Friday night was supposed to be a celebration of Boston College coach Jerry York’s achievement for earning the record for Division 1 victories (926) in his 41-year career.
But the honor had to be postponed because the veteran bench boss was absent, missing his second consecutive weekend because of a second medical procedure to correct a detached retina. Associate head coaches Mike Cavanaugh and Greg Brown handled the coaching reins.
Turned out there was not much to cheer about as unranked Massachusetts upset No. 2 BC, 5-2, winning at Conte Forum for the first time since Nov. 17, 2007. The loss snapped the Eagles’ home winning streak against the Minutemen at 13 games.
The Eagles (13-5-2, 10-4-1 Hockey East) missed the opportunity to sweep the season series, finishing 2-1. For the Minutemen (8-11-2, 5-8-1), who squandered a two-goal lead but then turned on the jets to score the final three, it was a step in their development.
“Losing a lead in the third period [against BC] a couple of times in the early part of the season is something we didn’t want to taste anymore,’’ said UMass coach John Micheletto, whose team killed off all six BC power plays. “We’ve talked a lot about the mental toughness part of not letting games get away from you when you’re in control and playing better. We were just reminding our guys of what it takes to be a champion and ultimately that’s what we’re striving for. Tonight was a good test for our guys in that regard and it was a lesson well-learned.’’
It was a rocky start and finish for the home team. UMass had five shots on net in the opening 20 minutes, as opposed to 14 for BC, but took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
BC struggled on the power play early. The team had a two-man advantage for 57 seconds but couldn’t convert. The Eagles had a 35-second one as well not long after the first one expired but had nothing to show for that either.
Just four seconds before the five-on-four expired, UMass took the lead on a shorthanded strike, taking advantage of a BC turnover.
Senior left wing Rocco Carzo dished a pass to sophomore center Steven Guzzo, who was perched on the doorstep, and he popped it past senior goaltender Parker Milner (21 saves) at 6:35.
The second goal by the Minutemen came with less than a minute left in the period. With BC captain Pat Mullane in the penalty box for interference, junior center Branden Gracel tipped in a shot by senior defenseman Darren Rowe with 55.4 seconds remaining.
BC cut the deficit in half at 18:44 of the second period on the first collegiate goal by freshman defenseman Travis Jeke. Junior left wing Kevin Hayes dished a pass to Jeke, who was atop the right circle. Jeke’s shot through a screen beat sophomore netminder Steve Mastalerz (21 saves).
The Eagles fought to tie it, 2-2, at 4:08 of the third. Senior right wing Steven Whitney came from behind the net and jammed in a shot on his backhand from just outside the right post.
But the remaining offensive power belonged to UMass. At 13:03, Michael Pereira drove wide on the defense in the right circle and then cut into the middle. His first shot hit off a BC defender but he got his own rebound and beat Milner.
With 5:49 remaining, Shane Walsh took a shot from the slot, which Milner saved, but K.J. Tiefenwerth cashed in on the rebound and it was 4-2. Gracel scored his second of the night at 16:26 to seal the deal. BC is 1-3-1 in its last five games.
The Eagles need to return to playing good team defense, which has been lacking of late.
“Collectively as a group, we’re not taking care of the puck in the neutral zone,’’ said Cavanaugh. “When you do that, now you expose your defense. The gap is really big and when you play a team that skates that well, and hey, hat’s off to them, they played hard and deserved to win.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.