Amherst, MA — The 2018 season has been a positive step for the Massachusetts Amherst hockey team. The Minutemen have scored wins against ranked foes, like Providence and Northeastern, and shown themselves to be a program on the rise in Hockey East. Friday night looked to be another step forward, as the reeling Boston College Eagles came to town. UMass led for much of the game, but could not hold the lead late in the game.
The first period started off hot for UMass. Cale Makar and Oliver Chau gained the blue line and found Jake Gaudet for a shot. The freshman from Ottawa buried a shot on Joseph Woll and put UMass ahead only 36 seconds into the game. The Minutemen fell on their heels and did not get another shot on goal for the next 13 minutes of the period.
In that time, BC responded. Niko Hildenbrand took a high sticking penalty 2:23 into the game and the Eagles went on the power play. BC did not score on the power play, but seconds after its expiration, Jacob Tortora beat UMass goalie Matt Murray from the left side for the equalizer. UMass evened the shots, but could not reclaim the lead before the break.
The Minutemen took control of the second period, outshooting BC 13-7. Joseph Woll held the fort for most of the period, but could not stop every shot he faced. After the halfway point of the period, UMass went in transition and George Mika beat Woll top shelf for a 2-1 UMass lead. Shortly after the goal, John Leonard, who had the primary assist on Mika’s goal, injured his hand and left the game. He did not return.
Woll stopped the rest of UMass’s attacks and the Minutemen entered the final frame with a lead, looking for their first victory over BC in five years and nine games.
The Eagles came out attacking in the third period. Goaltender Matt Murray held strong for the early stretch, but a controversial call shifted momentum dramatically. BC’s Jacob Tortora drove the puck up the right side and was hit hard by UMass’s Griff Jeszka. Tortora stayed on the ice while a scrum ensued.
After the players were separated, Tortora was up, Jeszka was called for a five minute major for contact to the head, and BC had a five-minute power play. UMass killed most of the power play, but with two minutes left on the major, David Cotton potted a shot from the slot and tied the game.
Late in the frame, BC turned transition opportunities into a lead. Jesper Mattila netted a shot from the left side of the slot to put the Eagles ahead. Forty seconds later, his twin brother Julius went to the same spot in the same form and beat Murray to extend the lead. With time winding down, Minutemen coach Greg Carvel pulled Murray for an extra skater, but Julius Mattila netted his second consecutive goal to put the game out of reach and seal a 5-2 BC victory.
After the game, Eagles Coach Jerry York was pleased with his team. “I’m happy with how we bounced back from down 1-0 early and then down 2-1 in the third period.” The Eagles improve to 15-13-3 overall and 15-6-0 in Hockey East. The Eagles extend their lead on the first place spot to three points over Providence.
BC plays Maine for their final three games of the season. The first game is in Orono on Saturday. Puck drops at 7 pm at the Alfond Sports Arena.
UMass Head Coach Greg Carvel was angry after the game, particularly concerning the penalties.
“The difference in the game was that BC buried their chances and we didn’t. Scoring chances were even yet the penalties were 5-1. The one power play we got should have been a five-minute major for a violent hit to the head, and the major that we got was hardly a penalty. It’s frustrating, I’ll give BC credit, they’re a skilled team. My team works hard. It’s tough to take that many penalties. I feel for my kids. One team plays hard and the other falls down.”
The loss drops UMass to 13-17-2 overall and 7-13-2 in Hockey East. They lead UNH by one point for 9th in the standings. The Minutemen return to action for their final two games next week. They’ll play the Connecticut Huskies on the road on Thursday and host the Providence College Friars on Saturday. Puck drops at 7 pm at both the XL Center and the Mullins Center.