NHL prospect Jack Eichel helps Boston University skate past UMass

Last modified: Tuesday, November 04, 2014

AMHERST — Entering the third period Friday night, the UMass hockey team owned the momentum, the man advantage and the opportunity to tie the score.

Just over six minutes into the period, the Minutemen trailed Boston University by four goals and wound up getting blown out 8-1 in their season opener at the Mullins Center.

UMass (0-1, 0-1 Hockey East) cut its deficit to one goal in the last minute of the second period, but allowed six tallies over the final 20 minutes.

“I was certainly happier with the first two periods,” UMass coach John Micheletto said. “You knew with two fairly young teams that momentum would be a huge factor. And how you wrestled with that momentum and dealt with it would be key to dictating the outcome. We did some nice things in fits and spurts, but overall BU was much better and we couldn’t elevate to their level.”

The No. 15/20 Terriers (1-0, 1-0 Hockey East) received outstanding collegiate debuts from a pair of freshmen.

Center Jack Eichel posted four points, all in the third period. The projected first-round NHL prospect scored two goals with two assists within an 11-minute span.

Also playing his first game was BU goalie Connor LaCouvee, who turned aside 31 of 32 UMass shots and displayed a strong glove hand all night.

UMass senior goalie Steve Mastalerz stopped 24 shots through two periods to keep the Minutemen within a goal. But he gave up four goals on nine shots to start the third before giving way to Henry Dill (two saves), who allowed the last two goals.

“I certainly didn’t expect this (score), but after we killed that penalty Jack makes two great plays and they go in the net,” BU coach David Quinn said. “We played really well in the first two periods, but weren’t as opportunistic as in the third. I thought we consistently drove the net well, which opened up space for our shooters.”

The Minutemen fell behind 2-0 midway through the second, but cut the deficit in half in the final minute of the period. A BU turnover led to Zack LaRue finding Jake Horton, who walked up the high slot and wristed one past LaCouvee to the stick side.

“They had a bit of a breakdown there, and we attacked the net the way you should,” Micheletto said. “Jake slid into a good spot, and he knows what to do with the puck in those dangerous areas.”

In the aftermath of that play, Terriers defenseman John MacLeod was called for roughing, giving the Minutemen an immediate opportunity to even it up.

UMass put three shots on LaCouvee but had no strong scoring chances.

“We didn’t generate enough energy on that power play, then we just got swallowed up by the wave of momentum,” Micheletto said. “The guys in the other shirts did a great job riding that wave. But I wasn’t too happy with how we reacted. That’s not who we are as a hockey team.”

The Minutemen failed to take advantage of having the game’s only three power plays.

Roughly 40 seconds after killing the penalty, Eichel took a feed from Brandon Fortunato, moved into the high slot and beat Mastalerz to make it 3-1.

Linemate Danny O’Regan (two goals, assist) and Eichel then set each other up for two more tallies over the ensuing four minutes as the Terriers put it out of reach.

“Jack’s a special player and he had a special game,” Quinn said. “But that whole top line is very talented and each guy should help the others.”

Robbie Baillargeon, Nikolas Olsson, Cason Hohmann and A.J. Greer each added a goal for BU.

“There’s a reason this is the best college hockey league in the country,” Micheletto said. “Every team we face will roll out talent like we saw in this game.

Evan Rodrigues assisted on three BU goals, including the first two. Baillargeon and Olsson took advantage of strong rushes by Rodrigues by crashing the net and banging in loose pucks in front.

“Our breakdowns seemed to lead directly to their goals,” Micheletto said. “On most of the goals they scored off the rush, we had numbers back. But responsibilities got clouded and the proper decisions were not made.”

UMass won 40 of 63 faceoffs, but struggled to maintain possession after the first five minutes of the game.

But the Minutemen weren’t without their chances. They had a 3-on-1 late in the first and a 2-on-1 in the second, but both times a BU defenseman broke up the play.

UMass hits the road for its next six contests, starting with games Oct. 17 and 18 at Michigan State.

“It’s difficult to swallow this, especially in the home opener,” Micheletto said. “But all we can do is move forward. We’re nowhere near being a finished product, and what we showed (Friday) isn’t what we’ll be by Thanksgiving.”

Michael Wilkinson can be reached at mwilkinson@gazettenet.com.


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