Playing in front of a Mullins Center crowd of 7,678, the Massachusetts hockey team surrendered four third period goals and then the eventual game-winner in overtime to No. 3 Boston College in a 5-4 loss on Friday night.
The crowd was electric the entire night, energizing the Minutemen (1-1, 0-1 Hockey East Association) right from the opening faceoff. But they were put in a precarious position early after junior defenseman Joel Hanley was ejected within the first two minutes after receiving a five-minute major for checking from behind.
Facing a potent Eagles (1-1, 1-1 HEA) power play, UMass regained the momentum after killing off the five-minute penalty, keyed by two big saves by sophomore goaltender Steve Mastalerz.
“I think it definitely got the team going after that kill,” Mastalerz said. “We had the energy and went on a bit of a run there. Got that goal from (Rocco Carzo), which is huge. It’s pretty tough getting your first shots on a power play, especially going against BC, who has a very good power play.”
Following the kill, UMass got its offense going, generating a lot of pressure in front of BC goaltender Parker Milner. The hard work paid off, as Mike Busillo’s shot from the slot was blocked and rebounded directly to senior Rocco Carzo, who scored to put the Minutemen ahead 1-0.
“I think it’s always a confidence builder for your guys to get out of the gate and score the first one,” UMass coach John Micheletto said. “I know in the past we’ve fared well against Boston College, so that puts the wind in your sails in the early going. It’s good to score the first goal. It usually puts you in the category to have success.”
The Minutemen earned a power play after killing one at the beginning of the second period, and they made the most of it, as Conor Allen scored his first goal of the season on a tip-in to put the team up 2-0 just 3:43 into the period. Later in the stanza, Carzo put UMass up 3-0 as he beat Milner for the second time of the night.
“It was a good feeling,” Carzo said. “I thought we had it at that point. I thought we put the nail in the coffin, but like I said, we have to finish it off.”
The reigning national champions didn’t roll over, as they increased the pressure and finally got on the scoreboard early in the third period on a Bill Arnold goal. The Eagles then made it 3-2 seven minutes later on a goal by Destry Straight, quieting a once raucous Mullins Center crowd.
Darren Rowe pushed the UMass lead back to two just a minute later, scoring his second goal of the season to give the Minutemen a 4-2 lead, but the Eagles were still hungry for more. Still trailing by two goals with less than four minutes remaining, BC senior captain Pat Mullane put the game in his hands, scoring two goals in a span of 70 seconds to tie the game at 4-4 to push the game into overtime.
Despite blowing the big lead, the Minutemen came out strong in the overtime frame, putting together a few good scoring chances. But following an Eagles timeout, it was BC sophomore Johnny Gaudreau who batted a rebound out of the air and into the net, to give the Eagles the 5-4 sudden-death victory.
After the game, Micheletto said he wants to make sure that his team learns from the mistakes they made in the third period.
“In the early stages, where we are, it’s an important lesson for our guys moving forward that the way we’re going to play is (more) like what you saw in the first 40 minutes, than you did in the last 20,” Micheletto said.
The Minutemen were led by Carzo – who was recently named a co-captain – who scored his first two goals of the season and was backed by Mastalerz in net, who made 37 saves on 42 shots.
Mullane and Gaudreau led the way for the Eagles, scoring three of the team’s five goals and combining for five points on the night. Milner made 20 saves on 24 shots in the contest.
UMass will now hit the road for the first time this season when it plays a home-and-home series against No. 11 Boston University starting next Friday at Agganis Arena. The Minutemen will then host the Terriers next Saturday.
Patrick Strohecker can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @MDC_Strohecker.