A “three-peat” is somewhat of a mystical achievement in sports in which a team wins three consecutive championships. Only one team has ever accomplished that feat in the men’s Hockey East Tournament—Boston College men’s hockey from 2010–12.
UMass Amherst, having won the last two tournaments going into Wednesday night’s clash against the Eagles in the first round of the 2023 tournament, looked to change that fact. BC, however, did not let that happen.
The Eagles (14–15–6, 8–11–5 Hockey East) defeated UMass (13–17–5, 7–14–3) 5–2 in their opening round matchup, never trailing in the game.
“I thought that we came up with playing at a good pace and really playing our kind of game,” BC head coach Greg Brown said.
BC competed in all three zones in the first period, scoring three goals on 20 shots and holding the Minutemen to just one goal on four shots.
BC captain Marshall Warren started the action 1:08 into the first period with a heater from the blue line that found the bottom corner behind UMass goaltender Cole Brady, putting the Eagles up 1–0.
Defenseman Eamon Powell doubled BC’s lead with 2:53 left in the frame when he put his own rebound past Brady.
UMass grabbed the momentum back when Mikey Adamson found Taylor Makar across the crease, who fired a one-timer past Eagles netminder Mitch Benson just 1:34 after Powell’s goal.
Despite this looking like a momentum-swinging goal for the Minutemen, it was erased just over a minute later when UMass defenseman and 2021 second-round pick Scott Morrow lost an edge in his own zone, and Andre Gasseau capitalized on the mistake, putting BC up 3–1.
The second period proved to be a fairly even affair, with UMass not conceding a large lead in shots on goal like it did in the first period—BC outshot the Minutemen 14–8.
A roughing minor on BC’s Aidan Hreschuk 2:21 into the second period sent UMass’ power-play unit onto the ice at Conte Forum, but the Eagles killed off the penalty, allowing only two shots to reach Benson.
Nikita Nesterenko provided a fiery tirade of offense for BC in the second period. Anytime Nesterenko’s line was on the ice, he was fed the puck.
On one such occasion, Hockey East All-Rookie selection Cutter Gauthier passed Nesterenko the puck in the neutral zone, and Nesterenko carried it toward UMass’ net and effortlessly shot the puck into the top corner to give the Eagles an even more commanding 4–1 lead.
Ryan Ufko cut BC’s lead down to two just 0:22 into the third final frame, but Gasseau killed off another potential UMass momentum swing, this time with his playmaking instead of his shot.
“In the third, other than that first shift when they scored right away, I thought we did a very good job of playing smart and keeping the puck moving forward,” Brown said. “Not giving up any free opportunities, making them earn every shot they got. That’s always key in playoff time.”
Just under three minutes after Ufko’s goal, BC slipped another scoring chance into the back of the net.
Falling down to the ice, Gasseau found Nesterenko at the back door, and Nesterenko proceeded to pot the final goal of the night.
“[Nesterenko’s] scored some beauties,” Brown said. “And we’re always telling him you can shoot more. But against UMass, he does.”
Nesterenko recorded a hat trick against UMass on Feb. 17.
From then on out, BC locked up the game and punched its ticket to the quarterfinal round.
With the win, BC improved to 11–1 all-time in Hockey East Tournament games against UMass. The Eagles’ only exposure to Merrimack—their next opponent in the tournament—was a home-and-home series sweep that didn’t go in BC’s favor back on Nov. 3 and 5.
“They’re a mature team,” Brown said of Merrimack. “They don’t beat themselves. They really make you earn everything, that much I can remember from four months ago. So hopefully we have matured you know and that rank and playing against that team. You have to be patient.”