UMass hockey swept by BU in first round of Hockey East tournament

By Ross Gienieczko

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)
(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

BOSTON — Despite taking No. 9 Boston University to overtime Friday night and turning in another spirited effort on Saturday, the Massachusetts hockey team is headed home emptyhanded.

The Terriers (21-10-5, 12-6-4 HEA) fought off a feisty UMass (8-24-4, 2-17-4 HEA) team in Game 2 of their Hockey East opening round series, winning 5-4 at Agganis Arena to clinch a series sweep of the Minutemen and advance to the conference quarterfinals.

“It was a man’s game out there and I thought we were ready for that challenge,” UMass coach John Micheletto said after the game. “I was an awfully proud coach to stand behind that bench tonight.”

The Minutemen played an inspired game Saturday night in the face of elimination. It was easily one of their better performances of the season, but it wasn’t enough against a BU team that had an answer for every question UMass asked of them.

“Those were two of the best efforts I think we’ve given all season. The guys battled hard,” Minutemen senior forward Shane Walsh said. “It seemed like every time we scored a goal, they got it back within the next shift or two.”

If it seemed that way, that’s because it was. The Minutemen and Terriers were tied five times in the first 51 minutes, 51 seconds of the game, but each time BU re-took a one-goal lead.

“It was a fun hockey game to be a part of,” Micheletto said. “There was a little more offense tonight than yesterday, a lot of punch, counterpunch over the course of the 60 minutes.”

The first two and a half periods were an even fight, but the fifth-seeded Terriers landed the knockout blow in the final frame. When Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson scored his second goal of the game at 11:51 in the final period, BU finally had a lead it would hold for the rest of the night.

Forsbacka-Karlsson also started the scoring at 5:40 in the first period to open the floodgates in a high-scoring, back-and-forth game. UMass’ Dennis Kravchenko tied the game less than three minutes later, and the score stood at 1-1 after 20 minutes of play.

In the second period, both teams showed up with an extra sense of urgency only found in playoff hockey. Danny O’Regan scored a power play goal early in the period to give the Terriers a 2-1 lead, but Walsh scored five minutes later to even the game once again. BU senior Matt Grzelcyk, playing the last home game of his successful career with the Terriers, gave them another lead at 12:39 seconds of the second. But the Minutemen responded again with a Kurt Keats power play goal late in the period to force a 3-3 tie.

O’Regan finally capped off a wild 20 minutes with his second goal of the period to give BU a 4-3 lead, and the stage was set for a do-or-die third period for UMass.

Minutemen freshman Austin Plevy scored on a rebound in front just three minutes, 51 seconds into the third, and for the next 10 minutes the teams traded chances with the game tied 4-4. UMass’ Nic Renyard (38 saves) and BU’s Sean Maguire (32) took center stage, each making several difficult stops in net to keep the game tied.

When Forsbacka-Karlsson (a Boston Bruins draft pick) finally broke the tie with just over eight minutes left, everyone awaited a response from the Minutemen. But there wasn’t one this time, not for lack of effort, and the clock expired on UMass’ season despite the Minutemen threatening in the final minutes.

“It’s one of those games where you walk away shaking your head and it’s tough to swallow,” Plevy said.

Despite allowing five goals, Renyard was once again a difference maker in net for UMass. One night after setting a career-high with 46 saves, the freshman made 38 saves against one of the more skilled offensive teams in the country.

“(Renyard) was great,” Plevy said. “He had the injury at Christmas and I think it took him a little while to shake it off. He hadn’t been himself. This weekend, he was back to old Rens. He was unbelievable. Both nights he gave us a chance to win and bailed us out time and time again.”

After a second half of the 2015-16 season that featured some disheartening losses, the Minutemen hung their hats on a much-improved performance this weekend against the Terriers.

“They’re a good team, but I thought we played with them every second of each game,” Walsh said.

“I think the intimation that last night BU was taking us for granted was not at all the case,” Micheletto added. “I think tonight goes a long way to say that it wasn’t them, it was us.”

The Terriers will advance to play No. 11 UMass Lowell in a three-game series in the Hockey East quarterfinals, with the winner moving on to TD Garden for Hockey East championship weekend.

Ross Gienieczko can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @RossGien.