CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — There is an unspeakable value for the ability of a team to close out a game to earn a victory.
On Sunday afternoon, that ability – and a similar inability – reared its head.
For the second time in three weeks, top-ranked Boston College overcame a third-period deficit against Massachusetts, scoring twice in the game’s final 11 minutes to earn a 3-2 victory in front of 4,606 at BC’s Kelley Rink.
Two weekends ago, the Minutemen held a two-goal lead late only to fall in overtime to the Eagles. Last weekend, another third-period lead slipped away for UMass against Boston University.
Said first-year UMass head coach John Micheletto, sometimes the ability to close out a game is part of a team’s learning curve.
“I’m sure [learning to close games] is a part of it,” said Micheletto. “Our guys feel like we deserve to be among the best in this conference and among the best in the country. That’s a difficult thing to say when you look at our record, but if you’ve seen us play you know that we’re learning and getting better. Every game, we take albeit baby steps at times, they are steps forward.”
UMass (2-4-0, 1-4-0 Hockey East) grabbed a 2-1 third period lead early in the third. Troy Power buried a feed from Michael Pereira for his first goal of the season at 1:42.
But BC (6-1-0, 6-1-0 Hockey East) responded with a tying goal from highly-touted recruit Michael Matheson, his first of the season, at 9:13. Then with just 3:37 remaining, fourth-line center Patrick Brown blasted a loose puck from the top of the left faceoff circle over the glove of UMass netminder Kevin Boyle (28 saves) for the game-winner.
“I was just trying to get the shot off as quick as I could to the net,” said Brown, who had scored just a single goal in his first two-plus seasons at BC prior to Sunday.
The fact that the Eagles were even within a goal midway through the third was due to two incredible stops – one more conventional with 12 minutes remaining by goaltender Parker Milner on a tic-tac-toe UMass passing play. The other save was hardly as conventional.
At 6:35 of the third, Milner bobbled a loose puck and while trying to corral it, lost his goal stick and was caught well out of the net. UMass threw two pucks at the open net only to watch BC defenseman Isaac MacLeod slide into the goalie position, make a textbook butterfly save on the first shot and then flash his left skate to stop the rebound attempt.
“I spent a lot of time in the driveway playing road hockey with my friends,” said MacLeod with a smile. “I guess that’s where that [save] comes from.”
“It’s not natural,” said BC coach Jerry York of the play. “It’s amazing that puck stays out. The good ol’ skate save.”
The game began with the Eagles dominating. It took BC just 46 seconds to draw the game’s first penalty and even less time to score on the power play when Bill Arnold reeled in a long pass from Patrick Wey and tucked it past Boyle at 1:23.
The Eagles controlled the early minutes of the game, holding the Minutemen without a shot for six-and-a-half minutes. But BC’s first penalty of the game, a slashing minor to Wey, immediately resulted in a goal. Steven Guzzo poked a loose puck past Milner (29 saves) at 10:01 to even the game at 1.
In the second, UMass slowly grabbed a territorial advantage but couldn’t solve Milner, who finished the frame with 12 stops compared to the six made by his counterpart Boyle.