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Conte Forum hosts best-of-three between UMass and BC

Boston College has already defeated the Massachusetts hockey team on three occasions this year. The postseason, however, is the beginning of a whole new season.

This weekend, UMass will look to change its luck against BC in a best-of-three series in the opening round of the Hockey East tournament at Conte Forum. The Minutemen (18-16-0, 13-14-0 HEA) earned a playoff berth after winning both games against then-No. 17 Maine last weekend at Alfond Arena.

On Friday, UMass received multi-point nights from four different players to claim the 5-2 victory over the Black Bears. Senior Justin Braun scored two goals to lead the offensive attack, while junior goaltender Paul Dainton made 25 saves between the pipes.

The following night, the Minutemen began scoring early with three goals in the final 10 minutes of the first period. Braun recorded two more goals and Dainton made 35 saves to hold off the Maine offense long enough to earn the playoff-clinching win.

The Eagles (21-10-3, 16-8-3 HEA), meanwhile, faced conference-leader New Hampshire in a home-and-home series over the weekend. In the first game on Friday, BC and the Wildcats battled to a 3-3 tie in Durham. The Eagles were in control heading into the third period with a 3-0 lead, but UNH erased the deficit with three goals to force the deadlock. In another closely-contested game on Saturday, BC broke a tie by scoring with less than three minutes left to play in the final frame to earn the 3-2 win.

“We’ve got a great weekend to come off. BC had a win and a tie so they’ve got a good weekend to come off,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said. “I’m not thinking about that, I think that this is a whole new season.”

The Eagles swept the Minutemen in the regular season with 3-1 and 7-1 wins at the Mullins Center, along with a 2-1 overtime win at Conte Forum. Including the three wins in the regular season, the Eagles are 42-10-3 all-time against the Minutemen and have won six of the last seven meetings.

“We’ve shown we can be a terrific team, but we’ve also shown our dark side,” Cahoon said. “I’m hoping this weekend we show our bright side and we’re good from start to finish. That’s the only way we can prepare for BC and not get carried away with what’s happened behind us.”

The two teams first met in the Hockey East tournament in 1995 in UMass’ first playoff appearance. Despite defeating BC 5-4 in that play-in game, the Minutemen would lose to Maine in the quarterfinals.

In 2005, UMass and the Eagles would meet again in the conference tournament. This time, however, BC would get the edge, winning 2-1 and 5-1 to advance past the quarterfinals. After defeating the Minutemen, the Eagles would go on to win the Hockey East tournament title.

Conte Forum has given UMass trouble, where it hasn’t won in the past few years. The last win for the Minutemen on BC’s ice was back on Nov. 17, 2007 by a score of 3-2. Dainton made 30 saves in the contest and has five 30-plus save games against the Eagles, including a career-high 39 in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 22, 2008.

Cahoon realizes the difficulty of winning games on the road in the playoffs, but feels his team has the ability.

“We’ve got to want it more, win more battles, make more plays, and we’ve got to just find a way to outcompete them,” Cahoon said. “It’s a tall order but it’s doable.”

Jay Asser can be reached at jasser@student.umass.edu.

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