In a visit to a sold-out Mullins Center in Amherst, the Boston University men’s hockey team fell 4-2 to #2 University of Massachusetts on Friday night.
“I thought we competed hard,” said BU head coach Albie O’Connell. “That’s a good hockey team over there.”
After a 7-5 thriller that went UMass’ way in the two Hockey East sides’ first matchup on Friday, February 1, the Terriers (10-13-3, 8-7-2 Hockey East) were looking to avenge their loss a week later.
“We played them pretty tight in our building,” said O’Connell on the teams’ first meeting.
Senior captain Bobo Carpenter was unavailable for the forward’s fourth consecutive game due to injury, but his co-captain Dante Fabbro wasted no time in picking up the production for the Terriers’ injured leading goal scorer.
On the game’s first power play seven minutes in, sophomore forward Ty Amonte moved along an initial pass from freshman forward Joel Farabee. The puck came to Fabbro, who pounded it in for the junior defenseman’s sixth of the season, providing BU with the opening goal for the first time in eight games.
With BU holding the 1-0 lead after 20 minutes, the Minutemen (20-5, 12-3 Hockey East) were struggling to gain traction and challenge the Terrier defense as they had a week prior. Looking to spark his team just ahead of the period’s halfway point, UMass head coach Greg Carvel called a timeout, which proved to make all the difference for his Minutemen.
Only a mere ten seconds after the UMass timeout, the Minutemen found their equalizer. Fresh off a three-point performance against BU last Friday, sophomore forward John Leonard stickhandled his way to shooting position between the dots, and fired one in to level the game. The assist would go to freshman defenseman Marc Del Gaizo.
“They got a lot of momentum,” said Coach O’Connell about Leonard’s tally. “The crowd was really into it.”
Turning the tides quickly, the Minutemen would come up with a second goal less than two minutes after their first. Starting behind his own net, standout sophomore defenseman Cale Makar bolted the length of the ice, and fed junior forward Jack Suter for the easy finish to put UMass up 2-1.
“[Makar] blew by our entire team,” said O’Connell. “You [have to] tip your hat to that kid.”
The Minuteman lead would double at the 4:53 mark, as junior defenseman Jake McLaughlin knocked in a rebound to make the UMass advantagae 3-1. Terrier netminder Jake Oettinger made the initial save on the one-timer by Suter after senior forward Brett Boeing’s cross-ice pass, but there was nothing the junior keeper could to about McLaughlin’s close-range tap-in.
“They found a way to the net,” said Coach O’Connell, reflecting on the Minutemen’s offensive success.
Going into the second intermission, the Minutemen would hold a stunning 30-12 advantage in shots on goal. BU attempted an underwhelming four shots against UMass freshman goaltender Philip Lindberg in the second period – a total quadrupled by the Minutemen in the frame, who tested Oettinger with 16.
“That ended up costing us the game,” said O’Connell regarding the lopsided second period.
Despite two early third period power plays for the Terriers, it would be UMass who converted on their first man advantage of the game with eight minutes left in regulation. After Leonard and senior forward Jacob Pritchard hacked away in front, Marc Del Gaizo punched it in to tally his second point of the game and make the Minuteman lead three.
With less than a minute to play, sophomore Shane Bowers would score a brilliant individual goal on the penalty kill for BU. Showcasing elite speed and skill, the forward stormed into the UMass end and unleashed a laser past Lindberg to cut the lead to two. It was the tenth goal of Bowers’ season, becoming the third Terrier to reach the double-digit mark.
Bowers’ lone effort would be too little too late for the Terriers, and the game would conclude 4-2 in favor of the hosts. It would be the fourth consecutive loss for the Terriers, albeit with all four opponents ranked within college hockey’s top 20 teams – Arizona State, Northeastern, and UMass twice.
“I liked our effort overall,” said Coach O’Connell, remaining positive despite his team’s recent dip in form.
Historically, the series sweep by UMass would be the first time in team history that the Minutemen would come away with two wins over BU during the regular season.
“Our goal this year was to bring respect to this program,” said UMass’ Coach Carvel. “It’s a special group.”
With a short break before their next game, BU will turn their attention to Harvard ahead of their battle for third place in the Beanpot on Monday, aiming to snap their losing streak ahead of seven Hockey East contests to close out the regular season.
“I think if we compete well, we’ll be fine,” said O’Connell about his team going forward.
The Beanpot fixture with Harvard will be played at 4:30pm at the TD Garden on Monday, before BU set their sights on a weekend home-and-home series with the University of Connecticut next weekend.