CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — If you’re returning from a long trip or a month away on a deserted island, you might not want to let the Boston College hockey team serve as the welcoming committee.
As goaltender Cory Schneider returned from nearly four weeks on the shelf with a knee injury, his BC defense allowed Massachusetts forward Matt Burto a point-blank shot 42 seconds into Game 2 of the Hockey East quarterfinal that the rookie buried top-shelf on Schneider.
Fortunately, Schneider knew how to throw his own welcome-back party.
For the final 59 minutes and 18 seconds Saturday night, Schneider shut the door, and the BC offense made up for its rude salutations, scoring five times, four on special teams, as the Eagles cruised past the Minutemen to advance to the Hockey East final four at the FleetCenter next weekend.
The Eagles will play either Providence or Maine depending on the outcome of Sunday’s Game 3 between the Friars and Boston University.
Schneider finished the game with 16 saves to earn the win and the praise of BC head coach Jerry York.
“Bang, first shift, UMass scores, but the kid [Schneider] has a will of steel,” said York of his rookie netminder. “He didn’t get rattled. It didn’t shake him at all. Three weeks without playing and it’s 1-0. I thought he just looked so confident and strong in the goal.”
As much as the rookie Schneider was one hero, sophomore Joe Rooney matched him offensively, posting two goals and an assist for his first multiple goal game.
“Joe Rooney has played well right from the get go, but he’s never really had any puck luck as far as scoring goals and putting points up,” said York. “It’s nice to see him scoring points for us.”
Rooney agreed with York’s assessment that pucks just haven’t bounced his way, but noted that the team’s success has helped him remain positive.
“You’re going to get frustrated, but you just have to keep your head in the games,” said Rooney, who doubled his season’s goal total on Saturday night. “I would’ve been more frustrated if we were losing the games, but we were winning the games. I thought it was playing pretty well. I was just trying to do what I could to help out with scoring.”
The win completes the two-game sweep of the Minutemen and advances the Eagles to the FleetCenter after a one-year hiatus. BC dropped a quarterfinal series as the number-one seed to BU last season.
“Last year really stuck in our minds tonight,” said BC captain Ryan Shannon. “It hurt a lot to lose last year to an eight seed.”
One of the major factors offensively in Saturday’s game was special teams, with BC scoring three power-play goals and adding a critical shorthanded goal to turn momentum late in the first period. All in all, BC finished the night 3-for-5 on the power play while killing all five UMass man advantages.
“Special teams is where we got outdone,” said UMass coach Don ‘Toot’ Cahoon. “[Penalties] and our ability to score on special teams have been our Achilles’ heel all year.”
It was the BC power play, in fact, that drew BC even after allowing the early goal to Burto.
On a five-on-three advantage, Shannon one-timed a pass from the point through a screen that UMass goaltender Gabe Winer (21 saves) couldn’t handle to even the score with 5:42 remaining in the first.
Two minutes later, with the Eagles this time shorthanded, Patrick Eaves corralled a rebound at the left post after breaking two-on-one with Shannon and roofed a shot into a wide-open net.
That shorthander at 16:31 of the first seemed to put UMass back on its heels as the Minutemen did not register another shot until the 14:11 mark of the second period.
In that span, BC padded its lead when Rooney scored his first of the night, deflecting home an Eaves shot-pass at 4:45 of the second to give the Eagles a 3-1 lead. From there it became academic.
Ryan Murphy buried a Rooney pass at 8:20 of the third and Rooney scored his second of the night, misfiring on a two-on-one but having the puck squeak past Winer to give BC the 5-1 lead.
That goal spelled the end of the night for Winer who was replaced with 7:19 remaining by senior Tim Warner (two saves), playing in his final game at UMass.
The win sends BC to the Hockey East quarterfinals for the 13th time in the 21-year history of the tournament. Should BU win its Game 3 Sunday, the Eagles would face Maine, a 5-1 winner Saturday to close out Massachusetts-Lowell. If Providence beats BU, the Eagles will face the Friars, who, as the seventh seed, would be the lowest remaining seed.
“It was strange going to the [Hockey East] banquet last year with only my captains,” said York, who will be with a full squad Thursday night for this year’s awards dinner. “It’s definitely better to be [going back to the final four].”