Just one night after perhaps the Massachusetts hockey team’s biggest victory of the season, it might have suffered its most devastating defeat.
There appeared to be a bit of a hangover effect at the Mullins Center on Saturday night as UMass (10-13-5, 6-11-4 Hockey East) fell to Providence just 24 hours removed from upsetting No. 1 Boston University on the road.
Coming off an emotional win over the Terriers, the Minutemen came out of the gates flat as the Friars (12-14-2, 10-10-1 HEA) jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first five minutes of the opening frame and never looked back as they skated away with the 5-4 triumph.
Netminder Kevin Boyle did not appear to be the same player who shut down the top team in the nation the night before, as he made 13 saves while allowing four goals in only two periods of work before being pulled.
“The question I get is why don’t you find one goalie and roll with him,” said UMass coach Don Cahoon. “This is it. [Boyle] hasn’t shown that he can play two nights in a row.”
Also giving an uncharacteristic performance was the special teams unit. The power-play was only 1-for-6 on the night and although the Minutemen only took two penalties, they gave up crucial goals in both shorthanded situations.
“We had the numerical advantage,” said Cahoon. “You want to take advantage of that and we didn’t.”
The lone bright spot for UMass was Michael Pereira, who recorded a hat trick that included two key goals in the third period.
David Brown scored the initial tally for the Friars three minutes, two seconds into the first period off a feed by Matt Montesano, and Tim Schaller didn’t waste any time extending that lead to 2-0 less than two minutes later.
Pereira was able to weather the storm on an unassisted goal 17:47 into the first. The sophomore created a rush up the middle of the ice and fired a shot that deflected off the pad of Friars’ netminder Alex Beaudry. Pereira then gathered his own rebound and buried home a wrister out in front of the net from the left crease to cut the PC lead in half.
The second period was especially unkind to the Minutemen, however, as that 2-1 deficit turned into a 4-1 hole, as Daniel New and Damian Cross scored a pair of goals only 23 seconds apart for the Friars.
Pereira provided the spark for UMass 3:54 into the third with a breakaway goal to cut the lead to two, and then made it one less than two minutes later on a power play goal to complete the hat trick.
After a Luke Shane power play goal gave PC a two-goal lead again, Patrick Kiley scored at the 14:09 mark. That, however, would be as close to a comeback as the Minutemen could get, as Beaudry killed all hopes of a miracle with his play in net at the end of the game.
“I don’t know who we are,” said Cahoon. “If we don’t get that performance from [Pereira] then that game is never a game.”
UM upends No. 1 BU
It has not been the most spectacular season for UMass, yet it has found a way to bury the beasts of the HEA.
Only four times in school history have the Minutemen knocked off a top-ranked team, but two of those triumphs have come this season, including Friday night’s 3-2 win over No. 1 BU at Agganis Arena.
The first of those two wins came Nov. 5 against Boston College in a 4-2 drubbing at the Mullins Center.
Not only does Friday’s win mark the first time UMass has beaten a top-ranked team on the road, but it also gives the Minutemen its first road win of the season.
“To be honest with you, I think that whole thing is so silly,’’ said Cahoon. “We play as well as we do sometimes at home, especially this year, and then go on the road and keep throwing out duds. It started right in the first game of the year. That monkey’s off our back and we’re just moving forward.’’
Boyle, who was also between the pipes in the first win against the Eagles, was strong in net in this contest as well, stopping 33 shots from the Terriers (17-9-1, 13-7-1 HEA) to notch his sixth win of the year.
Another vital piece of UMass’ success was the power play unit, which registered two of the three tallies for the Minutemen.
UMass jumped ahead seven minutes, 14 seconds into the opening period off a power play goal by sophomore forward Brandon Gracel, who collected a rebound off a shot by Troy Power and finished with a backhander
The Terriers responded with the equalizer only two minutes later when Matt Nieto slipped the puck between the pads of Boyle and into the back of the net.
The Minutemen tallied their second power play goal of the night 12:47 into the second, after Joel Hanley capitalized off a rebound after Pereira’s attempt was deflected.
After Pereira extended UMass‘ lead to 3-1 with an empty-net goal, BU responded with a tally by Alex Chiasson in the final seconds with the extra attacker, but in the end it was too little, too late for the Terriers.
The Minutemen will next travel to Orono to take on Maine for back-to-back road games starting Friday night.
Nick Canelas can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Canelas.