Chestnut Hill, MA -_Good hockey is what is expected when two teams ranked in the national top ten meet. Excellent hockey is what the 6,705 in attendance at Conte Forum witnessed on Friday night as the #10 Massachusetts Minutemen outlasted the #4 Boston College Eagles 3-1 on two goals by junior forward John Leonard and 41 saves from sophomore goalie Filip Lindbergh. Jake Gaudet‘s first goal the season was the game-winning goal in the third period. In beating the Eagles, the Minutemen snapped BC’s ten-game winning streak.
Right off the drop, BC was on the power play as Bobby Trivigno was called for Tripping just thirty-three seconds into the game. UMass had a solid penalty kill and didn’t give up a quality scoring opportunity.
Just over halfway through the period, Anthony Del Gaizo was in on Spencer Knight (21 saves) for a shot from the top of the crease. Knight made the initial save but the puck sat in the crease as both schools took frantic whacks at it. BC prevailed as the puck was knocked out of harm’s way.
Shortly after that threat, BC had one of their own as Alex Newhook got inside position on Philip Lagunov in the neutral zone and was in on Lindbergh who turned away the freshman’s breakaway bid.
The Minutemen struck first when Leonard stripped Logan Hutsko of the puck at the Massachusetts blue line and was in alone on Knight. Leonard deked on the freshman goaltender and slid the backhander through his legs at 10:51 for the 1-0 lead.
UMass had their first power play just four seconds later when Connor Moore was sent to the penalty box for High-Sticking. BC’s penalty kill was up to the task as the Minutemen were unable to mount a shot on goal.
With less than two minutes remaining in the period, Newhook split the Minutemen defense of Matthew Kessel and Gianfranco Cassaro to have a breakaway on Lindberg. Newhook snapped the puck through Lindberg’s legs tying the game 1-1 at 18:13. The goal for Newhook was his seventh of the year.
Ben Finkelstein was called for Hooking at 18:39 putting the visiting Minutemen on the power play. The penalty would carry over into the second period. BC outshot Massachusetts 10-8 while winning the face-off battle 9-7.
Starting the period a man down the Eagles carried play throughout. Matt Boldy had a door-step chance just after killing off the penalty but Lindberg came up big.
Massachusetts defenseman Colin Felix was whistled for Holding of the Stick at 6:24. BC peppered the Minutemen net during the man advantage but Lindberg was sensational. The Finnish goalie stopped a Moore blast from the blue line, the rebound fell to Newhook in front. Lindberg gloved a sure goal by Newhook out the air to keep the game tied.
Boldy had a breakaway bid leg saved by Lindberg with just under five minutes remaining in the period. Once again BC outshoot Massachusetts 15-4 while winning 10 of 17 face-offs.
The Eagles came out flying for the third, generating an early three on one chance that Julius Mattila held on to snap the shot on Lindberg who made a leg save on his countryman.
Not to be outdone at the other end, Knight, who played great despite the loss, had a great save on a Trivigno chance at the right post. Lagunov fed Trivigno with a cross-crease pass but the Florida Panther draft pick was in position to make the save.
A Massachusetts power play chance, with BC senior Luke McInnis in the box for Slashing Leonard on a breakaway chance, generated no offensive threats for the Minutemen.
Consistent pressure by the Minutemen led to a flurry in front of Knight when Gaudet struck for the eventual game-winner at 16:15. The junior banged home the rebound of a Marc Del Gaizo shot.
After an icing on Massachusetts at 18:09, coach Greg Carvel used his timeout. The upcoming face-off in the Massachusetts zone led to BC coach Jerry York pulling Knight for the extra attacker.
The Eagles were threatening but Leonard’s stick work led to his mini-break away to seal the win for the Minutemen at 19:29. His second goal of the evening was his 14th of the year. BC outshot Massachusetts 42-24 for the game.
“First off, that was a tremendous college hockey game,” said Carvel. “That was a big statement game for us. We’ll have to follow it up tomorrow night.”
“Boston won 10 in a row, they’re a really good hockey team but our guys just found a way to win. A big part of that was our goaltender. I’m very proud of our group tonight to come in here and play the way we did,” said the fourth-year Massachusetts coach.
“I thought that was a real good hockey game,” said York. “We knew that coming into the weekend that was going to be a great test for us and it certainly was.”
“We got right back tomorrow night to play at UMass. I think we’re both better teams for playing this game. It felt like it had playoff intensity, we’re talking about early January. It had that kind of feel to it,” added York.
The two teams square off on Saturday night at 7:00 pm EST in Amherst at the Mullins Center. Two more valuable Hockey East points up for grabs as Massachusetts sits in second place tied with Northeastern and UMass-Lowell on 15 points. The Eagles are in sixth place tied with Boston University on 12 points.