CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — It happens often in hockey that a few inches on a single play can be the difference in a game.
When those same inches impact four plays in a game it goes beyond being a difference in a game; it’s the deciding factor.
Boston College hit four posts, including one by Dan Bertram with 70 seconds remaining in regulation, as the Eagles fell, 3-2, to Massachusetts in front of 4,877 at BC’s Kelley Rink.
The win, coupled with a 1-1 tie on Friday night against BC, gave UMass a three-point weekend in league play while the Eagles settled for a single point for the second straight weekend.
“We had good chances and rang them off the pipe,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “Sometimes those breaks go your way. Other times they don’t.”
The key to the game was a three-goal explosion by UMass in a 6:13 span midway through the game. With BC already ahead 2-0, the Minutemen took advantage of what York called a mental lapse.
“It didn’t look good for us at the start of the game,” said UMass head coach Don ‘Toot’ Cahoon. “I give the players a lot of credit for gathering themselves.”
BC jumped out to an early lead thanks to a power play goal by Ben Smith at 6:06 and the first goal of the season by sophomore Matt Lombardi at 17:42 of the first. The lead easily could have been 3-0, but Nathan Gerbe’s wrist shot with 6.9 seconds remaining in the frame became the first BC shot of the night to ring off the post.
UMass had plenty of opportunities to find the net themselves in the opening twenty minutes, most notably a 1:26 five-on-three power play when BC’s Andrew Orpik was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for hitting from behind and Matt Price was whistled for slashing minutes later. The Eagles, though, forced the play to the perimeter and John Muse was able to stop the few quality bids the Minutemen mustered.
Early in the second, BC again had a chance to expand the lead, but Price hit the second pipe of the night for the Eagles. BC’s inability to capitalize allowed UMass to get back into the game.
Defenseman David Leaderer got the Minutemen on the board at 9:14. His shot from the left point beat Muse over the right shoulder and quickly darted in and out of the net.
There was a brief discussion of whether the puck hit the crossbar or the back of the net, but referee Tom Fyrer, seemingly in perfect position, said the puck had indeed entered the net.
York, though, disagreed.
“We had a chance to look at the first goal and clearly it hit the crossbar,” said York, whose video staff was able to zoom in on the net to give a clear look at the play. “That’s why [commissioner] Joe Bertagna is trying to get all teams to adopt video replay.
“Sometimes the calls would go against us, but at least they’d get it right.”
Just over three minutes later, the Minutemen tied the game on James Marcou’s third goal of the season. Defenseman Mike Brennan’s clearing pass up the middle was picked off by Marcou, who quickly wristed a shot that beat Muse on the glove side.
With all of the momentum, UMass grabbed the lead. Junior Jordan Virtue caught Muse off guard with a quick wrist shot between the legs at 15:27. It was Virtue’s first career goal.
“Scotty [Crowder] put a nice pass on my tape,” said Virtue, a native of nearby Walpole, Mass., who said he had to call his friends on the BC team to get tickets for his 10 family members on Saturday. “I just caught it and it was off my stick pretty quick. We talked about getting quick shots on Muse because he’s a good goalie.”
From there, BC would have its chances, but UMass goaltender Paul Dainton was solid in stopping all 13 shots the Eagles put on him in the third period, and was happy to have the solid metal pipes in back of him to help whenever he was beat.
The win improves UMass’ record against BC in the last six games to 4-1-1, after just five wins against the Eagles in the first 42 games of the series. It also catapults the Minutemen to 3-1-4 (5-2-4 overall) in league play, one point behind first place Northeastern. BC drops to 3-3-5 overall (2-2-4 in league play) and is winless in its last four games.