Minutemen take it to Terriers
UMass finally earns road win
UMass has had a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde season. At the Mullins Center, the Minutemen have been fierce competitors, earning 7-2-3 record. But last night, they took an 0-9-2 road mark into Agganis Arena against top-ranked Boston University.
In 10 Hockey East road matchups this season, the Minutemen had mustered only two points (0-8-2). But they had proven to be very good at slaying the dragon.
On Nov. 5, they faced Boston College, which was ranked No. 1 at the time, and beat the Eagles at the Mullins Center, 4-2.
They did it again last night, beating the lackluster Terriers, 3-2, in front of 4,799 for their first road victory of the season.
It was a special night for UMass coach Don Cahoon, not only because of the win but because he and his former teammates were honored as part of BU’s 1971 and ’72 NCAA championship teams.
“All of those guys are very, very special guys in my life,’’ said Cahoon. “College hockey was a different game then, for sure. The joy of seeing them whenever we do get together is beyond description.’’
Cahoon said it was nice to not have to explain any longer why his team didn’t have a road win.
“To be honest with you, I think that whole thing is so silly,’’ he said. “We play as well as we do sometimes at home, especially this year, and then go on the road and keep throwing out duds. It started right in the first game of the year. That monkey’s off our back and we’re just moving forward.’’
The Minutemen (10-12-5, 6-10-4) took the lead at 7:14 of the opening period during a power play. Troy Power landed the initial shot on goaltender Kieran Millan, but sophomore center Branden Gracel was there in the slot for the rebound, which he backhanded past Millan (34 saves) for his sixth tally of the season.
The Terriers (17-9-1, 13-7-1) pulled even a little more than two minutes later. The puck was at the left post and Alex Chiasson and Matt Nieto had cracks at it. Nieto’s nudge put it into the crease, and freshman netminder Kevin Boyle (33 saves) appeared to lose track of it. Senior center Chris Connolly swooped in and rapped home the loose puck for his fifth of the year at 9:31.
UMass applied heavy pressure in the early stages of the second period. At 1:30, Conor Sheary made a terrific pass to sophomore defenseman Joel Hanley, who was racing down the slot. Hanley tried to beat Millan through the five-hole, but the goalie squeezed his pads together.
There was a brief delay at 6:17 when a broken pane of glass had to be replaced, but play resumed after a few minutes.
The Minutemen regained the lead on their second man-advantage goal.
Danny Hobbs tested Millan with a bid. However, Millan couldn’t get back into position in time to stop Hanley, who buried the rebound into an empty net from the left side of the crease at 12:47.
BU had a chance to tie it when Nieto took off on a shorthanded breakaway, but Boyle didn’t yield.
Millan, who was the Terriers’ best player, had to fend off a furious series of chances with about 5 1/2 minutes left.
Sophomore left wing Michael Pereira made it 3-1 on an empty-net goal with 55.8 seconds remaining.
The Terriers pulled within one on Chiasson’s goal with 4.1 seconds left.
“We started off OK,’’ said BU coach Jack Parker. “We just were horrible in the second period, and got worse in the third. A lot of that had to do with their speed, their quickness, and their determination, and we didn’t match it.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.