After faltering in the Beanpot Championship against Northeastern, Boston College men’s hockey entered a season-defining series against No. 3 Massachusetts. In the weekend opener of the home-and-home, in front of a sold out Mullins Center, the Eagles had a very strong showing in a back-and-forth game—but it ultimately ended in heartbreak as they blew an early lead and eventually fell in the final seconds, 4-3.
In the midst of a crowded battle across the Hockey East standings, BC (10-15-3, 9-6-3 Hockey East) was close but unable to make a statement against UMass (22-6-0, 14-4-0), a program attempting to remain atop the conference table. The Eagles jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but the Minutemen rallied and eventually retook the lead midway through the third period. When BC seemed destined for a third-straight loss, however, its power play led to a great chance right in front of the net, and David Cotton—fresh off a strong performance against the Huskies—slipped one past Matt Murray and racked up his 17th goal of the season to even things up at three apiece.
The final 20 seconds came around, and BC had the puck in its own zone—it appeared as if it would send the game into overtime and at the very least pick up a much-needed point. After a few errant passes, UMass would make one final push, though. Two quick shots on Joseph Woll (26 saves), and the ensuing herd of players on the ice next to him left the goalie on his side without a stick, inept and unable to shift over quickly. Minutemen forward Mitchell Chaffee gathered, curled around the net, and fed Jake McLaughlin who one-timed the puck past Woll, who’d left the right post exposed. The clock read 2.3 seconds left, and it left BC staring up at the ceiling after suffering a defeat by the slimmest of margins.
The Eagles came out fast, despite a hostile road environment—the reported attendance was just short of 8,000. It took just 3:54 for BC to get on the board, as Casey Fitzgerald cut in and beat Murray top right for the game’s first goal. The Eagles looked to have momentum, backed by a decent forecheck and their ability to make zone entries difficult for UMass early on. Still, the Minutemen had their share of scoring chances thereafter, including one that warranted a frantic diving save by Woll after an odd deflection off the boards.
Later in the period, BC went on the one-man advantage after UMass’ Cale Makar was whistled for a slashing penalty. The Eagles were able to masterfully run their power play, a nice surprise from their usual stagnant special teams attack. J.D. Dudek and Christopher Brown combined to set up Connor Moore for a tic-tac-toe goal, with the shot coming with a quarter of the net wide-open after the quick sequence.
Just after getting out of the penalty box, Makar—the NHL’s No. 4 overall pick in 2017—redeemed himself and was quick to strike back for the Minutemen. Makar was on a 2-on-1 with Chaffee and punctuated it by slipping a low shot right past Woll to get on the board.
Momentum began to swing in UMass’ favor in the second period, as the Minutemen continuously pushed to keep the puck in their offensive zone and get quality shots. UMass had an 11-6 edge in shots in the middle period, and it ultimately resulted in a two-goal surge and, consequently, its first lead of the night.
BC nearly killed off a slashing penalty, but came up just short. UMass was moving the puck with ease and eventually cashed in with the one-man advantage eight minutes into the third period. It was Makar again, setting up teammate John Leonard for a one-timer on Woll’s weak side. A little over than two minutes later, the Minutemen won a big face off in their own zone—UMass had a decisive 36-27 advantage in the face off circle—and instantly found offense with a quick pass and goal, as Philip Lagnov easily buried a point-blank one-timer.
The third period was defined by parity, with BC holding a slight 11-10 edge in shots, but the game seemed primed for overtime after Cotton’s late goal. Yet the Eagles cracked at the last possible moment, sinking nine points back of the Minutemen in the Hockey East standings. In a season that has been defined by frustration and struggles to execute on the biggest stages, BC once again narrowly missed out on what could’ve been a stretch-run defining victory.
Featured Image by Kayla Brandt / For The Heights