CHESTNUT HILL – Eleven times the Massachusetts hockey team’s senior class had traveled to Boston College and came up empty-handed, until Friday night.
It turns out the 12th time was the charm for the Minutemen, who defeated the No. 2 Eagles, 5-2, in front of 7,772 fans for their first win at Kelley Rink in Conte Forum since Nov. 17, 2007.
The win felt especially good for UMass senior co-captain Kevin Czepiel, who said he hopes this win will be the last time the Minutemen (8-11-2, 5-8-1 Hockey East Association) travel to BC.
“It’s hard not to think about all the times we’ve been here and lost,” Czepiel said. “I definitely wanted to go out with a win. … We didn’t want to go out with a loss tonight.”
UMass coach John Micheletto said he didn’t know that this was the seniors’ first win on Kelley Rink until after the game and said he was happy that they were finally able to get that win.
“After the game I noticed it from them and it was obviously a relief,” he said. “It’s an excitement that they were able to do that and a bit of a monkey off their back. I think they feel good about the way that we’ve played in this building, at least the two games that we have played this year. So I’m certainly happy for them that this was something that they could check off of their list.”
The other game Micheletto was talking about was a 3-2 loss earlier this season on Nov. 4, 2012.
Friday’s win was far from easy for Czepiel and UMass though.
The Minutemen, who got out to a quick 2-0 lead, suddenly faced a tie game early in the third period with the Eagles (13-5-2, 10-4-1 HEA) seemingly in control of momentum, putting UMass in an all too familiar situation.
But junior Michael Pereira snatched back the momentum for the Minutemen with his fifth goal of the season 13 minutes, three seconds into the final period when he put his own rebound past BC goalie Parker Milner. Branden Gracel and Colin Shea each were credited with assists on the goal.
K.J. Tiefenwerth gave the Minutemen a little more breathing room when he scored at the 14:11 mark of the final frame. The scoring play started when Czepiel won a faceoff and passed it to Shane Walsh. Walsh then took a shot, which Milner stopped originally, but it trickled past him and Tiefenwerth knocked it home.
UMass wasn’t done in the third, however, as Gracel scored his second goal of the game and third overall point at the 16:26 mark. Conor Sheary and Shea each assisted the goal.
The Eagles scored the first goal of the third period, which made it 2-2 at the time. Minuteman goalie Steve Masalerz, who was making his second straight start, had lost his stick momentarily and Steven Whitney took advantage, knocking in his 11th goal of the season.
Overall, Mastalerz had a strong performance as he made 21 saves, 14 of which came in the first period when he faced two 5-on-3 advantages for BC.
“For the first eight minutes, it could’ve been a 1-0, 2-0 game with a totally different perspective,” Pereira said of Mastalerz’ performance. “So for him to weather the storm and face (14) shots (in the first period) and deny them is a pretty good effort.”
Travis Jeke did get one past him at the 18:44 mark in the second period for his first collegiate goal and point, making it 2-1 UMass at the time.
Despite getting outshot 14-5 in the first period, UMass took a 2-0 lead with 55.4 seconds left on a power play goal by Gracel, who redirected Sheary’s original shot into the back of the net for his fifth goal of the season.
Steven Guzzo scored the game’s first goal for the Minutemen on a short-handed goal, which was assisted by Rocco Carzo and Darren Rowe.
UMass will return to the ice on Friday as it travels to Vermont for a two-game weekend series with the Catamounts.
Cameron McDonough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @MDC_McDonough.