Top-seeded Boston College last night became the first team to punch its ticket to the Hockey East semifinals at TD Garden next weekend, beating No. 8 Massachusetts, 3-2, in front of 3,946 at Conte Forum, and sweeping the best-of-three series. It’s the third year in a row BC has beaten UMass in the quarterfinals.
BC junior goaltender Parker Milner (33 saves) had another excellent game, improving to 23-5-0.
“Historically, we’ve made some long runs in playoffs,’’ said BC coach Jerry York. “But the quarterfinal series, the one in your league to get you to the Garden, has always been extremely difficult. [UMass] always gives us a real battle. From our perspective, we played a lot better tonight than we did [Friday] and I’m very pleased with that. Tonight, we did a lot of pretty good things and we also got excellent goaltending from Parker.’’
UMass took the lead at 2:54 of the opening period when T.J. Syner backhanded a centering pass to sophomore right wing Conor Sheary, who was charging the net. Sheary’s shot beat Milner for his 12th of the season.
The goal ended a span of 687 minutes, 56 seconds during which BC did not trail, dating to the third period against New Hampshire Jan. 27.
At 3:07, sophomore center Bill Arnold was assessed a roughing penalty, putting BC down a man. But 32 seconds later, freshman center Steven Guzzo - the lone goal scorer for UMass on Friday night - was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for a hit from behind on BC junior defenseman Patch Alber.
During the ensuing four-on-four, the Eagles pulled even.
At 4:25, freshman left wing Johnny Gaudreau, who had two assists on Friday night, made a terrific feed to junior center Pat Mullane in the slot. Mullane snapped it past freshman goalie Kevin Boyle (19 saves) and it was 1-1.
After Arnold’s penalty expired, BC cashed in on the power play to take its first lead. Arnold set up the tally with a pass from the right to Paul Carey, who redirected it past Boyle for his 14th of the season.
The Minutemen fought back to tie with 1:57 left in the second. With UMass on the power play, Michael Marcou sent a quick pass to fellow blue liner Joel Hanley, who redirected it past Milner.
But the Eagles regained the edge for good with 49.1 ticks on the clock with the teams skating four a side.
Milner fired the puck out of the defensive zone to junior Chris Kreider up the right boards and into the UMass zone. Brian Dumoulin, the late man, charged into the slot. The big defenseman made a move inside on Marcou before firing a high wrister past Boyle to make it 3-2.
“What I saw coming off the bench, I just saw Kreids flying,’’ said Dumoulin. “Of course, he was the first one on the puck, he always is, and they were kind of changing a little bit. I saw a little opening down the middle and Kreids gave me a great pass. Kevin Hayes was back door if I decided to pass it, but this time I decided to shoot it and luckily it hit their [defenseman] and went top corner.’’
UMass coach Don Cahoon had a different perspective. He thought there should have been an icing on BC at least, or a BC penalty for hitting Syner from behind.
“I’ve never been more frustrated in all my life,’’ said Cahoon. “I’ve got 28 kids in that locker room that are absolutely devastated and don’t feel like they lost this series. We should still be playing out there right now, I don’t think there’s any question in the world. If you get a chance to look at that third goal, you won’t believe what you’d see. End of story.
“It was disgraceful. If Syner didn’t get hit from behind going behind the net to get the puck, then there should have been a huge embellishment penalty. If it wasn’t an icing, it was a hit from behind; if it wasn’t a hit from behind, it was embellishment. There’s no way of getting around it. And no one in this league or any league is going to tell me otherwise because it just ended our season. Absolutely disgraceful.’’