Sports, Hockey, Men's Hockey

No. 1 BC Utilizes Lucky Bounces to Earn 5–1 Win Over No. 11 UMass Amherst

For Ryan Leonard, an Amherst, Mass. native whose brother played for the Minutemen, No. 1 Boston College men’s hockey’s matchup against the No. 11 Minutemen on Friday night was his first opportunity to play in a BC sweater in front of his hometown crowd. 

And despite a string of boos from the crowd throughout the night, Leonard showed up for the Eagles, scoring two goals on the night. The first came on the power play and put BC up 3–1 after he took the puck from BC’s own blue line and raced toward the net. Leonard unleashed a screaming one-timer that got the better of UMass’ Michael Hrabal to put BC up by two with 2:39 left in the second frame.

“He was very excited to play here,” BC head coach Greg Brown said of Leonard. “And it’s great to see him score, you know, the power play goal. We had nothing going on our first couple of power plays at all. So it’s pretty fortunate, you know, they came through the neutral zone with speed, and so he made a good move through, and it was a great shot off the post and in.”

Leonard added a second goal to his scoresheet late in the third period, and alongside two goals from Cutter Gauthier that utilized favorable bounces, BC (22–5–1, 14–3–1 Hockey East) downed UMass Amherst (16–8–3, 9–6–2) with a 3–1 victory in a chippy matchup filled with no-calls and scuffles.

“As expected, it’s always a tough battle here,” Brown said.

After a scoreless opening five minutes of the first period, the Minutemen gave BC its first power play of the night when referees tacked Ryan Lautenbach with a hooking penalty. But the Eagles could produce little offense with the opportunity. While on the advantage, BC rattled off just four shots, only one of which was on goal.

The scoreless play continued until a lucky break for the Eagles gave BC a 1–0 lead with 5:02 left in the first period. Cutter Gauthier sent a pass from above the circles toward the net, but UMass’ Michael Cameron tipped it and the puck bounced its way over Michael Hrabal and into the back of the net to give BC a one-goal advantage.

“The first goal was, you know, a very fortunate bounce for us,” Brown said. We were able to, [I] can’t say we deserved the lead, but we had the lead … we were very fortunate.”

 The Eagles were handed an opportunity to extend their lead when VanTassell picked up a hooking penalty with 1:13 left in the opening frame. BC entered the second period with 47 seconds left on the man advantage to extend its lead. 

But BC let its second power play chance slip through its fingers.

“Hopefully we’ll be a little crisper on Sunday, but definitely credit to UMass for taking everything away, those first couple power plays.

The Minutemen tied the game up when Lucas Mercuri beat Jacob Fowler from close range to notch his seventh goal of the year and tie the game 1–1 6:32 into the second frame.

But the Eagles’ luck had not run out just yet, and BC benefited from a second fluke goal just over two minutes after the Minutemen’s score. 

Nearly from the blue line, Gauthier launched the puck toward the net and the puck trickled past the goal line to reestablish the Eagles’ two-goal lead.

The second period depicted the chippiness and the heated nature of the top-15 matchup. A couple of no calls from the referees appeared to cause frustration on the bench of UMass and hard hits, shoves, and chirping from both squads were apparent throughout the frame. 

A roughing penalty on Kenny Connors gave BC its third man-advantage of the night, and Leonard took advantage to put BC up 3–1.

Leonard potted his second goal of the game 3:26 into the third period to give the Eagles a three-goal advantage, and his score sent Minutemen fans heading toward the exits. 

The Minutemen pulled Hrabral from the net in a desperate attempt to make a late-game comeback, but Andre Gasseau packed the game away with an empty-net goal with just 24 seconds remaining. Jacob Fowler tallied 25 saves in the contest. 

“When he’s really going well it looks simple for him,” Brown said of Fowler. “Because his angles are so good and he squared up pucks. I thought he had that tonight.”

February 17, 2024