BOSTON — Freshman goaltender Matt O’Connor made 28 saves, and fellow rookie Danny O’Regan scored twice to lead Boston University past Massachusetts, 5-2. O’Regan first goal extended BU’s lead to 2-0 at the time, and his second marker pushed the advantage to 3-1. Sophomore Cason Hohmann continued his hot start scoring a pair of goals, including an empty-net goal to seal the win. Hohmann’s first came 43 seconds after UMass’ Joel Hanley cut the BU lead to 3-2.
The win helps the Terriers recover from last week’s 4-1 loss to New Hampshire. UMass, on the other, suffered its second consecutive defeat. Still winless in the league play, the Minutemen host BU Saturday night at the Mullins Center in Amherst.
What I Saw
- BU’s underclassmen were its best players once again. Against Providence on Oct. 13, Hohmann led the way for the Terriers with a goal and two assists in a 4-2 win over the Friars. O’Connor stopped 26 shots that night, and he continued his strong start on Friday night against UMass. O’Connor stopped 28 shots against the Minutemen, including 11 in a second period UMass controlled for long stretches. The Terriers upperclassmen are among some of the league’s best players. Wade Megan picked up his second goal of the season to open the scoring, and others put together strong efforts. It was O’Regan, Hohmann and several other BU underclassmen leading the way Friday night, though.
- The systematic differences between UMass under John Micheletto and Don “Toot” Cahoon may seem minor, but they were especially visible Friday night. UMass’ defensemen were more active on Friday than they typically played under Cahoon. With Joel Hanley, Darren Rowe and other blue lines with an offensive slant, it makes sense to loosen the reins. However, there’s an element of the judgement the UMass defensemen need to exercise to support their forwards without weakening the team on the back. The Terriers took advantage of the Minutemen in transition, and it cost UMass a shot at its first league points of the season.
- UMass’ most important forwards seemed off throughout the night. Conor Sheary picked up an assist on Hanley’s goal, and his line, which included Mike Pereira, possessed the puck throughout its shifts. Still, both Sheary and Pereira looked like they lacked something. Inserting bottom-six veteran Kevin Czepiel between the skilled forwards was an interesting decision for Micheletto. It didn’t pay off particularly well, though. Whether or not another center would have given the top line a lift is difficult to determine, but Czepiel is not the type of player to fill the pivot between dynamic players like Sheary and Pereira.
- At some point, of UMass’ three goalies has to put together a consistent performance. Steve Mastalerz made his second consecutive start Friday night, and he looked strong at times. Three of the Terriers’ four goals (not factoring in the empty-netter) can not be blamed on Mastalerz. BU’s fourth goal, however, changed the game entirely, and Mastalerz needs to make that save. Hohmann came in on a rush and fired a wrist shot from the circle. Mastalerz initially swallowed the puck before bobbling it just enough to allow Hohmann to swoop in and poke it through the five-hole. A save in that situation preserves the one-goal deficit with about 10 minutes left in regulation. Instead, BU leads, 4-2, and any momentum from Hanley’s goal is gone. Since Jon Quick departed in 2007, UMass has missed a clear No. 1 goaltender. Each player had his merits, but neither Mastalerz, Kevin Boyle of Jeff Teglia have been anything resembling consistent for UMass. Until one of those three becomes a goalie that can make important saves at the right times, it’s almost impossible for the Minutemen to compete in Hockey East.
- Both clubs seemed far too wiling to take bad penalties in such a contested game. A 5-2 score line makes the evening seem less competitive than it was, but players consistently put their teams at risk of losing the game after plainly dumb penalties. UMass’ Oleg Yevenko’s third-period crosscheck of Evan Rodrigues came after the puck had left the UMass zone, and Yevenko just wanted one last shove. Yevenko is 6-foot-7, and Rodrigues is 5-foot-9 – maybe. An entirely unnecessary hit gave BU an extended 5-on-3, which promptly resulted in O’Regan’s second goal of the night. Garrett Noonan took a similarly dumb crosschecking minor in the third period, costing the Terriers their best defenseman for two minutes in a close game.
- Officials seemed too eager to call bad penalties. There’s only one situation that really stands out, but it was a strange situation. With Noonan and Alexx Privitera in the box, the Minutemen were in good position to cut in BU’s then-3-1 lead. Shortly after play resumed, O’Connor lost his stick, and it drifted into the lower right face-off circle. Pereira skated into the space just as the stick arrived. Like hockey players when a dropped stick is in their way, Pereira shuffled it into the corner. That resulted in a two-minute minor for unsportsmanlike conduct. If that’s the rule, fine, but it seemed like a strange call.
“I thought it was a good hockey game. I thought our guys were good for 90 to 95 percent of the time. That’s real good as a student, but that’s not good enough in this league. We made critical mistakes at critical times, and they wound up in the back of the net. We certainly had a lot of positives, but we’ve got to realize that individual decision making has got to be better if we’re going to win a lot of games in this league.” – UMass coach John Micheletto
Micheletto is correct in saying UMass looked good for most of the game, but the same consistent lapses that cost them point after point after point a season ago crept into Friday’s loss. Unnecessary penalties, poor decisions to pinch, premature line changes or extended shifts have a way of hurting teams in Hockey East. Micheletto knows this as well as any other coach in this league, a team with 15 upperclassmen in the lineup should as well.
What They Didn’t Say
BU associate head coach Mike Bavis did not say whether or not BU head coach Jack Parker would be behind the bench on Saturday in Amherst. Parker is suffering from back problems, and watched the game from a box above the ice on Friday night. After the first period, more than 70 former BU players joined Parker on the ice to honor him as he serves his 40th season in charge of his alma mater’s program.