Winter, Hockey, Men's Hockey, Sports

Ryan Leonard’s Hat Trick Gives No. 1 BC 6–4 Win Over UMass and Series Sweep

When Ryan Leonard was growing up in Amherst, Mass., he didn’t have to go very far to watch his brother John Leonard play for UMass Amherst. John had a great deal of success there, too, being named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in 2020.

But when it came time for Ryan to pick a college team, he chose not to follow in his brother’s footsteps, and he instead traveled across the state to play for Boston College men’s hockey. Leonard was ultimately the difference maker for the Eagles in their Sunday matchup against UMass.

Leonard opened up the scoring for BC, tied the game up at four goals apiece, and potted the  winning goal less than a minute after tying it up in the third.

“Yeah, I think just going home Friday in my hometown playing there for the first time in a while since my youth days meant a lot just to have a lot of people there and supporting me,” Leonard said. “But all weekend, all year, I can’t really score those goals without my two linemates.”

No. 1 BC (23–5–1, 15–3–1 Hockey East) defeated No. 11 UMass (16–9–3, 9-7–2) by a score of 6–4 thanks to Leonard’s hat trick and resilient play throughout the lineup. BC’s win completed the sweep of the Minutemen.

Leonard got the game started when Gabe Perreault found him with a crisp feed in the slot. The Amherst, Mass. native made no mistake finishing the opportunity with a sharp shot to the top shelf to register his third goal of the series against the Minutemen 6:44 into the contest.

Perreault got one of his own with 47 seconds left in the first period, beating UMass goaltender Michael Hrabal from an odd angle after the puck fell into his lap on a rebound from a shot by Will Smith, giving BC a 2–0 lead going into the first intermission.

“They have that ability to see the plays and to execute them as well,” Brown said of Leonard, Perreault, and Smith.

The game would turn around quickly for the Minutemen, though.

The sequence started when Perreault and Smith entered the zone on a 2-on-1 chance, and Perreault passed the puck to Smith across the crease. Smith found a nearly completely open net to shoot at, but the puck never reached the net, as UMass defenseman Aaron Bohlinger blocked the shot, sprawling on the ice to deny Smith 7:35 into the frame.

This shifted the momentum as just 1:13 later, Kenny Connors beat Jacob Fowler through the five-hole to get the Minutemen on the board and make it a 2–1 game. 

“They came down and scored and then their momentum [switched],” Brown said. “They all grew a few inches and started to play great. Full credit to them.”

Aydar Suniev then scored two goals in 29 seconds, potting one at the 11:31 mark as he scored off his own rebound. Suniev originally put the puck on Fowler on a 2-on-1, forcing Fowler to move across the crease and make a stretching save. Fowler couldn’t regain his positioning as Suniev wrapped it around, putting the puck into an open net to tie the game up.

He gave the Minutemen the lead at 12:00 on a cross-crease feed from Lucas Mercuri that launched UMass ahead after the Eagles’ dominant start.

Jamie Armstrong was able to tip in a shot from Lukas Gustafsson with 4:43 left in the second to tie the game up, making the third period the deciding one in the contest.

“I thought Jamie Armstrong’s goal was a big turning point for us to get us back going,” Brown said.

But Dans Locmelis put BC in another hole 7:56 into the third that Leonard dug the Eagles out of.

BC’s response started with back-to-back penalties against UMass. Cole O’Hara was called for hooking and Mercuri for goaltender interference in a span of 25 seconds.

But Leonard responded and scored 25 seconds later at 10:03, tying the game up on a feed from Smith. Smith found him again 58 seconds later, and Leonard buried it, completing the hat trick, retaking the lead, and giving him five goals in the series.

“I mean, we have so much chemistry,” Leonard said. “We’ve played together the last two years, two-and-a-half years now. We know where each other are. It’s so much fun playing with those guys.”

Cutter Gauthier found an empty net with 1:35 left in the game and ensured BC’s win.

“Yeah, I think if we want to be a tremendous team at the end of the year, we got to find ways to win when adversity is at us,” Leonard said.


February 18, 2024