CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Every once in a while, 35 years of experience pay off for a coach.
On Saturday night, that certainly was the case for Boston College head coach Jerry York. The Eagles mentor gave simple advice to his captain, Brian Boyle.
“Coach told me to go to the net and get more involved [physically],” said the 6-foot-7 Boyle, who had been held off the scoresheet for nearly three weeks before Saturday’s game.
The result for Boyle was “two of the easiest goals of my career,” said the BC captain, who deflected two shots past goaltender Jon Quick [44 saves] en route to a 5-2 Boston College victory over Massachusetts.
The win came one night after the Minutemen stifled the Eagles defensively. Though UMass allowed 40 shots in Friday’s 2-1 win, many came from the perimeter, making it a somewhat easy night for Quick.
Saturday was a completely different story as BC penetrated the UMass defense and mustered a season-high 49 shots, many coming from the grade ‘A’ area.
“[BC] has lots of shots [on Friday] but we did a better job of taking away on-angle shots,” said UMass coach Don ‘Toot’ Cahoon, whose club despite Saturday’s loss goes into the holiday break with a respectable 8-5-2 record. “[Tonight] they had many, many more point blank opportunities. Tonight’s game and last night’s game were very different.”
One major key for the Eagles was their ability to gain early momentum with goals in the opening minutes of the first and third periods. BC scored just 48 seconds into the game on a Nathan Gerbe shot from the top of the faceoff dot. And with the game hanging in the balance entering the third, BC scored twice in the first two minutes to take control.
“The deciding factors in the game were clearly the early goal in the first period and the two quick goals in the third,” said Cahoon. “A lot of teams have objectives. One of [our] objectives is to at least win or tie the first and last two minutes of the period. Momentum swings happen in those moments. Clearly [tonight] we didn’t meet those objectives.”
A notable improvement for BC was its defensive play. Since giving up six goals against New Hampshire on November 22, BC has allowed just four goals in its last three games, three of those coming on the power play.
“At the beginning of the year we gave up a lot of shots,” said Boyle. “But we’re starting to tighten up. It’s a process. It’s a five-man unit out there playing [defense]. If one man messes up it can screw up a lot of people, but right now everyone has been on the same page and taking care of their responsibility well.”
Despite being somewhat even on the shot chart, with BC holding a slight 13-11 edge, the Eagles controlled play in the opening period.
After Gerbe got BC on the board in the game’s opening minute, Boyle extended the Eagles lead thanks to his redirect of a Carl Sneep pass at 17:36 past Quick for the 2-0 lead. It was the first goal for Boyle in nearly a month, his last coming on November 17 against Northeastern.
Despite being outplayed, though, UMass drew close thanks to a late goal by sophomore Chris Davis on the power play. After Chris Capraro fanned on a shot in close, Davis was there to bury the loose puck past BC goaltender Cory Schneider [22 saves] and pull the Minutemen within a goal at 2-1.
In the second, the Eagles extended their lead. Junior Pat Gannon redirected a hard wrist shot from defenseman Mike Brennan just under the crossbar. The goal, at 6:16 of the second, was the first of the year for Gannon.
UMass, though, responded quickly. Again on the power play, the Minutemen’s pressure on the Eagles net lead to a P.J. Fenton goal at 9:00 to pull UMass within a goal at 3-2.
With neither team able to muster solid scoring chances for the remainder of the frame, the Eagles entered the third with the slim one-goal lead.
BC took any suspense away early in the third. Boyle notched his second of the game redirecting a shot from Anthony Aiello at 50 seconds, and Brock Bradford finished off a 2-on-1 with Gerbe at 1:26 to give BC a comfortable 5-2 lead.
From there, solid defense prevailed for Boston College as the Eagles allowed just four shots total in the third period.
Heading into the break, both BC and UMass are playing well. Saturday’s victory improves Boston College to 6-3-1 in Hockey East (9-5-1 overall), placing the Eagles in a tie with Vermont for second place, though still eight points behind first-place New Hampshire.
UMass falls to 5-4-1 in league play but remains in fifth place.
While UMass will play in the Dodge Holiday Classic in Minnesota over the holiday break, BC will have a rare non-tournament holiday, returning to action on January 5th at Northeastern.