Boston, MA- “The only thing I like about losing is that it resets our team” quipped Massachusetts Head Coach Greg Carvel regarding a 4-3 loss to close January against Maine at Alfond Arena. The Massachusetts Minutemen began February needing a turnaround performance, and got what they needed in one of College Hockey’s best games of the year against the Boston University Terriers on Friday night.
Right from the opening drop, both teams were motivated and showed it in front of a lively crowd. Jacob Pritchard started proceedings by taking a smooth John Leonard feed before lasering a puck through Jake Oettinger 46 seconds into the game. BU answered at 6:20 when Ryan Cloonan roofed a shot on Matt Murray for his second goal of the year and sixth point in eight games.
UMass responded quickly with Cale Makar whipping a puck on net and Bobby Trivigno punching home his seventh goal of the year. The assist was Makar’s 21st helper and 30th point of the season, staying one point behind teammate Jacob Pritchard atop the Hockey East points leaderboard.
UMass added one more goal with some controversy. BU’s Jack DeBoer took a hit in the corner, but the official did not call a charge or board. UMass retained possession in the zone and capitalized. Marc Del Gaizo whipped a puck on net and Jack Suter played the puck on the doorstep for his first goal of the season and a 3-1 Minuteman lead at the break.
The first half of the second period saw a parade of four players to the penalty box. The first two resulted in no scoring. The next two were both Minutemen and gave BU a five-on-three power play. They seized the chance and Joel Farabee put one home off Murray’s leg to cut the deficit down. Minutes later, Farabee showed off his playmaking when he found Patrick Curry on the doorstep for a putback and a tie game. While Agganis roared in celebration, UMass regrouped and reclaimed the lead when Philip Lagunov cleaned up a Leonard chance at the goalpost for a 4-3 lead going into the break.
The barnburner continued in the third period. Terrier Junior Patrick Curry landed his second goal of the night and gave the frantic Agganis fans plenty to cheer for in a 4-4 tie. But the Minutemen found late offensive life behind a talented, but less heralded member of their blueline corps. Just before the frame’s halfway point, Bobby Trivigno and Ty Farmer created a transition play and Farmer punched home the puck for his first goal since November 8th against Providence.
In the dying minutes, Ty Farmer sparked a breakaway and landed his second goal of the game for his second collegiate multi-point game. BU kept the fight and cut the lead down again. Joel Farabee broke out and shot on Matt Murray who made the initial save, but Logan Cockerill cleaned up the puck for his fourth tally of the year with 1:31 left. BU pulled Oettinger for an extra attacker but ran out of gas. John Leonard was tripped up trying to dump the puck into an empty Terrier net. He missed the goal but was rewarded with an empty-net goal anyway on a penalty to close one of the most thrilling collegiate games of the season at 7-5 in UMass’s favor.
“I thought we came out tonight and played the brand of hockey we’ve been able to play most nights this year. Obviously scoring seven goals, we had a lot of guys contribute” commented Carvel. “Real good sign for our team that every time BU tied the game we went back ahead pretty quickly.”
The win gives UMass a 20-5-0 overall record and 12-3-0 Hockey East mark. They’re three points clear of second-placed Boston College. This is the first 20 win UMass team since the 2007 vintage that played at TD Garden for the Hockey East Semifinals and reached the NCAA Tournament’s East Regional Final. They’re also three wins away from a program record for Hockey East victories and tied the 2004 edition for the third most Conference wins. That year, UMass reached its only Hockey East Title game to date.
Matt Murray improves to 15-3-0 with 28 saves on 33 shots.
UMass returns home for a rematch against BU next Friday at the Mullins Center. Puck drops at 7 pm ET.
Boston University drops to 10-11-3 overall and 8-6-2 in Hockey East. The loss, combined with wins by UMass Lowell and Northeastern drops the Terriers to fifth place in conference play.
“Both teams pushed hard, both teams competed” thought Terrier Head Coach Albie O’Connell. “I thought we were a little sloppy in the D-Zone at times. We bounced back a couple times, but we’ve gotta play through and not allow that goal. Our competitiveness level was there, our sharpness was not. But you’ve gotta give them credit. They’ve got a good team and that Makar kid is as good as I’ve seen in this league in a long time.”
Jake Oettinger drops to 10-10-3 with 27 saves on 33 shots faced.
Before the rematch with UMass, BU will open the 67th Annual Beanpot Tournament. They face Northeastern on Monday, February 4th. Puck drop is scheduled for 8 pm ET at TD Garden against the 12th ranked Huskies.