AMHERST — Hockey East coaches acknowledge that playing in the Mullins Center is challenging. The building is loud, the student section is enormous, and there was no doubt No. 3 Boston College went into Friday night’s game with a bull’s-eye on its back.
The Eagles ended the Minutemen’s season in March, so revenge was on the home team’s mind. For most of the game, it appeared UMass would have it.
UMass was staked by a largely terrific performance by sophomore Steve Mastalerz (37 saves), although he couldn’t hold the lead in front of a packed crowd of 7,678.
The late-game heroics gave BC a 1-1-0 record and prevented the Eagles from losing back-to-back games to open a season for the first time since 1996-97, coach Jerry York’s third season.
“It was a game of almost two halves,’’ said York. “UMass certainly had the better of the first half of the game. I thought we started to get back into the game and had an excellent third period. Pat Mullane really led the charge back. We knew it would be a difficult game, but we didn’t want to start it 3-0 down.’’
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for BC, which will raise its championship banner Saturday night prior to taking on Northeastern at Conte Forum.
On Friday night, the Eagles had an early opportunity to cash in when UMass’s Joel Hanley was whistled for hitting Quinn Smith from behind, earning a game misconduct and five-minute major at 1:35 of the opening period.
But the Eagles couldn’t generate much against UMass’s aggressive penalty killing.
The Minutemen took the lead at 8:46. Mike Busillo made an excellent cross-ice feed to Rocco Carzo, who backhanded in a shot from the right circle for his first tally of the season.
UMass had a chance for more on Conor Allen’s point-blank bid with 35 seconds left in the first , but Parker Milner (20 saves) turned it back.
BC had an opportunity to tie it at 1:18 of the second during a power play, but a bid by Kevin Hayes rattled off the crossbar.
UMass doubled its lead at 3:43. With BC’s Patch Alber off for tripping, Allen cashed in with a shot from the left side.
The Minutemen made it 3-0 when Carzo struck at 13:20. It marked the first multigoal game of Corzo’s 96-game career.
BC’s Bill Arnold ended the shutout bid at 1:11 of the third.
BC ratcheted up the pressure at 8:26 when sophomore right wing Destry Straight found an opening on Mastalerz from just outside the left post.
But only 1:09 later, the Minutemen regained their two-goal cushion when defenseman Darren Rowe lifted a shot past Milner at 9:35 to make it 4-2.
Mullane scored at 16:44, and he brought the Eagles all the way back at 17:54, when he converted a centering pass from Gaudreau to tie it.
Gaudreau then decided it when he bunted in a rebound after a Mullane redirect bid.
UMass lost center Michael Pereira to injury in the extra session. Word on his condition wasn’t immediately available.