AMHERST - The last time Boston College was at the Mullins Center, in early November, the Eagles arrived as the No. 1 hockey team in the nation. Last night they pulled onto the University of Massachusetts campus ranked No. 4. BC might be pleased to know there are no more trips to the western part of the state on the schedule.
T.J. Syner scored one of his two goals during a three-goal UMass spurt midway through the second period as the Minutemen took advantage of odd-man rushes to soar past BC, 4-0, before 5,823.
“We made some glaring errors,’’ said BC coach Jerry York. “It was like in football where you throw an interception that’s run back for 6.’’
The defeat dropped the Eagles to second place in Hockey East, as Boston University won last night at Northeastern. UMass moved up to seventh place.
“If we’re going to stay in the pennant race,’’ said York, “we’ve got to get some wins here.’’
If it’s any consolation to the Eagles (13-8-1, 9-5-1), UMass (8-8-5, 4-6-4) hasn’t been beating up on just them at Mullins. The Minutemen are unbeaten at home (6-0-3, vs. 0-7-2 on the road).
Handing BC just its second shutout this season was freshman Steve Mastalerz, making only his fourth start for UMass, his first since Nov. 19. Mastalerz had 35 saves and assisted on the game’s first goal, which was scored by Conor Allen at 6:18 of the second period, off a pass from Patrick Kiley. Mastalerz’s assist was the first by a Minuteman goalie since 2006.
“We had some pretty good puck luck,’’ said UMass coach Toot Cahoon. “And Mastalerz really helped keep us steady, especially early, when BC was carrying the game.’’
Just under three minutes after Allen’s goal came another UMass first, when Peter DeAngelo scored the Minutemen’s only shorthanded goal since 2009. After a steal at center ice, DeAngelo took a pass from Allen on a 2-on-1 break and put the puck past Brian Billett at 9:17, giving the Minutemen the momentum.
“It’s huge,’’ Allen said. “We’d just scored a goal, and to do that while shorthanded, you’re not going to get many of those on BC. It’s huge.’’
UMass didn’t have much time to celebrate. Just 41 seconds later it was a 3-0 game. The scoring play was much like the one before, but at even strength. This time it was Syner and Joel Hanley on the 2-on-1 break, and Syner scored his team-leading ninth goal.
At that point, York pulled Billett (10 saves) and replaced him with senior Chris Venti, who was making his first appearance of the year. “Brian played well,’’ said York. “But we just needed a momentum change.’’
They didn’t get it. Syner added the Minutemen’s fourth goal at 9:30 of the third. And that was that.
“We played with a lead,’’ said Cahoon. “That’s something we’ve worked really hard at. It’s something we didn’t do last year.’’
The opportunity to play with the lead was something that Cahoon and his players largely attributed not to the failings of the BC goalies but the stout performance of their own.
“Without a couple of big saves early by Steve,’’ said Allen, “that game could be over.’’
Cahoon told Mastalerz Thursday he would be starting against BC. “He deserved it, and he was up to it,’’ said Cahoon. “That made a huge difference, allowing us to escape the first period unscathed.’’
Well into that opening period, BC held a 12-2 edge in shots. The Eagles were the team putting their shots on net, however Mastalerz stood tall against every challenge.