BOSTON — If three is a magic number, it was a bit of black magic for Massachusetts tonight.
After going up 3-0 on the road against No. 13 Boston University in the first period, the Minutemen managed to fall apart while on a shotless two-man advantage that both coaches acknowledged to be the turning point of the game.
BU rallied with four consecutive goals before winning it in overtime on a power-play goal by Matt Nieto for a rousing 5-4 win in front of 4,439 fans who shrugged off the bad weather to make it to Agganis Arena.
Going back to the final two games of last season, Nieto has now scored in eight consecutive games. No one is sure just yet of the last Terrier to achieve that feat. Corey Trivino and Charlie Coyle each notched a goal and an assist, while freshman Evan Rodrigues added a pair of assists for his first two collegiate points while playing first-line right wing in place of Alex Chiasson, a healthy scratch. Four different players scored for the Minutemen.
“Incredibly disappointed with our inability to sustain a level of play that we worked so hard to create,” UMass coach Don “Toot” Cahoon said. “A lot of lessons that we’ve been working like hell to try to impart on these guys. Sometimes I think it’s taken effect, and other times I think it’s fallen on deaf ears.
“BU is a fine team with many good players, but we managed to beat ourselves along with them picking it up.”
For BU coach Jack Parker, it was the second night in a row that his team spotted UMass two goals before salvaging at least a point.
“Similar to last night but not quite the same effect,” Parker said. “We got a goal to make it 3-1, and that ignited us. From there on in, we kind of dominated the game, I thought. The turning point of the game was the five-on-three they didn’t score on. In the second period, we attempted 34 shots to their 13, and they had the five-on-three situation.”
BU senior Grant Rollheiser made his first start of the season, and promptly yielded three goals in the first 20 minutes. However, only one appeared to be his fault, and that was the first one. After a shot to the net, Rollheiser had a chance to cover the rebound but missed it, and Steven Guzzo knocked it in for his first collegiate goal.
Then, UMass benefited from an odd bounce a few minutes later. Terriers defensemen Ryan Ruikka fired the puck behind his own net, but it caromed right back out at the goalie’s feet. While Rollheiser looked over his shoulder toward where the puck should have gone, sophomore Troy Power poked it in. It was also his first collegiate goal. Strangely, seven of the first nine goals that BU gave up in Hockey East play this season were someone’s first collegiate goal.
The Minutemen went up 3-0 in the last half-minute of the period when Conor Sheary hustled after Coyle skating the puck out of his zone. Sheary managed to lift Coyle’s stick just enough for Coyle to drop the puck, and Sheary then fired and shot it in high past Rollheiser.
From that point on, Rollheiser stopped 19 of 20 shots.
“I was happy for Rollheiser,” Parker said. “I thought he played well as the game progressed. He had a couple of bad bounces and a bad turnover. I really give him high marks for hanging in there.”
When UMass went on a five-on-three at 7:58 of the second period, they had a chance to put a probable nail in the coffin. Instead, it gave BU momentum.
“Everything we did in the first period that was so good and so effective, the poise and the decision making, just went out the window with that opportunity,” Cahoon said. “Things that we worked on in practice were not considered, let alone executed.”
BU got their first goal at 14:29 when Trivino drew the defense to him on the right-wing side before flipping a terrific pass to Garrett Noonan crashing the net from the left point. Within a minute, BU made it 3-2 when Sahir Gill buried a rebound of a Max Nicastro shot.
The Terriers tied it midway through the third period on a short-handed goal by Coyle after poor play by the UMass defensemen. Nieto got the puck on the left-wing boards and fed Coyle out front for his first goal of the year.
“I was really disappointed with my defensive corps on many levels,” Cahoon said.
BU took the first lead of the weekend with eight minutes left in regulation. After possessing the puck for over a full minute in the UMass zone, captain Chris Connolly crossed to Trivino for the goal. However, UMass countered with a long possession of their own on a power play, and Michael Pereira finally buried a rebound to tie it up again, 4-4.
In overtime, the referees let a borderline call slide by against BU, but then called a penalty on a similar hit by Michael Marcou seconds later. BU capitalized, as Coyle fed the puck to Nieto in the left-wing circle for a shot that beat goalie Jeff Teglia low on the stick side.
“It was a good competitive night for us, coming back from down 3-0, but we still have a long way to go to become a good solid hockey team,” Parker said.
BU (3-2-1, 2-1-1 Hockey East) plays at Massachusetts-Lowell next Saturday, while UMass (1-3-2, 0-3-2) travels to New Hampshire on Friday before hosting No. 1 Boston College on Saturday.