CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Michael Matheson and Patrick Brown game-tying and game-winning goals in a 7-minute, 10-second span to lead Boston College past Massachusetts, 3-2, Sunday at Conte Forum. The Minutemen took a 2-1 lead at 1:42 of the third period on a Troy Power goal, but they wasted a late lead for the second time this season against the Eagles.
The Eagles took a 1-0 lead just 1:23 into the game on a Bill Arnold power-play goal, and Steven Guzzo answered midway through the period with an extra-man marker of his own. UMass goaltender Kevin had another strong outing, stopping 28 shots, including 14 in the first period. BC’s Parker Milner made 29 saves. However, the biggest saves of the game should be credited to BC defenseman Isaac MacLeod. With UMass leading, 2-1, Milner fell just outside his crease, but MacLeod dropped to his knees on the goal line, stopping shots from Michael Pereira and Branden Gracel to keep the deficit at one.
What I Saw
- BC’s freshman defenseman don’t look like freshmen. Even with the goal from Matheson, this wasn’t the best game for BC’s young group of blue liners. Matheson, Teddy Doherty and Colin Sullivan are all capable of becoming premier defensemen in college hockey, and it almost seems inevitable that they will. Neither of them were perfect on Sunday. They struggled at times with UMass’ speedy forwards. Guzzo caught Matheson flat-footed on UMass’ first goal. Guzzo won a faceoff back to Joel Hanley and headed straight for the net. Milner saved Hanley’s shot, but Guzzo was all alone to slide the rebound home. Occasional mistakes happen with all players and even first-round draft picks will see those problems more often as freshmen. Regardless, Matheson recovered from the early mistake to play a strong game, including the game-tying goal at 9:13 of the third period. Again, none of the trio were spectacular on Sunday, but they all look extremely comfortable on the ice.
- Conor Sheary may have been the most dangerous player on the ice. Sheary didn’t record a point in the game, but the gifted winger continued an impressive start to his junior season. Playing on the right wing next to Guzzo and UMass captain Rocco Carzo, Sheary consistently finds his teammates open and takes advantage of even the smallest openings to create offensive. Against BC, he recorded five shots on goal, while Guzzo and Carzo took two and three respectively. Seven of the nine shots the line took came from Grade-A, including Guzzo’s goal. Friday night, Sheary scored UMass’ first goal in a 2-1 win over New Hampshire in Amherst. As a group, Sheary, Guzzo and Carzo work well together and have established themselves as a high-quality scoring line.
- UMass ran out of energy late in this game. The Minutemen play a high-energy brand of hockey. Under John Micheletto, the changes to the UMass style have been minor. However, there is a greater level of aggression, and UMass has struggled to finish close games. At this point, it’s cost them as many as six points in Hockey East play. No team in the country is at its peak from a conditioning standpoint yet. But UMass may be a bit ill-conditioned to beat the more talented sides in the league with its style at this point. If conditioning isn’t the issue, and that’s certainly a possibility, then UMass just isn’t ready to beat first-rate teams.
What I Thought
- Kevin Boyle had another spectacular game for UMass. Twenty-eight saves isn’t a startling total, but saving 14 of 15 shots in the first period gave UMass a chance to take two points from the Eagles. BC out-shot UMass 15-10 in the first, but the run of play slanted even further in BC’s favor. The score very easily could have been 3-1 or 4-1 after the first period, but Boyle calmly kept his team level. Despite the two late goals from BC, UMass may very well have lost this game by failing to tally a couple in the second period. UMass’ skating and uncharacteristically efficient defensive zone play minimized BC’s possession time and scoring chances. The late goals Boyle allowed will overshadow his performance on Sunday, but this was a fourth-consecutive very good start for the sophomore. Through four starts, Boyle has a .932 save percentage and a 1.99 goals-against average. The numbers say everything they need to, but UMass is just 2-2-0 in those four games. Despite the record, Boyle may be rounding into the No. 1 goaltender this team has spent the last 13 months trying to find.
- There were four penalties called on Sunday. Both teams had two power plays and both teams scored on one of their power plays. To be honest, I can’t think of a single time where there was a blatant penalty missed. Steven Whitney’s usual nonsense behind the play aside, it seems like both clubs just exercised superb discipline on Sunday. UMass entered the game average 12.2 penalty minutes per game, BC with an even 13. With a different set of officials or on another day, some of the borderline infractions may have led to penalties. For UMass, avoiding penalties is especially important. UMass’ penalty kill is at just 80.8 percent after Sunday’s 1 for 2.
- After two periods, UMass led BC in faceoffs with a 20-16 advantage. In the third period, this evened out with both clubs winning 13. Both clubs perform well in the face-off circle. On the year, UMass is 56 percent, and BC wins almost 54 percent. Had UMass maintained its advantage at the dot in the third, Sunday’s game may have turned slightly different. The Eagles’ skill and some fortunate bounces led to their two goals in the period. But UMass’ strong second period had a lot to do with its consistent possession of the puck, much of which began with faceoff wins. Allowing the Eagles win half of the draws in the second may have ultimately cost UMass two points on Sunday.
What They Said
“We keep grinding. We’re going to play the 60 minutes, sometimes the 65 minutes. There was no panic when (UMass) went ahead, 2-1. … We just keep plugging, and we got a break (on the second goal) with Matheson joining the rush. (Brown’s line), we’re counting on them. A lot of our players had a chance to win the game. All of a sudden, a defensive, checking line gets the win for us.” – BC coach Jerry York
York’s BC teams’ succeed because they’re almost always better than their opponents late in games. On Sunday, the Minutemen dominated a lengthy stretch of the game, but BC still came out with the win. After UMass took its 2-1 lead, BC patiently waited for the chance it needed to win and took it. The game-winner eventually came from Brown, a player with exactly one career goal entering Sunday’s game. The Minutemen can learn something from the Eagles’ ability to calmly close out wins.
What They Didn’t Say
Micheletto did not say who would start UMass’ game against Providence on Friday. If the weekend’s games factor into the decision, though, Boyle should get the not. Against BC, his 28 saves on 31 shots positioned UMass to get a win. Similarly, he stopped 25 shots on Friday in a 2-1 overtime win over UNH. His numbers on the year are impressive, and he’s played in UMass’ two wins this season. His other two starts both ended in 3-2 UMass losses to BC on Sunday and Boston University last weekend. Last season, Boyle, Steve Mastalerz and Jeff Teglia shared starts, and none of them even played well enough on a consistent basis to warrant a No. 1 job. Boyle has strung together four starts that suggest he can be that guy for the Minutemen. Now, it’s Micheletto’s decision as to whether or not Boyle will be the guy moving forward.
What Else You Should Know
- BC is back in action at Conte Forum, hosting Notre Dame on Friday night. The game will be BC’s first non-conference tilt of the season. Following Friday’s game, BC travels up Commonwealth Avenue for its first game of the season with BU.
- UMass hosts Providence Friday night in the first meeting of the season between the clubs.
- UMass has not won at Conte Forum since Nov. 17, 2007.
- With the win on Sunday, York now has 919 in his career – five shy of tying Ron Mason’s 924.