AMHERST, Mass. — A record crowd showed up to the Mullins Center Friday, but most of the 8,389 went home unhappy after the visiting Boston College Eagles downed Massachusetts 5-2.
J.D. Forrest scored what turned out to be the game winner at 16:02 of the first period, but the Eagles held dominion over UMass for almost the whole game. With the win, they held on to first place in Hockey East, improving to 13-1-3 against conference opponents (22-3-4 overall). The Minutemen fall to 12-5-2 in Hockey East, with a 16-7-5 overall record.
UMass would have clinched home-ice advantage in the Hockey East playoffs with a win, but will have another shot Saturday, when the two teams rematch at BC’s Conte Forum. The puck drops at 8 p.m.
It was the largest crowd for an on-campus regular-season contest in the history of Hockey East.
“[The atmosphere] was great,” said UMass junior Greg Mauldin, who scored both of the Minutemen’s goals. “We really enjoyed it. I just wish we could have come out with a ‘W.’”
The Eagles showed why they’re the No. 1 team in the country — and in Hockey East. Their relentless rush didn’t allow the Minutemen to counterattack, something that UMass coach Don Cahoon cited as a key to his team’s loss.
“It’s tough to try to format a defense,” Cahoon said, “and still get your counterattack going. That’s a pretty good hockey team we played. I don’t think we played, as a team, as solid as we’re capable of playing.”
BC, fresh off its Beanpot championship on Monday, showed no signs of letdown.
“What brought our focus tonight was UMass, in a sold-out building,” Eagle coach Jerry York said. “It’s going to be a real good pennant race.”
The Minutemen struck first with Mauldin’s tally at 9:40 of the first period, but the Eagles took over after that. BC scored three unanswered goals in the opening frame, added another in the second, and after successfully killing off a penalty to start the third period, took the 5-2 lead when Dave Spina deflected a shot past UMass goaltender Gabe Winer (30 saves).
BC’s Matti Kaltiainen was forced to make just 21 saves in the game, the first since Jan. 29 — a 4-2 UMass win over Northeastern — in which an opponent outshot the Minutemen.
Mauldin was the brightest spot for the Minutemen, who were outskated by the talented Eagles for most of the 60 minutes. Mauldin scored the first goal for the Minutemen, and then added another late in the second period.
After he and Marvin Degon failed to connect on a two-on-one breakaway, Mauldin circled the net with an Eagle in tow. As he reached the boards, he turned and fired a shot along the goal line that snuck inside Kaltiainen’s pads, making it 4-2 with 7:21 to go in the middle frame.
Dave Spina’s redirect on a long slapshot four minutes into the third effectively capped the Eagles’ victory.
The Minutemen got on the board first. Nick Kuiper shoveled the puck toward the UMass blue line, and when it got by a Boston College defenseman, Jamie Solon was off to the races along the right-wing boards, with Mauldin shadowing him on the left side on a two-on-one. Solon slid the puck to Mauldin as they gained the BC blue line, and Mauldin held for a second before wristing a shot over Kaltiainen’s glove.
The goal only served to wake the Eagles, though, because they fired back with two goals in the next three minutes.
Greg Lauze found a loose puck on his stick with a scramble ensuing in front of Winer’s net, and put it home to tie the game at 10:50. Joe Rooney added the go-ahead goal 1:47 later, when he took a Ty Hennes feed on the left-wing boards and fired a shot past Winer.