The Takeaway: UMass Exorcises Demons, Beats BC

Posted by: Scott McLaughlin

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – For the third time this season, Massachusetts led Boston College in the third period. For the third time, the Eagles came back to tie the game. But unlike those first two games, when the Eagles went on to win, the Minutemen exorcised their demons and scored three times in the final seven minutes en route to a 5-2 victory. It marked their first win at Conte Forum since November 2007.

BC’s Steven Whitney tied the game 4:08 into the third off a nice backhand feed from Johnny Gaudreau, bringing on flashbacks to UMass’ blown leads in the first two meetings. But the Minutemen didn’t roll over this time. With 6:57 to go, Michael Pereira ducked a check along the boards, drove hard to the net, and buried his own rebound to give UMass the 3-2 lead. K.J. Tiefenwerth scored a minute later, and Branden Gracel sealed the win two minutes after that.

What I saw
-BC got three power plays in the game’s first five minutes, including two extended 5-on-3’s, but it was UMass that came out of all of it with a 1-0 lead. Steve Mastalerz made nine saves on the three power plays, including three or four on golden chances from right on top of the crease. After UMass finished killing the first two penalties, Rocco Carzo was able to force a turnover in the BC zone and feed Steven Guzzo in front for a shorthanded goal.

-The Minutemen took another penalty just two minutes after the goal, but they killed that one as well and were able to carry the momentum from the goal and the kills into the remainder of the period. They outplayed BC 5-on-5, and then Branden Gracel scored on a late power play to give UMass a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission. BC outshot UMass 14-5 in the first, but nine of those shots came on the early power plays. The Eagles struggled to generate chances 5-on-5 and found themselves chasing the puck for much of the period.

-Steve Mastalerz got his second straight start for the Minutemen, and he played well once again. He wasn’t tested much in the second and third periods, but he was the only reason BC came away from the four early power plays without a goal. The Eagles generated a bunch of good looks, but Mastalerz made several huge saves. The first was a great kick save on a rebound chance by Gaudreau. A minute later, he turned aside back-to-back rebound chances from Destry Straight and Kevin Hayes. Mastalerz’s numbers this season aren’t going to wow anyone (1-3-0, .859 save percentage), but he’s the hot hand right now. Whether he (or anyone else) can be the answer down the stretch could decide how far UMass goes this season.

What I thought
-The Eagles looked like they were sleep-skating for the vast majority of the second period, but they still managed to cut UMass’ lead in half before the second intermission. The Eagles’ 5-on-5 play in the first was sluggish, but they took the intensity down to another level in the second. They won very few 1-on-1 battles and just seemed uninterested in fighting their way back into the game. They were getting outshot 11-2 through the first 18 minutes of the period, but fortunately Parker Milner was there to bail them out and keep it a 2-0 game. Then with 1:16 left in the period, Travis Jeke found the back of the net with a shot through traffic during what was only the third or fourth real offensive zone possession for BC in the period.

-UMass’ top line of Michael Pereira, Branden Gracel and Conor Sheary played great. They combined for three goals and three assists and were the best line on either team all night. They scored UMass’ first goal when Gracel tipped Sheary’s shot from the point on the power play. Pereira scored what proved to be the game-winner with his great individual effort down the wing. Then Gracel closed out the scoring with his second goal, which came off a great drive to the net by Sheary. They got better and better as the game went on, and most of their shifts in the third period were spent in the offensive zone.

-BC’s defense is still a work in progress, as it has been since Patch Alber went down with a knee injury before the Mariucci Classic. On Friday, freshman Colin Sullivan, who had played every game until now, was a healthy scratch. Associate head coach Greg Brown said that Sullivan has been uneven at times and that they wanted him to watch a game from above. Brooks Dyroff, who has played forward all season, moved back to defense to replace him. Dyroff played OK, but he definitely showed some rust at times. The rest of BC’s defense struggled just as much, if not more, though. Isaac MacLeod and Michael Matheson were both a minus-2, and Matheson was the one who got beat by Pereira on the winning goal. Travis Jeke scored his first career goal, but he also got beat 1-on-1 by Sheary on UMass’ fifth goal. Patrick Wey took an interference penalty that negated a BC power play mere seconds after the Eagles had tied the game 2-2, effectively killing their momentum. And on top of all that, the forwards didn’t help matters either. Pat Mullane had the turnover that led to UMass’ first goal, and several other forwards committed bad turnovers that led to odd-man rushes.

What they said
-UMass coach John Micheletto on his seniors winning at Conte for the first time: “I didn’t know that until after the game. I think after the game, I certainly noticed it from them. It’s obviously a relief. There was some excitement that they were able to do that and get a bit of a monkey off their back. I think they feel good about the way that we’ve played in this building, at least the two games this year. I’m certainly happy for them. It’s something they can check off the list.”

-BC associate head coach Mike Cavanaugh: “We had the power plays early and had great looks. We really moved it and got terrific chances, and their kid made a couple real good saves. I think that gave them a little bit of a lift. I would say at the end of the first period, they outplayed us. We got back a little bit in the second. We got the big goal at the end of the period. Then when we tied the game, we’re going on the power play too. And it ended up being a six-second power play.”

What else you should know
-BC coach Jerry York missed a third straight game while recovering from eye surgery. He had a follow-up procedure done on Monday and is resting at home.

-With the loss, BC dropped to fourth in the Pairwise. The Eagles remain atop the Hockey East standings by two points, but New Hampshire now has two games in hand. With the win, UMass remained in seventh in the conference and became a Team Under Consideration.

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