Three days removed from Boston College men’s hockey’s second consecutive last-place finish in the Beanpot—the first time the Eagles have gone 0-2 in the annual tournament in back-to-back seasons since 1974-75—BC was once again in unfamiliar territory. Entering the third period at the Mullins Center, the Eagles trailed Massachusetts, a team that they had beaten eight times in a row, 2-1. Then came a unprecedented scoring outburst: For the first time all year, head coach Jerry York’s crew exploded for four goals in the third frame—three of which were tallied by the Finnish twins, Jesper and Julius Mattila—leading BC to a 5-2 win.
Not only did the 20-minute revival get the Eagles back in the win column, but it also guaranteed them a top-four finish in the final Hockey East regular season standings, meaning that BC will have a first round bye in the conference playoffs.
Right from the start of the game, the Minutemen (13-17-2, 7-13-2 Hockey East) and the No. 19 Eagles (15-13-3, 15-6-0) came out ready to fight. Despite BC winning the faceoff, UMass only spared 36 seconds until it dropped the hammer: The Minutemen quickly took control as Jake Gaudet cut to the left circle and scored his sixth goal of the season, handing UMass its first lead of the game. Just four minutes later, BC retaliated with an equalizer from Jacob Tortora. The freshman collected a rebound and sniped the puck off the crossbar into the back of the net.
The Eagles carried their momentum throughout the rest of the period. Although BC had only racked up one goal, it had grossly outshot the Minutemen, 8-1, over the course of the opening 11 minutes of play, bombarding goaltender Matt Murray in between the pipes. UMass’s only shot during that span? Gaudet’s game-opening goal.
Toward the end of the first, the momentum shifted in favor of the Minutemen, as Jack Suter, John Leonard, Cale Makar, and Ivan Chukarov each forced BC netminder Joseph Woll to make consecutive saves. The Eagles finally found some relief with a timeout following Woll’s final stop, giving themselves a breather.
With 2:35 left in the period, BC was given its second power play, as UMass’s Makar took a seat for some after-the-whistle aggression with Graham McPhee. Despite the advantage, the Eagles could not convert and the period ended with the game tied.
UMass started the second period off on the wrong foot, as Niko Hildenbrand received his second penalty of the night. Yet, once again, for the third time of the night, the Eagles came up empty on the power play. After roughly 10 minutes of back-and-forth hockey, the Minutemen made their move.
BC found itself battling its way back into the game with 10:08 left in the period with a goal-scoring opportunity from Casey Fitzgerald. The Eagles swarmed the Minutemen zone, and Fitzgerald ripped a shot that rang off the crossbar, leaving Murray barely hanging on. Fitzgerald’s shot caught iron and may have changed direction, giving BC hope of a goal, but the officials ruled that the puck didn’t actually cross the goal line, and the game remained tied.
Just two minutes later, the Eagles paid the price for playing with the puck in their defensive zone: A failed BC clear landed right on the stick of George Mika alone in front of Woll, who scored and brought the Minutemen a 2-1 lead.
From there, UMass continued to dominate, outshooting the Eagles, 12-7, in the period. The Minutemen finally received their first power play of the game with 45.3 seconds left in the second period. Although UMass was unable to convert, it entered the third period with 1:15 left on the power play.
The Minutemen’s penalty expired with no result, and the increasingly physical game proceeded. UMass picked up its fourth penalty, as Griff Jeszeka was given a five-minute major for hitting Ron Greco from behind. Penalties had been a problem for UMass up to that point, but not one of them had cost the Minutemen on the scoreboard.
That was, until the 13-minute mark. Logan Hutsko took the puck to the back of the goal and found David Cotton camped out in front of the net. Cotton slotted it home, scoring the Eagles’ first power play of the game, an equalizer.
After continuing to control the game for the next few minutes, BC took the lead for the first time all night with just under six minutes left. A charge up the middle of the ice turned into a 3-on-1 for the Eagles, with Tortora setting up Jesper Mattila for his fourth goal of the season, bringing BC to a 3-2 lead.
The Minutemen immediately responded with a dangerous scoring opportunity, forcing Woll to make the save after taking advantage of an Eagles turnover in their defensive zone. Their fortune soon ran out, though, as Hutsko moved the puck forward with no one but Julius Mattila on his hip and Murray to beat. The freshman slid the puck to Julius, who then matched his twin brother with a goal of his own, marking the second Eagles goal in a span of 40 seconds.
On top of that, BC slotted another one home in the final two minutes: Julius Mattila was credited with his second of the game and 10th of the season with an empty-netter that bounced in off a deflected shot.
Thursday night’s game served as a reminder that while York had to be disappointed in his team’s Beanpot performance, the group’s NCAA Tournament chances are still very much alive. By locking up a first round bye in the Hockey East playoffs, the Eagles are one step closer to their 14th conference championship.
Featured Image by Josh Mentzer / Heights Staff