CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — The calendar might read March 12 and Fridays game between No. 2 seed Boston College and No. 7 seed Massachusetts was technically a quarterfinal playoff game, but the caliber of play between the Eagles and Minutemen at BCs Kelley Rink made it seem more like an exhibition game played in early October.
A game that lacked defense, featured turnover after turnover by both teams and ended up with 11 goals between the two clubs was not what most expected coming into this series.
When all the dust settled, the heavily-favored Eagles eked out a 6-5 victory riding a hat trick by sophomore Cam Atkinson and multi-point games for brothers Joe Whintey (three assists for 100 career points) and Steven Whitney (goal, two assists).
We made mistakes, they made mistakes, said UMass head coach Don Toot Cahoon. I dont think either coach was particularly happy about the way the game was played. It makes for an interesting game for the fans, not for the coaches.
The difference in the game was a single power play goal. While the Minutemen scored twice on the power play, both times with two-man advantages, the Eagles struck three times in just four chances with the man advantage including what turned out to be the game-winning goal by Steven Whitney at the end of the second period.
Weve been drawing up a few set plays [on the power play], said Atkinson. And tonight we were just moving the puck around tape to tape.
While both teams defensively were sloppy, neither teams goaltender brought their best games either. BCs Parker Milner, making his first playoff starts, finished the game with 33 saves but two goals that he likely wanted back early in the third cut a three-goal lead to just one.
I thought he did [look jumpy], said York of Milner. It was his first taste of the playoffs but he made some big saves down the stretch.
BC came out of the game with jump and appeared to get on the board early when Atkinson scored on a wraparound bid. But upon reviewing the play, the referees ruled that Joe Whitney had pushed UMass defenseman Michael Marcou into UMass goaltender Paul Dainton [26 saves) preventing the netminder from playing the puck. Thus, the goal was disallowed.
Atkinson, though, wasnt going to be denied in the frame as he put two more pucks in the net. The first came a one-timer from the top of the left faceoff dot at 3:41. After UMass knotted the game on a Jason Braun 5-on-3 power play tally at 9:13, Atkinson netted his second official goal of the frame, backhanding home the rebound of Steven Whitneys shot on the power play at 14:39.
The Eagles outshot the Minutemen, 15-10, in the frame but clung to the one-goal lead as UMass couldnt convert on a late flurry in which Matt Irwin hit the post.
BC came out a bit flat in the second and UMass immediately took advantage. T.J. Syner fired a loose puck in the slot past Milner to even the game at 2 just 3:51 into the frame.
But that goal seemed to wake the sleeping giant. After UMass was whistled for a penalty 18 seconds after the equalizer, the Eagles proceeded to score three times in a span of 2:04.
Chris Kreider got the rally going, taking a pass from Carl Sneep at the offensive blueline, accelerating past the UMass defense and sneaking a puck under Dainton at 6:18. Fifty-three seconds later, Barry Almeida finished off an odd-man rush, depositing a Matt Price pass for a 4-2 BC lead. And at 8:22, 11 seconds after UMass defenseman Martin Nolet was sent off for contact-to-the-head high sticking, Atkinson completed the hat trick.
The Eagles gave the Minutemen a chance to get back into the game taking three penalties in a span of 2:24 giving UMass two separate 5-on-3 power plays. After failing to convert the first opportunity, Casey Wellmen buried a James Marcou pass at 17:15 to give the Minutemen life.
But before the end of the frame, the Eagles seemingly sucked that life out as Atkinson set up Steve Whitney with 1:06 remaining to give BC a 6-3 lead through two.
The Minutemen, though, continued to fight and 20 seconds apart to start the third. Milner got victimized by traffic in front of the net and Martin Nolet fired home a shot from the left point 34 seconds in. And immediately thereafter, James Marcou banked a shot off the legs of Milner to pull UMass within a goal.
But thats as close as the Minutemen would get as Milner stopped the final 11 shots he faced to earn the victory.
BC will have the opportunity to close the best-of-three series on Saturday night but according to York will need to both stay out of the penalty box and not make as many defensive turnovers. At the same time, theyll have to fend off a UMass team that is now fighting to keep its season alive.
Playoffs are difficult because youre taking sticks away from the other team, said York. No one wants to give up their sticks very easily.