Sports, Top Story, Hockey, Men's Hockey

Eagles Crush UMass 8–1, Advance to Hockey East Championship

After Ryan Leonard made UMass Amherst pay on a power play in the first period of Boston College men’s hockey’s Hockey East semifinal matchup, Mike Posma gave the Minutemen a golden opportunity to do the same when he was called for a check to the head with 5:26 remaining in the first frame.

This could have been a crucial mistake by Posma, but his teammates picked up the slack for him, killing off all five minutes of his penalty without conceding a goal. The Eagles allowed UMass to see a glimpse of Jacob Fowler, recording four shots on goal, but none of them tested the freshman netminder too much.

“And then when you kill that off, you feel great, because that’s a long time to be short handed, so it gave us a boost and helped us momentum-wise,” BC head coach Greg Brown said.

From then on, it was all BC. 

No. 1-seed BC (30–5–1, 20–3–1 Hockey East) defeated No. 5-seed UMass (21–12–3, 12–10–2) by a score of 8–1 thanks to four-point performances by Cutter Gauthier and Will Smith, as well as 27 saves from Fowler.

“It’s a new season now,” Smith said. “It’s single elimination, so we’re going into every game like we’re not the one seed, so we gotta battle every night.

Lucas Mercuri got the scoring started for UMass, beating Fowler glove-side from the high slot 6:33 into the game.

“I felt like we had good legs tonight,” Brown said. “Guys were really skating. I think one of the very best parts of our game was when we gave up that first goal, the bench energy was terrific and the guys stayed really positive.”

Then, the Eagles made the Minutemen pay on the power play. Aydar Suniev committed the infraction for UMass, a tripping penalty at 7:15. Leonard tucked the puck into an open net off a rebound from a Smith shot just 47 seconds later to even up the score.

Gabe Perreault commemorated his return to the lineup with a goal to give BC its first lead of the game 4:41 into the second period—tucking the puck in between Michael Hrabal’s left arm and the post from just outside the blue paint.

“It’s so nice,” Perreault’s linemate Smith said of having him back. “We’ve been together for so long now, it’s just fun having him back on the bench and, you know, just enjoying it.”

A slick neutral zone play led to Gauthier streaking through the UMass zone all the way to the end boards. Instead of wrapping the puck around, he made a behind the back feed to Andre Gasseau, who pushed it into the net quicker than Hrabal could react, doubling the BC lead 6:43 into the second.

Smith would add another on an odd play when Leonard fired a shot too hot to handle for Hrabal, as the puck went up and over him, falling down his back and allowing Smith to tap it in with 3:57 left in the second. 

“It was great for us especially as a line to get that one,” Smith said. “I mean that was just kind of hard work there just on the forecheck and you know, we got a lucky bounce there.”

Just 46 seconds later, Gauthier fired one in to give the Eagles a 5–1 lead going into the second intermission.

In the third period, Aram Minnetian fired a wrister in and Perreault put the puck through Hrabal’s five-hole to add the team’s sixth and seventh goals 3:00 and 5:04 into the period.

Gauthier put the cherry on top with a power play goal with 2:31 left in the period—marking his 34th goal on the season and the highest total in the country.

“We’re just super happy, and we’re super focused and dialed into whoever our opponent is tomorrow night,” Gauthier said.

March 23, 2024

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