UMass hockey loses 4-3 to BC in regular season finale on Saturday

Minutemen outshoot Eagles 45-21 but can’t complete comeback

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Kira Johnson/ Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

Mental mistakes and missed opportunities defined the Massachusetts hockey team in its 4-3 loss to Boston College on Saturday night at the Mullins Center.

No. 9 UMass (19-12-2, 14-8-2 Hockey East) was forced to play catch-up for a long stretch of time after allowing the Eagles (14-17-5, 9-12-3 HEA) to take a two goal lead halfway through the first period. The Minutemen fought back and tied the game at 3-3 but that effort wasn’t enough to leave with a win.

BC’s game-winning goal reflected the struggles UMass faced all night long. The initial play looked like a quality chance for the Minutemen to take the lead; Aaron Bohlinger broke through the Eagles’ defense and put a shot on Eric Dop that was narrowly deflected into the corner. BC quickly pushed back up the ice in transition and took advantage of Bohlinger’s aggressive offense to cause a 3-on-1 odd man rush the opposite direction. Eagles forward Patrick Giles faked a pass before taking a shot to beat Matt Murray clean and hush the crowd at the Mullins Center.

The Minutemen had plenty of chances to score, outshooting BC 45-21, but couldn’t capitalize frequently enough over the course of the 60 minutes.

“We found a way to tie the game and the way we gave up the game winning goal was really frustrating to me,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “We get a good offensive opportunity, and one player doesn’t hang back as he’s supposed to and leads to the odd-man rush. That’s where BC is really good, they don’t need many chances to score.”

The Eagles’ go-ahead goal wasn’t the only time they capitalized on an odd-man rush and turned it into points. Less than two minutes into the third period Ty Farmer attempted to lay a hit on a BC forward in the neutral zone but slipped down and allowed the Eagles to skate in on Murray 2-on-1. Nikita Nesterenko easily potted a goal giving BC a 3-1 lead and momentum.

Establishing a net presence helped the Minutemen find ways to beat Dop, who turned away 42 shots on Saturday. The three goals UMass did put on the board were earned when forwards got in front of the crease and took away Dop’s vision. Lucas Mercuri and Anthony Del Gaizo each scored goals by standing on the crease and deflecting the puck into the net, and on Scott Morrow’s goal, Bobby Trivigno screened Dop to help the shot get past him.

“Dop was playing well … but it doesn’t matter how good you are, if you have someone in front of you and you can’t see the puck it’s going to go in the net,” Trivigno said. “That was definitely a focus … but going forward we have to do that every night, all night, every single shift. It can’t be periodically.”

Even when UMass was down on the scoreboard it continued to pressure Dop at a high rate, and if not for a few key saves and mental mistakes, Saturday’s contest could have gone much differently. In the second period, Morrow had a clean look at the goal, but he couldn’t lift his one-timer above the outstretched pad of the BC netminder. A few minutes later, both Ryan Sullivan and Ryan Lautenbach took one-timers of their own directly in front of the net, but both were swallowed up by Dop.

“For a big portion of the game, we were a dominant team,” Carvel said. “It was just one of those days, but we’ve had too many of them this year. Frustrating way to lose but I’ll argue with you pretty strongly that we were a pretty damn good hockey team tonight.”

With the door shutting on the regular season, Carvel and the Minutemen will look to refine their game before heading into their HEA quarterfinal matchup on Saturday, March 12. Opponent and time are to be determined.

“[We] can’t make mental mistakes like the one that led to the game winning goal,” Carvel said. “You can play really hard and still not make those mistakes, and that’s the part we have to take care of.”

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC.