Chestnut Hill, MA – The Massachusetts Minutemen only needed to wrangle a single point from the Boston College Eagles on Friday to earn their second Hockey East regular-season title in the last four seasons. Eagles forward Jack McBain and goalie Erik Dop had other plans for the evening. McBain’s third-period goal was the difference maker as Dop turned back 25 of 26 Minutemen volleys to deny a special night for the visitors.
However, it was a special night for the Eagles, as their ten seniors, including McBain and Dop, were honored pre-game for Senior Night. Flower bouquets and family photos gave way to body checks and slapshot as the Eagles came out flying to start the game.
“We’ve been up and down, I think we’re hitting our peak right now,” said Eagles legendary Head Coach Jerry York. “We’re much more cohesive as a team. Everybody goes through injuries, everyone goes through COVID, and and we certainly had our share of them.”
The Minutemen withstood the Eagles’ opening barrage thanks to timely saves by graduate student Matt Murray. The 6′-1″ netminder was on his toes from the opening puck drop.
Murray’s best sequence came after roughly six minutes of play. First, he stopped a McBain slapshot from the right face-off dot and then stonewalled fellow senior Marc McLaughlin seconds later on a wide-open one-timer at the bottom of the left circle.
Garrett Wait put the visiting Minutemen ahead at 16:52 of the first period after a solid forecheck from senior Bobby Trivigno. Trivigno outmuscled Eagles forward Liam Izyk behind the Eagles’ net. He then shook off senior defenseman Jack St. Ivany before dishing a cross-crease pass to a wide-open Wait for his eleventh of the year.
The Minutemen rode the play of Murray (19 saves) into the waning moments of the second period. BC forward Trevor Kuntar gathered a loose puck along the boards in the Minutemen defensive zone and walked in all alone on Murray. Kuntar lasered a shot far-side over Murray’s shoulder to tie the game at 1-1. Izyk and senior Casey Carreau assisted on Kuntar’s ninth of the season at 18:28.
Just thirty seconds later, UMass forward Cal Kiefiuk earned a High-Sticking penalty giving the Eagles their third power-play chance of the period. The Minutemen easily killed off the first 1:02 as the second period ended.
Just recently back from his stint with Team Canada in the Beijing Olympics, McBain wasted little time in putting the Eagles ahead when play resumed for the final twenty minutes. The 6′-4″ Toronto, Ont. native tipped a St. Ivany slapshot from the blue line past Murray twenty-eight seconds into the period to make it 2-1 Boston College. The power-play goal was McBain’s 17th goal and 35th of his career.
With time winding down in the game, the Minutemen peppered Dop and the Eagles net, desperately trying to get the game-tying goal to secure the critical one point and the Hockey East trophy. Dop three big saves, along with getting a timely blocked shot by defenseman Marshall Warren in the final minute to preserve the BC win.
UMass thought they scored on a rebound shot by Reed Lebster as time expired. Upon review by the referees, time had passed by a second or two.
“It was a hard fought game as I expected it to be,” said UMass Head Coach Greg Carvel. “BC’s been playing well lately. I liked the way we came out and started the game. I thought the first period was solid, but to me once we took the three penalties in the second period that really changed momentum. They score the game-winning goal on the power-play.”
“We had our attempts in generating offense in the third period late with the pulled goalie,” added Carvel. “It was a good start to a road game but the penalties to me were the big difference in the game.”
York said that the possibility of UMass winning the title on their ice didn’t factor into how the team played on Friday.
“That wasn’t a factor. I never thought of that. We knew we were playing a quality opponent and we understood we had to play very well,” said York.
“It was more that particular thing, ‘let’s play real well, let’s keep momentum going to the playoffs.’ I think we’re getting hot at the right time.”
The two teams will face off again on Saturday afternoon at the Mullins Center on the Massachusetts campus in Amherst, MA, at 4:30 pm. The Minutemen are two points ahead of second-place Northeastern and can clinch the regular-season title with a tie against the Eagles.