The Massachusetts hockey team thought it had just tied the game.
Steven Iacobellis found Troy Power cutting to the middle of the ice from the neutral zone and the redshirt junior took the puck and finished the rest, moving from right to left and beating Boston College goaltender Brian Billett with the power-play goal on the backhand to tie the game at 2-2 16 minutes, 12 seconds into the third period, sending the 3,952 at Mullins Center into a frenzy.
But as the fans were finishing their celebrations, BC coach Jerry York was working his magic.
York called a timeout and asked the officials for a review of the goal, believing UMass was offsides on the play.
After a lengthy review, it turned out he was right. The goal was waved off and, despite a furious attack by the Minutemen at the end of the game, the No. 7 Eagles escaped a potential upset with a 2-1 win Thursday night.
According to section 93.4 of the most recent edition of the NCAA ice hockey rulebook, only in NCAA Tournament competition “that is televised and where a video replay official is in use, game officials may use replay to correct an error on calling an offsides.”
However, York said after the game that the rule was changed last year. According to York, with the use of a timeout, officials may now review a potentially-missed offsides that directly leads to a goal in the regular season as well.
“When we were asking for (the review), in my mind it was they changed the rule so that you’d have to call a timeout to review it,” York said. “My understanding is they initially put it in for tournaments and said, ‘Hey, how can you differentiate a tournament and regular season game?’ My bad if it’s wrong, but that’s what I thought it was.
“Sometimes the rulebook is your friend and sometimes it’s your enemy. It was friendly to the Eagles tonight.”
UMass coach John Micheletto’s interpretation of the rule appeared to be different and made that clear based on his reaction on the bench following the goal being waved off. It seemed like he’s still trying to plead his case, though.
“We will certainly explore any options,” Micheletto said. “As I was told, obviously there was a decision made on the ice. I have not been able to hear back from the league office or the director of officials, so any questions about that call and it’s impact on the game should be directed to them.”
When asked about what the official’s explanation was to him, Micheletto said, “That it’s a rule and although the video wasn’t clear, it was clear enough.”
It was equally hazy whether or not Power was offsides on the play. It was something Power couldn’t even determine for himself.
“I don’t know to be honest. I’d like to check the tape out,” Power said. “I had a good first step, I don’t know if I was offsides or not, but we’ll see when I look at the footage.”
What certainly cannot get lost amidst controversy is the effort of the Minutemen (3-7-1, 1-4-1 Hockey East) coming off a 9-0 drubbing at the hands of New Hampshire Saturday. They hung with the Eagles (7-2-1, 4-0 HEA) throughout the contest and outshot them 11-5 in a third-period comeback attempt.
Freshman goaltender Mac Haight made his first collegiate start and capitalized on the opportunity, making 31 saves and holding the nation’s top-ranked offense to a pair of goals that left him completely helpless.
The first came 9:25 into the second period with UMass leading 1-0. Isaac MacLeod hit Johnny Gaudreau with a slick pass across the crease and the junior beat Haight glove side to tie the game at 1-1.
BC pulled ahead for good just over four minutes later when Kevin Hayes cleaned up a Danny Linell shot from the point that hit off the post and onto the stick of the senior forward, who also beat a fast-reacting Haight glove side to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead.
“I thought I handled myself pretty well,” Haight said. “I was pretty nervous, if you can imagine, but it helped having 19 other players out there with me blocking shots, sticks in lanes, they did everything for me.
“They battled so hard, and being a freshman starting against Boston College, which I would never think I would do, they definitely helped me out in every possible situation.”
Another positive for UMass was having Branden Gracel finally get out of his funk. The senior forward scored his first goal since Oct. 18 18:12 into the game. Shane Walsh’s backhander from the slot deflected off of Billett and onto the stick of Gracel, who finished an open opportunity in front of the net for his fourth goal of the season.
The two teams meet again Friday night in Chestnut Hill at 7 p.m.
Nick Canelas can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @NickCanelas.