CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — The script had a familiar ring to it.
Underdog scores a couple goals to take an early lead. National power gets back to within one in the second period, then draws even early in the third. The inevitable denouement features a convincing display of power, typically three goals in about as many minutes, to put the underdog back in its place.
In a shocking development, however, the teams at Kelley Rink swapped their closing pages.
Massachusetts, having taken and surrendered an early 2-0 lead, grabbed Boston College’s script and erupted for three third-period goals in little more than three minutes to stun the second-ranked Eagles, 5-2.
In their two previous meetings, UMass had held third-period leads — at home bringing a 3-0 lead into the period and at BC seizing a 2-1 advantage two minutes in — only to fall prey to BC’s by-the-script comebacks. Dating back to Nov. 17, 2007, the Eagles had defeated UMass 13 straight times at Kelley Rink.
In this game, though, Michael Pereira, K.J. Tiefenwerth and Branden Gracel victimized the BC team defense with third-period goals and the Minutemen showed a coolness under fire not evident in their earlier losses.
“Losing a lead in the third period here is something we didn’t want to taste anymore,” UMass coach John Micheletto said. “Tonight was a good test for our guys in that regard and a lesson well-learned.”
As the Minutemen headed into the locker room for the second intermission, they’d seen BC close to within 2-1 with a full two-minute power play to open the third. Though it had all the earmarks of “here we go again,” the UMass veterans rallied the troops for a different outcome.
“Leave all doubts in here,” they said, according to Pereira. “Play with [your heart] and your head. We’ve been the better team all night. Don’t change what we’re doing.”
The Minutemen had weathered an early BC storm fueled by four power plays, thanks in great part to goaltender Steve Mastalerz, playing in only his fifth game of the year and still looking for his first win. The Eagles peppered the sophomore and he proved up to the challenge while his teammates countered with a shorthanded strike and a late-period power-play goal of their own.
“[Mastalerz] really helped our penalty kill out there early,” Micheletto said. “That was the real turning point. You can’t get down to a good team in the early going and feel you can climb that hill on the road too much. Steve was definitely one of our stars tonight.”
For the second-ranked Eagles, the loss, their second in a row, breaks their 18-game home unbeaten streak that dates back to December 2011. More significantly, they have now recorded a 3-4-2 record following an early-season, 10-game win streak.
“Collectively as a group, we’re not playing team defense,” BC associate coach Mike Cavanaugh said. (He and Greg Brown have led the Eagles for the past three games while head coach Jerry York remains at home recuperating from surgery to repair a detached retina.) “That doesn’t just mean your goaltender and your defense. It’s your forwards as well.
“One of our trademarks has always been that our forwards come back so hard it’s hard for teams to get odd-man rushes against us, but right now, we’re putting our defense in some tough positions.”
UMass seized their first-period 2-0 lead despite getting outshot 14-5. At 6:35, Rocco Carzo forced a turnover behind the net while shorthanded and fed linemate Steven Guzzo in front. Guzzo buried it for his fifth of the year, coming at 6:35.
In the final minute of the period, Darren Rowe fired from the point on the power play and Gracel, who had drawn the penalty to create the advantage, redirected it in.
The second period proved to be a mirror image of the first. The Minutemen outshot BC 12-4, assisted by the only two power plays of the period, but surrendered a goal in the closing minutes.
The goal drawing BC to within one came off the stick of Travis Jeke, a freshman defenseman playing in his sixth game and recording his first goal. Kevin Hayes made the nice pass from down near the goal line to Jeke, who wristed the shot from the top of the right faceoff into the top of the net.
The Eagles tied the game, 2-2, at the 4:08 mark of the third. Steven Whitney and Johnny Gaudreau double-teamed a UMass defender behind the net and when Gaudreau secured the puck, he slipped it to Whitney, who stumbled to the right post and pushed it in.
The Minutemen first deviated from the BC-comeback script at 13:03 when Pereira cut in from the right boards and scored on a rebound of his own shot. A minute later, Shane Walsh shot from the top of the faceoff circle and though Parker Milner stopped the shot, the puck lay in the crease right on the goal line. Tiefenwerth charged in to push it past.
Then at 16:26, Gracel scored his second of the game, this one a final nail in the coffin, walking in on the right and stuffing the puck past Milner short side.
With that, it was only a matter of time before the curtains came down on the stunning role-reversal win for the Minutemen.