For three periods, the Massachusetts hockey team played the way it has hoped to play for the past few weeks.
Once it gave up a lead in the second period to Boston College, it fought back and tied the game. Instead of letting the feeling of defeat sink in prematurely, it got strong goaltending from Paul Dainton (31 saves) and played in a disciplined manner, not being called for a penalty during the entire game.
Still lacking was the offense that had been so strong earlier in the season, and despite holding the No. 7 Eagles to just one goal in regulation, the Minutemen fell in overtime 2-1 Friday night at the Kelly Rink.
“I was real happy with the effort, obviously not producing enough finish play,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said. “We get one goal and it makes it a pretty fine line.
“There were positives but obviously it is a tough nut to swallow.”
Two minutes, two seconds into extra time, all of the effort put in by UMass (16-16-0, 11-14-0 Hockey East) went for nothing as BC’s (20-10-2, 15-8-2 HEA) Chris Kreider put away the game winner after Pat Mullane came down the right wing boards, forcing Dainton to commit before he centered a pass in the front of the net. Kreider redirected the pass into the net past Dainton for his 11th goal of the season.
The Eagles struck first in the contest on a quick goal off of the opening face-off in the second period. After BC won the face-off, Patrick Wey centered a pass that was deflected in by Joe Whitney 18 seconds into the period.
Unlike what they had done so much of in the first five games of their now-six-game losing streak, the Minutemen stepped up after the goal and dominated the period over the Eagles. With 2:19 remaining in the period, UMass knotted the game at one.
Justin Braun found sophomore Danny Hobbs on the play who backhanded a shot toward the net. Watson deflected the shot for his first goal of the season and first in 82 games.
“Danny [Hobbs] is starting to play just great,” Cahoon said. “He’s starting to be that strong skating power forward we thought he’d be and you can always depend on him [Watson] to have big games in big moments, so I was really pleased with him.
The Minutemen held the edge in shots in the second period (15-9) as well as in the scoreless third period (12-10) where both teams fought for the winning goal, but could not find it.
With 8:02 left in regulation, UMass was awarded its second power-play chance of the game on a tripping penalty by Brian Gibbons, but could not convert. The power-play unit was 0-for-2 on the night and has failed to capitalize on their last eight power-play opportunities.
“Our overall effort was far superior to anything we’ve seen recently, it’s just a shame that we don’t have anything to show for it,” Cahoon said.
The loss, coupled with Vermont’s weekend sweep of Boston University, dropped UMass down to ninth place in the conference standings, far from the second place tie it was in at the beginning of the month when it faced BC on Feb. 5. If the Hockey East Tournament were to start today, the Minutemen would not qualify for it.
With two contests on the road this weekend against third-place Maine, UMass needs at least one win against the Black Bears and either Merrimack or Vermont to lose both of its contests over the weekend to qualify for the tournament.
Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.