Bortle: With win over No. 1 BC, UMass proved it has what it takes to for a deep run

The Minutemen beat the Eagles 3-2 in overtime

Collegian+File+Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Noah Bortle, Sports Editor

On Oct. 19, 2018, the Massachusetts hockey team went on the road and took down the No. 1 team in the country in Ohio State. Friday night the Minutemen once again went on the road to take down the top-ranked team in the nation, this time in No. 1 Boston College.

While this win might not be as much of a program-defining statement, it feels every bit as important to UMass (13-5-3, 13-5-3 Hockey East).

While the 2018 win kickstarted the most successful season in UMass history—one that ended in a National Championship Game appearance, this year’s iteration could prove to be a catalyst for this year’s squad to make a deep postseason run of its own.

When it was announced that the Minutemen would be away from the ice for a two-week pause on Feb. 7, they had just rebounded from an 0-2-2 stretch with a sweep of UMass Lowell. With questions like: How many games would they have left in the regular season, would the lack of games hurt their resume for the NCAA tournament and would the break result in rusty play down the home stretch, UMass responded.

On Tuesday, the Minutemen hung eight goals on No. 14 Providence, a vote of confidence for a team facing so many questions, but for many the real test lay in the Eagles (15-4-1, 15-4-1 HEA) Friday night.

Midway through Friday’s contest, the plot thickened further when Hockey East’s mysterious HEPI metric updated to show Boston University’s lead over UMass in the standings had shrunk to 0.01, almost guaranteeing the Minuteman second place with a win.

With Hockey East playoff seeding, NCAA Tournament rankings and momentum hanging in the balance, UMass found itself in a 2-0 hole with less than 25 minutes of game clock left to play.

At that point a loss seemed inevitable—even understandable. The Minutemen had just hung with the No. 1 team in the nation for the first period and was in the midst of outplaying them in the second, yet still found themselves down 2-0. Not to mention the fact that UMass had just two weeks of practice since its pause coming into the game and would have had every excuse to be out-conditioned.

Instead, the Minutemen flipped the script. Off the ensuing faceoff, Garrett Wait carried the puck into the zone, dished it to Bobby Trivigno who wristed home a quick goal just eight seconds after BC had extended the lead to two.

A deflection off the shoulder of Carson Gicewicz knotted the score at 2-2 with less than five minutes left in the third to force overtime.

Marc Del Gaizo made sure the effort wasn’t all for naught. In the 3-on-3 overtime, the defenseman got open on a stretch pass. As he approached the net, he was taken down by a trailing d-man, but managed to convert anyway, granting UMass a 3-2 win.

As if the win itself wasn’t impressive enough, it came against an Eagles team that was 12-0-1 when leading after two periods.

For a team in the Minutemen who have hovered in the bottom half of the top-five of the USCHO rankings all year, a win like this feels like a statement game—after all, UMass hasn’t beaten a No. 1 team since the famed upset of the Buckeyes.

However, if you ask Greg Carvel how much this win means, he makes it clear its just a symptom of high-level play his team has been exhibiting even before it went on pause.

“I think its probably more a statement for people outside of our program,” Carvel said. “We went into this game tonight very excited and feeling very confident.

“To the outside world, it’ll probably be a pretty big result, but I think for our group I don’t feel like we stole a game, I feel like we won a game. It’s just the next step for this group.”

Noah Bortle can be reached at [email protected] . He can be followed on Twitter @noah_bortle.