CHESTNUT HILL, Mass — Call it a mental letdown, call it looking ahead to the Beanpot, or call it simply being outplayed. On Friday night, what might have been a combination of all three led to a 5-3 victory for Massachusetts over Boston College at Kelley Rink, pulling the Minutemen within a point of the Eagles for the final home ice spot in the Hockey East playoffs.
UMass used a quick start and timely goals to quell any momentum that BC would get along with a stellar 33-save performance by goaltender John Quick to earn the win and capture the season series against the Eagles for the first time ever.
UMass jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead in what seemed like a complete domination of the Eagles over the game’s opening 20 minutes. Though the Eagles would threaten comeback, three times pulling within two goals, each time UMass had a quick response.
“We got off to a real good start and came out of the gates real strong and made some real nice plays,” said UMass head coach Don ‘Toot’ Cahoon. “We got the lead early and that not only lifted our spirits but gave us a decided edge in terms of mentality.
“Answering their goals obviously took a lot of wind out of their sails.”
For BC, early penalties along with an offensive attack that most of the first period looked scattered put the club in what amounted to an insurmountable hole.
“We played a really poor structured first period,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “We took two penalties early, gave up a goal right off the bat and we just never got our legs going in the first period.
Two BC penalties in the first minute of play led to an extended 5-on-3 man advantage for the Minutemen and at 2:01, captain Matt Anderson cashed in with his fourth goal of the year, firing a rebound of a Justin Braun shot from the point into the wide open net.
At 8:40, BC goaltender Cory Schneider (22 saves) was caught by surprise on a Braun shot from the right point. The wrister sailed through traffic in front and into the net for a 2-0 UMass lead.
BC had its chance to climb back in the game midway through when penalties just 58 second apart against UMass gave the Eagles an extended two-man advantage. The UMass defense, though, limited shots to the perimeter that posed no problem for Quick.
Cahoon called the ability to kill the BC 5-on-3 after scoring with the two-man advantage themselves a “difference maker.”
“All we’d be doing is trading off goals,” said Cahoon.
Fresh of the penalty kill, the Minutemen took a 3-0 lead at 13:40 when BC defenseman Brian O’Hanley turned the puck over in the defensive zone, allowing P.J. Fenton to blast the loose puck over Schneider’s
blocker to stunt the partisan crowd of 5,419 in attendance.
In the second, BC was able to cash in with the man advantage. Benn Ferriero fired a shot-pass to a wide open Brock Bradford at the left post to pull BC within two at 3:07.
UMass responded, though, when rookie Will Ortiz fired home a rebound of a Brett Watson shot from the doorstep at 10:20, to give UMass a comfortable 4-1 lead through two.
In the third, the Eagles were able to get their best sustained pressure of the night, throwing 17 shots on net to UMass’ four. At 12:26, Nathan Gerbe again pulled the Eagles within two when he caught Quick off balanced and fired a shot from behind the goal line
off the goaltenders leg and into the net.
The Minutemen, though, answered immediately when Matt Burto fired a hard shot that ripped through the glove of Schneider and into the net at 13:02.
“Cory felt bad about the fifth goal,” said York. “Ninety-nine percent of the time he’s going to make that save.”
Though BC answered 65 seconds later on a Ben Smith goal, and then pressured the UMass net with the goaltender pulled in the closing minutes, Quick and the deficit were simply too much for the Eagles to overcome.
The victory gives UMass (13-8-4, 10-6-2 Hockey East) 23 points in the league standings, putting it a point behind BC for fourth place and just two points behind third-place Vermont. The Eagles (14-10-1, 11-8-1 Hockey East) failed to take advantage of a loss by
first-place New Hampshire and a tie by second place Boston University.
UMass returns to action on Saturday when they host sister school Mass.-Lowell, while BC will remain idle until Monday night’s Beanpot opener against Harvard.