Flaherty: On a big night at Mullins, UMass unable to get it going in shutout loss

The Minutemen were shutout 3-0 by BC, losing control of first place

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Parker Peters

By Liam Flaherty, Assistant Sports Editor

It was all there.

The rivalry, the atmosphere, the battle for first place. All the ingredients were in Amherst on Friday  – the set up for a momentum shifting win.

But in front of 7,336 fans, the highest attendance the Mullins Center has seen for a game in quite some time, the Massachusetts hockey team was dealt a tough loss against No. 5 Boston College.

With so much on the line and the pomp and circumstance to go with it, the Minutemen (16-9-2, 9-6-2 Hockey East) continued to endure the same struggles that have plagued them non-stop for the last few weeks. With the shutout, No. 7 UMass has now scored just one goal in its last three games.

For head coach Greg Carvel, nothing seemed to go the right way for the home team, and like the two other games of the season series in early January, the road team walked away with a big-time win.

“We needed something to go our way, we needed a bounce,” he said after the loss. “We needed a puck to get in the back of the net. I think that would have helped us, especially early in the game. We’re going on a stretch here now where we’ve scored one goal in three games, so we’re gripping the sticks or whatever, but we needed something to fall our way. BC’s a real good team; played real well.”

Aside from the continued lack of scoring on even strength, the power play remained goal-less.

Granted, with a keep-it-simple approach, the unit did look more energetic than it has in a long time, building off the positives it showed two weeks ago when it played Vermont, but still, nothing.

“We didn’t score but the power play looked like it had some life and was moving the puck around,” Carvel said. “We got the puck to the net a fair bit, so that’s a step in the positive direction.”

The frustration of the past month boiled over in the final minutes when, after taking a too-many men call down 3-0, John Leonard was assessed an unnecessary roughing call to finish the night.

At the horn, the 7,336 was no more – turned into scattered white in a sea of empty maroon seats.

In the end, the Eagles (16-7, 10-5 HEA), coming off a winless weekend of their own, just wanted it more, and it showed. In desperate need of two key league points, they went all out for the win.

“The difference was they beat us up the ice,” Carvel said. “They beat us in the corners. They’ve got good team speed and they used it wisely and we weren’t tight enough without the puck.”

UMass has been working to address its commonplace struggles like the power play and getting in the dirty areas of the ice for a while now, and while it’s tough to turn the tides against a team of such a high caliber like BC, it’s only going to get more difficult as the second half progresses.

After only three games against ranked teams in the first half – all three were against Northeastern – the next four games for the Minutemen will be played against opponents ranked in the top-15.

Unfortunately for UMass, unlike most weekends, it doesn’t have the opportunity to quickly avenge the loss. It’s off until Friday when the gauntlet of ranked foes continues with No. 9 Providence.

“That’s not in my head right now,” Carvel said. “We’ll use the night off to reset. We really need to clear our heads, get back to what we’re able to do as a team. Play harder and smarter.

“We’re in the thickest part of our schedule right now, and you used the word adversity this week and it finally feels like, yeah, we’re facing some adversity, but that’s all right, that’s what coaches are paid to do. So, we’ll help the team get reset and get in a good state of mind to play Friday night.”

Liam Flaherty can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @_LiamFlaherty.