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UMass hockey visits No. 2-ranked Boston College Friday

AMHERST — Twice this season, the University of Massachusetts hockey team has had Boston College on the ropes and twice the Minutemen haven’t been able to finish off the knockout.

They’ll try to avoid the sweep today at 7 p.m. at Conte Forum in Boston.

On Oct. 19 at the Mullins Center, UMass lead 3-0 going into the third period, but BC outscored the Minutemen 4-1 in the third period. Johnny Gaudreau popped in the game winner 3 minutes, 37 seconds into overtime as the Eagles prevailed 5-4.

On Nov. 4 at Conte Forum, UMass took a 2-1 lead early in the third, but couldn’t hold on and fell 3-2 in a building where the Minutemen haven’t won since 2007.

“Playing there we’ve had great games. We’ve never gotten blow out there. As a team we have to mentally prepare and be able to close a game,” senior captain Kevin Czepiel said. “We had them on the ropes last time and we kind of let them go. We’ve matured a lot since then. If we’re in that same situation I think it would be a different outcome.”

Reversing that outcome won’t be easy. The Eagles (13-4-2, 10-3-1 Hockey East) are ranked No. 2 in the country and are in first place in the conference. BC is 1-2-1 over its last four games.

“Boston College is a good team. Good teams tend to be good at home,” UMass coach John Micheletto said. “We’re respectful, but not overly respectful. We have enough swagger in our game. This time the thought is to get the lead and hold the lead.”

Gaudreau, a sophomore forward, leads BC in scoring with 26 points, which is good for second in Hockey East. His 12 goals lead the conference. Senior Pat Mullane (10 goals, 13 assists) isn’t far behind. The Eagles lead Hockey East in scoring at 3.42 goals per game, helped by a league-best power play that has scored 25 percent of the time.

Goalie Parker Milner hasn’t been as sharp as in previous years, but his 13-4-2 record, 2.43 goals against average and .921 save percentage has been plenty good enough with the roster that’s in front of him.

UMass (7-11-2, 4-8-1) has nine points in Hockey East after coming away empty last weekend against Providence. The Minutemen are one point behind Vermont (3-8-4), which doesn’t play a league game this weekend. Northeastern (3-8-2), which plays at BU Friday and hosts BC Sunday, is a point back of UMass.

“Coming off last weekend, that’s what makes this game so important,” Czepiel said. “We have just one game this weekend. It’s all we’ve got. We’ve got to make it count.”

This game was initially scheduled to include a ceremony to honor BC coach Jerry York for becoming college hockey’s all-time leader in wins. But York had eye surgery Monday and is expected to miss tonight’s game. Associate coach Mike Cavanaugh and Greg Brown have led the Eagles in York’s absence.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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