off the crossbar and out of play.
BU continued to mount pressure in the third period, and suddenly exploded for two goals in 26 seconds. At 5:49, the Terriers were the beneficiaries of a bad pass combined with an unlucky bounce: coming out of the zone, Soderholm passed behind his partner Randy Drohan, and the puck bounced off the boards and straight into the slot. Collins picked up the puck and made a flashy move to his backhand before putting the puck behind Johnson to knot the game 2-2.
“Pretty simple play to chip the puck out of your zone — pretty simple play if you don’t look off your partner and then throw it to him,” Cahoon said. “Just a bad decision, bad play.”
Twenty-six ticks later, Dyment teed up yet another right-point slapshot, and Baker made a terrific tip — deflecting the puck despite Nick Kuiper hanging on him — past Johnson to make it 3-2.
“The first half of the game we really came out dead,” Baker said. “Kind of let them dictate the play, and they jumped up on us two-nothing.
“We came together in the locker room and decided that we’ve got a long break, so we might as well give it our all,” Baker added. “We were able to claw back and get the win.”
Cahoon was asked if he knew what was going through his players’ minds regarding some of the team’s lack of luck against BU, such as Mauldin’s ringing one off the crossbar.
“If I understood what was going through the minds of my players, I’d be an absolute genius,” Cahoon said. “I’m trying to have some effect on what’s going through their minds.
“To varying degrees, I might be successful,” Cahoon added. “I don’t know: That remains to be seen. But I’m going out of my friggin’ mind right now.”
The Terriers next play their first games ever against University of Nebraska-Omaha just before Christmas. BU will be playing without Ryan Whitney and Gregg Johnson, who will be practicing with the US World Junior championship team.
The Minutemen also have a break, resuming play with a holiday tournament at RPI on December 28. UMass will play Niagara in the opener, then either RPI or Quinnipiac on the next day.