Simply put it, that was one heck of a hockey game. As is usually the case @ the Mullins Center, the UMass Minutemen gave the #6 Boston College Eagles everything they had but thanks to phenomenal penalty killing, a standout performance from Brian Billett, and a nice ruling from the officials, the Eagles return to Chestnut Hill with their 5th straight win and their 4th in Hockey East, catapulting them into first place.
Last weekend, we saw a BC team that dominated two sub-par opponents from start to finish. Tonight was a different story. I think it's fair to say that UMass isn't on the same playing field talent wise as BC but man did they play their hearts out tonight. They badly outplayed BC for much of the first period and were rewarded with a tap in rebound goal with just a 1:48 left in the stanza. I haven't seen the tape yet but it looked like UMass just got a nice bounce in front, maybe they just won a battle for the lose puck, and tapped it by Billett. It could have easily been a two or three goal lead for the Minutemen because BC was flat out lethargic for the whole first period. The only guy that looked like he was ready to play was in net.
The second period was much better, especially the middle part of it where it seemed BC had possession of the puck below the UMass blue line for five straight minutes. They cycled the puck well below the dots and forced freshman Mac Haight to make some pretty spectacular saves. The Eagles finally broke through when Isaac Macleod made a nifty pass to the front of the net where Johnny G was able to bang it by Haight. Bill Arnold did a good job of winning the faceoff, Macleod made a intelligent play to pinch in and "G" just did what he always does. The second BC goal came just four minutes later on the power play when Kevin Hayes banged home a rebound. It was BC's first power play goal of the season on the road. I thought the PP was average tonight. They had a couple of chances late in the second period to make it a two goal game but UMass made the plays when they needed to. The staff switched Teddy Doherty in for Ian McCoshen on the first unit for BC's final two power plays. I thought Doherty, as he usually is on the power play, was good.
The third period felt like it took three hours to complete. BC, like they have done way too often lately, got in some penalty trouble all period (four in the third) and UMass appeared to capitalize on Mike Matheson's third penalty of the night, just three minutes into the third. After Coach York called a timeout and asked the refs to review the play, they called it no goal. Micheletto and the rest of the UMass bench went absolutely nuts. During the post game press conference he asked the media to direct all questions about the no goal to the refs and he also stated that he would explore all options with the league. That's pathetic. You lost the game. Two guys were offsides by three feet, blame them, don't blame the refs. I can 100% assure you that if that happened to us, Coach York would not say anything like that. Just take it and move on.
Anyways, what I should really be talking about is Coach Ayer's penalty killing unit. They were sensational tonight, especially in the third period. Once Ian McCoshen took a tripping penalty with 1:30 left in the game, UMass called a timeout hoping to draw up a play for the game tying goal. BC had other ideas as they didn't allow UMass to enter the zone until there were nine seconds left in the game. They blocked eight shots in the third period, nineteen in total. Guys like Bill Arnold, Austin Cangelosi, and Isaac Macleod all played really well when BC was a man down.
All in all, it's a win but it sure as heck wasn't a "good" win. The biggest thing that I take away is that even though BC brought their C/B- game, they won a game in a tough environment. That wasn't the case a year ago. BC is a young team that is going to go through some tough times but it is extremely encouraging to me that they are finding way to win games, especially these league games. It's only a game and it's just two points but when you play like that against an inspired opponent and come away with a W, then you have to feel pretty good.
- Brian Billett. This was without a doubt his best game of the season. He may go again tomorrow depending on how Thatcher Demko’s hamstring is feeling. He didn’t dress tonight because of it.
- The penalty kill. They killed off all seven UMass power plays, including four in the third period.
- Too many penalties. I hate calling guys out but Mike Matheson has got to stay out of the box. He took three penalties tonight, one for an embellishment. The other two were just totally unnecessary. Hopefully he can cut down on them.
- Need more sustained pressure. There were two times tonight where BC constantly pressured UMass in their end for a good chunk of time. Other than that however, there were not a lot of odd man rushes or quality chances.
Player of the game- Brian Billett
Next Up- UMass tomorrow @ Kelly.