UMass blows another lead, falls to top-ranked BC

By Patrick Strohecker

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

CHESTNUT HILL — Disappointment is becoming the name of the game for the Massachusetts hockey team so far this season.
For the second time in as many contests, the Minutemen (2-4, 1-4 Hockey East Association) fell to top-ranked Boston College, 3-2, on Sunday afternoon at Conte Forum.

“I really liked our effort and I liked our execution,” UMass coach John Micheletto said. “I thought we had opportunities to extend the lead and when we didn’t convert on those it winds up putting you in a particular position where one goal can make a big swing at that point.”

The momentum that the Minutemen carried over from Friday night’s upset victory over No. 9 New Hampshire did not last long as the Eagles (6-1, 4-1 HEA) struck first early.

UMass junior defenseman Joel Hanley took a hooking penalty only 46 seconds into the game and BC made UMass pay for the early penalty when Patrick Wey found junior Bill Arnold cutting between the defense and beat sophomore goalie Kevin Boyle to take the early 1-0 lead.

The slow start for UMass continued and it was not until the 6:30 mark that the Minutemen finally recorded their first shot on net. But UMass hung close and after a penalty to BC, sophomore Steven Guzzo scored his second goal of the season five seconds into the power play to tie the game at 1-1 with 9:59 left in the first period.
After many close calls by both sides, the teams skated into the first intermission tied at 1-1.

“I thought it was a real good answer,” Micheletto said. “I think our guys are really sticking to avoiding high highs and low lows and that was a real good example of that.”

In the second period, both sides had their opportunities, but much like the last half of the first period, it was Boyle and Eagles goalie Parker Milner doing their job, keeping the opposition off the scoreboard. The teams headed into the second intermission the same way they did for the first intermission still deadlocked at 1-1.

The third period got off to an equally fast start when BC forward Steven Whitney’s shot hit the crossbar 12 seconds into the period, but stayed out to keep the game even.
Following that near miss, UMass managed to break open the tie game when Troy Power beat Milner top-shelf to give the Minutemen their first lead of the game.
The turning point came eight minutes into the period when Eagles defenseman Isaac MacLeod bailed out Milner by making a couple of huge blocks in front of a wide open net to keep the UMass lead to only one.
After that close call, BC turned it on and about one minute later, freshman defenseman Michael Matheson jumped into an Eagles rush and ripped a shot high that beat Boyle over his glove hand to tie the game at 2-2.

“Our first guy back was a little over-aggressive with the puck and we were late to catch the second wave and obviously Matheson did a nice job in jumping and joining the play and shooting the puck quickly on that transition,” Micheletto said.

Much like in the first meeting between the teams, once UMass surrendered its lead, it never seemed to find its forward momentum as the Eagles continued to swarm the Minutemen net.

The breakthrough came with only 3:37 remaining when a bouncing puck found its way over to Patrick Brown who beat Boyle over his glove to score the eventual game-winning goal.

UMass pressed on and generated numerous opportunities with an empty net, including its closest call when a shot from the point was deflected just wide of the post, but eventually time ran out on the Minutemen once again.

“You’re never happy about losing regardless of what the margin is,” Micheletto said. “But, I think our compete level, our energy, all the things that are defining Minutemen hockey, our guys are doing.”

The road for the Minutemen does not get any easier next weekend, when they take on upstart Providence on Friday. The Friars have gotten off to a fast start in conference play and currently sit in fourth place in the standings.

Patrick Strohecker can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @MDC_Strohecker.