Late BC breakaway drops UMass hockey, takes conference title out of their hands

  • Lucas Mercuri, shown earlier this season, scored Saturday against Boston College, but the Eagles denied the UMass hockey team the Hockey East championship for the second night in a row. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/5/2022 8:22:06 PM

AMHERST – One odd man rush too many ripped the Hockey East regular season championship trophy from the UMass hockey team’s hands.

Boston College’s Patrick Giles carried the puck from his own left circle all the way to the circles in UMass’ zone unimpeded and roofed a wrist shot past UMass goalie Matt Murray for the game-winning goal with 3 minutes, 22 seconds left.

The Eagles won 4-3 on Saturday at the Mullins Center to deny the Minutemen a chance to clinch the conference regular season title for the second night in a row. No. 9 UMass (19-12-2, 14-7-2 Hockey East) needed two points in the two games Friday and Saturday and earned none.

“I thought we deserved a better fate (Saturday). The way we gave up the game winning goal is really frustrating to me,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “For a big portion of the game we were a dominant team. Just one of those days, but we’ve had too many of them.”

When the final buzzer sounded, the Minutemen still had a chance to finish atop the standings depending on later results. 

“It’s a really crappy thing to have to do. I’m not going to look at scores. Nobody wants to back into any kind of championship,” Carvel said. “Nine o’clock I’ll probably look at my phone and see where we stand.”

They’re the No. 2 seed in the Hockey East tournament after Northeastern beat Merrimack 1-0 on an Aidan McDonough goal with 9.6 seconds remaining delivered the Huskies the game and the championship. UMass will host the second-highest remaining seed after the first round concludes in the quarterfinals Saturday.

“I don’t know if there’s much to say,” UMass captain Bobby Trivigno said after the game against BC. “We’ve said a lot all season, and it’s just gotta be proven with our play, consistently. The older guys, senior guys who’ve had these deep playoff runs and those championship games are for sure gonna lead by example.” 

UMass went down two goals twice against the Eagles but fought back to tie the game in the third period. The Minutemen created far more chances but couldn’t beat BC goalie Eric Dop (42 saves) enough times.

“BC did a really good job collapsing around their net. Their defense was really battling,” Carvel said. “It was a pretty rough weekend, we’ve got some guys pretty banged up, but it’s playoff hockey. We now have to be desperate.”

BC (14-17-5, 9-12-3) sped out to a 2-0 lead in the game’s first nine minutes with two goals less than five minutes apart. Jack McBain opened the scoring at 3:57 after crashing the net following a Marc McClaughlin breakaway miss. Brandon Kruse also received an assist on the play.

UMass went down a goal and a man on the play after Reed Lebster was whistled for hitting from behind. It was the first of two first-period power plays for the Eagles. 

The Minutemen killed it, but they went on the penalty kill again a minute later after Cal Kiefiuk went to the box for a cross check at 6:56. BC capitalized with just five seconds left in the power play. Patrick Giles deflected a Marshall Warren blast past Murray to double the lead. Nikita Nesterenko also picked up an assist.

“They’re a good team. If you make mistakes, they’re going to score,” UMass senior Anthony Del Gaizo said. “They got off to a good start. We responded well , but we just couldn’t hold on.”

The two-goal hole summoned the desperation UMass has struggled to play with consistently this season. 

Freshman Lucas Mercuri cut BC’s lead in half with a deflection at 12:35. He redirected a Ryan Lautenbach attempt. Matthew Kessel also picked up an assist on the play.

The Minutemen finished with more shots (17) than BC (14) in the period and won 13-of-23 faceoffs.

UMass largely controlled the second period, putting 14 shot on goal compared to three by the Eagles. The Minutemen parked the puck in BC’s zone but couldn’t put a puck past Dop.

BC pushed its lead back to two goal early in the third, sucking the juice out of the Mullins Center with a give and go on a 2-on-1 rush. Nikita Nesterenko gave the puck up to Colby Ambrosio on his left. Ambrosio drew Murray’s attention then whipped it back to Nesterenko for a one-timer 1:48 into the third.

“We were all over them and had all the momentum. We talked about it before the weekend: don’t give them free offense,” Carvel said. “We were playing great. They couldn’t do anything. We didn’t make them work hard enough to score. They don’t need to work hard. They have tremendous ability. When they get a breakaway it’s going to go bar down. I’ve seen it for six years now. We can’t give that up.”

A minute and 21 seconds later, UMass earned a power play from Drew Helleson’s boarding penalty. It only took the Minutemen eight seconds to rein the Eagles in once again. Anthony Del Gaizo redirected a Kessel power play shot. Aaron Boehlinger added an assist.

Then freshman Scott Morrow’s propensity for timely goals showed again. The freshman second-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes tied the game with 9:51 remaining on a gnarly wrist shot following a toe drag. 

SENIOR DAY – After the game, UMass honored seven players that just skated in their final regular season game at the Mullins Center: seniors Anthony Del Gaizo, Ty Farmer, Colin Felix, Bobby Trivigno and Garrett Wait and graduate students Cam Donaldson and Matt Murray.

“It was important for the team to appreciate the work they’ve put in and what they contributed to the program as whole,” Trivigno said. “We would have liked to get it on a win, but it’s good appreciate all the seniors.”

Del Gaizo, Farmer, Felix and Trivigno presided over the most successful four-year stretch in UMass hockey history. They won a Hockey East regular season title and went to the Frozen Four as freshmen, posted a 21-win season that got cut short of the playoffs as sophomores when COVID shut the world down and won a Hockey East Tournament championship and national title last season as juniors.

“It’s muffled by the result of the game, unfortunately, because those four last kids, are all the same kid to me. They all were passed over and nobody really wanted them. (Former associate head coach) Ben Barr and Jared DeMichael saw the right qualities in them. I give them more credit than anybody for us winning the national championship,” Carvel said. “They were the heartbeat of our team. They’re awesome kids, and I’m gonna miss them.”

Director of Analytics Katy Yates (a grad student joining the Philadelphia Flyers) and senior manager Noah Janofsky were also honored.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.
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