Just under two minutes into the overtime period, UMass defenseman Marc Del Gaizo found that Boston College men’s hockey defenseman Drew Helleson tripped him, yet the puck trickled past goaltender Spencer Knight and over the goal line anyway. Even though the original call was for a penalty shot, the referees convened for a few minutes and ultimately decided to award UMass the goal that handed them a win.
The No. 1 Eagles (15-4-1) disappointed in one of their biggest games of the season, falling to the No. 9 Minutemen (13-5-3) in overtime by 3-2 after blowing a two-goal lead. Merrimack upset Boston University earlier in the night, which means the Eagles will remain atop the Hockey East for another week despite the defeat. With its critical victory on the road, UMass moved up into the second spot ahead of BU.
Both teams created grade-A scoring chances throughout the first period but couldn’t get the puck over the goal line. Knight made 14 saves for the Eagles, and Filip Lindberg stopped 15 shots for UMass to keep the game scoreless at the first intermission.
The second period, by contrast, was a flurry of activity. BC’s sophomore line struck yet again to break the ice. Matt Boldy redirected a Mike Hardman shot past Lindberg to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead seven minutes into the second period. The goal gave Boldy the team lead in points, breaking the tie with captain Marc McLaughlin that existed coming into the game. Alex Newhook was credited with the secondary assist on the goal for the 50th point of his sensational young career.
The Eagles doubled their advantage with five minutes left in the frame. Jack McBain received a cross-ice pass from Nikita Nesterenko and rocketed a one-timer into the back of the net to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead.
Down by two goals, the Minutemen did not waste any time and struck back almost immediately. On the subsequent faceoff, Bobby Trivigno found himself all alone and snuck a shot past Knight to cut the UMass deficit in half just five seconds after McBain’s goal. The score remained at 2-1 as the teams returned to the locker rooms for the second intermission.
The Eagles seemed poised to close it out in the final frame, but the Minutemen had other ideas. UMass defenseman Jake Gaudet put a shot on goal that Knight stopped, but the rebound ricocheted off Carson Gicewicz and trickled over the line to even the score with 5:49 to go in regulation, wiping away the Eagles’ two-goal lead.
“You can’t just sit back and protect a 2-1 lead,” head coach Jerry York said in his postgame press conference. “The impetus then is that the other team has the puck a lot. I thought we just had to continue to play hockey like a 0-0 game and play that way. I didn’t like how we kind of sat back.”
After the puck trickled across the goal line in overtime, both teams held their breath as the referees convened. The lead referee pointed to the center ice, indicating it was a good goal and sending the UMass bench into a frenzy as the Eagles dropped their heads down in disbelief.
“What happened was that we tripped their player, but both players went into Spencer [Knight] and the puck rolled into the net,” York said. “It was an unusual goal, but it was a goal.”
One positive to take away from Friday’s loss for the Eagles was the continued success on special teams. Knight and the penalty killers withstood three dangerous UMass power plays without giving up a goal, while the Eagles generated some strong chances on their lone power play.
“It stings to lose especially late in the season at home,” York said. “It will harden us. There will be a lot of games like this when we get into late March. The game had a playoff feel to it. It’s going to help us out a lot in the long run.”
Featured Image by Molly Bankert / Heights Staff