BC Comes Up Empty in Hard-Fought Weekend Series with UMass
By JD Biagioni
The Eagles are playing some of their best hockey of the season, but it didn’t result in any points in this weekend’s home-and-home with UMass.
The Minutemen entered the weekend at No. 3 in the national polls, behind only St. Cloud State and Ohio State. This was down one spot for UMass, after the program was blanked 2-0 by UMass Lowell last weekend.
Friday night’s contest in Amherst saw BC jump out to an early lead on Casey Fitzgerald’s first goal of the season. The senior averaged five goals per season during his first three season on the Heights but was held off the score sheet for the season’s first 27 games.
Later in the first period, UMass standout defenseman and Hobey Baker candidate Cale Makar was sent to the box for slashing. With one of UMass’ best penalty killers in the box, BC capitalized. Christopher Brown, playing the bumper below the goal, sent a nice one-touch pass across to Connor Moore for the finish past a sprawling Matt Murray.
Makar didn’t wait long to avenge his mistake, though. Less than a minute later, he finished off a two-on-one to bring the deficit back to one.
Scoring in bunches was a theme for the Minutemen this weekend, as midway through the second, they scored twice in a minute and a half to stun the Eagles and pull ahead 3-2. The tying goal came from John Leonard on the power play. BC had done a good job killing off the first penalty of the night, but UMass’ top-ranked power play took advantage of the Mark McLaughlin slashing call to pull even. Philip Lagunov put UMass ahead after a Michael Karow turnover behind the BC net.
Midway through the third, David Cotton pulled the Eagles back even, finishing a second-chance opportunity after Murray couldn’t corral a rebound.
The game appeared headed for overtime. Both teams traded chances in the final few minutes of regulation. Joseph Woll came up big for the Eagles, stopping to UMass opportunities at point-blank range, including a glove save on a Jacob Pritchard breakaway.
Then came the chaotic final few seconds. BC couldn’t clear the puck and it ended up on Makar’s stick out by the blue line. He threw one into traffic in front of Woll. In the chaos of five players battling for the puck, Woll had to flop down and defend the far post for the initial save.
The puck found its way out of the chaos to Mitchell Chaffee, who skated around the back of the net and fed Jake McLaughlin. Woll tried to roll across to the other side, and BC defensemen dove to block the shot, but McLaughlin found the opening in the net for a walk-off win for the Minutemen.
Thanks to the quick turnaround offered by the home-and-home the Eagles had an opportunity just 24 hours later to wipe the bad taste of the previous night’s loss out of their mouths.
Conte Forum was packed for the Saturday night matchup, with a good 50/50 split between BC and UMass fans. The Minuteman fans traveled well. And why wouldn’t they? After all, the Friday night win set a new single-season wins record for the program, and the Minutemen are trending toward their second-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
Like Friday night, BC got on the board first, this time with Christopher Brown dropping a pass off to Graham McPhee for McPhee’s second goal of the season.
Also like Friday night, UMass scored back-to-back goals in a short amount of time to take the lead. John Leonard and Oliver Chau scored in the first two minutes of the second period, both on the power play, to put the Minutemen ahead 2-1. Pritchard added one at 12:05 of the second to make it 3-1, but McPhee answered a minute later with his second goal of the night. The goal came on the power play and was assisted by Brown, very reminiscent of Moore’s goal setup Friday night.
For the second-straight night, BC entered the third down 3-2. UMass came into the game undefeated when leading after two, while BC was winless when trailing after two, not stats which boded well for a comeback. But the Eagles had the Minutemen on their heels for most of the third. With the benefit of the clock on their side, the Minutemen were content to play conservative and bleed down the final ten minutes of game clock.
Once BC pulled Woll with two minutes left, UMass had the green light to fire shots on goal in hopes of landing an empty-netter. Most missed and went for icing, but BC just couldn’t win the key offensive zone draws at the end, and Jake Gaudet sent fans to their cars with 20 seconds left when he put UMass ahead 4-2.
The weekend sweep killed BC’s chances of a Hockey East regular season championship and dropped the Eagles to fifth in the conference. With two games in Orono, two with Northeastern, and one with Providence, the Eagles will need a strong showing down the stretch to secure home ice the first weekend of the conference tournament.