UMass’ season ends in first round of Hockey East tournament

By Jeffrey R. Larnard

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The Massachusetts hockey team showed a lot of fight just to make it into the Hockey East tournament.

A sweep of Maine on the final weekend of the regular season lifted it to the tournament where they continued to show that fight, but this time it wasn’t enough. The Minutemen (18-18-0) fell to Boston College in the opening round of the Hockey East tournament on March 13.

In the best-of-three series at the Kelly Rink, the No. 4 Eagles (25-10-3) and eventual tournament champions took Game 1, 6-5, before ending UMass’ season on March 13 in Game 2 with a 5-2 victory.

“We played with them toe-to-toe each game, and there was no question that it was a hard-fought series,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said following Saturday’s loss. “But nonetheless, it’s very disappointing in terms of results.”

For the first two periods of Saturday’s contest, the Minutemen responded to goals by BC, leading each team to be even at two goals heading into the third period.

The Eagles got on the board first when Matt Price found Barry Almeida at the five minute, 37 second mark of the game. Sophomore Casey Wellman, however, was there for the Minutemen almost seven minutes later.

Justin Braun – who was named on Wednesday to the 2009-10 Hockey East Old Time Hockey Defensive Defensemen, which honors the league’s top defensemen – started the play, making a pass from the left side of the ice to James Marcou. Marcou rifled a low shot on net that was blocked by BC’s goaltender, John Muse (16 saves), only to have Wellman pick up the rebound and knot the game at one.

It was Wellman again in the second period who tied the game up for UMass, after the Eagles’ Carl Sneep gave his team a 2-1 lead at the 12:42 mark of the period on a shorthanded goal. Still on the power play and just 33 seconds after falling behind one goal, Wellman put away another rebound following a shot from T.J. Syner.

The third period was a different story as BC scored three unanswered goals in the period to end the Minutemen’s season.

The previous night’s 6-5 loss saw even more resilience from UMass as they trailed 6-3 entering the third period.

Both teams traded goals in the first 25 minutes of play, with BC striking first and Braun tying the score at one at the 9:13 mark of the first period. Cam Atkinson extended the lead back to one with over five minutes to play in the period, only to have Syner even the score at two at the beginning of the second period.

Two minutes after Syner’s goal, the Eagles scored three unanswered goals in a 2:04 stretch to make it a 5-2 lead. Wellman stopped the bleeding at the 17:15 mark of the second period to cut the deficit to two, but this time BC responded with a goal 1:39 later to extend the lead back to three.

The deficit was quickly reduced at the beginning of the third period as Martin Nolet and Marcou each found the back of the net in the first 54 seconds of the period. For the remaining 19 minutes of the game, the Eagles held onto their 6-5 lead, giving them the 1-0 series lead.

Prior to the weekend series with Maine, the Minutemen squared off at BC, falling to the Eagles 2-1 in overtime. On the season, UMass was 0-5 against BC.

“They are a great team and they will prove to be a great team before this season is over,” Cahoon said. “We went toe-to-toe with them in three straight games and so that was a good sign. We never quite got over that big hump we were trying to get over the second half of the season.”

Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at [email protected]