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BOSTON – With this being the first UMass appearance in the Hockey East Championship semifinals since 2007, it was, perhaps, their first true test on the big stage in quite some time.
The Boston College Eagles became the first seventh-seeded team in the 35-year history of the tournament to advance to the final with a stunning, 3-0 victory over the Minutemen at TD Garden on Friday night, disappointing the crowd of 11,572 fans in attendance who were largely in support of UMass.
“Full credit to Boston College, they looked like a team playing with a purpose tonight; desperation and the appropriate enthusiasm for a game of this magnitude,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “My team just wasn’t. It’s very discouraging. This was a huge opportunity for our program, and honestly, one of the poorer games we’ve played this year.”
The Eagles entered the game with a 13-21-3 record on the season and, after not being given much of a chance in a quarterfinal matchup against Providence which they took in three games on the road, were the better team through the majority of Friday night’s game as well.
Don’t let that record fool you, however.
“It’s how you’ve played in your last five games, your last four games, as you go down the stretch here,” Boston College head coach Jerry York said. “We’re not a typical seventh seed for a number of reasons. But, right now, we’re certainly capable of playing a game like we did tonight.”
UMass, the number three-ranked team in the country heading into the weekend, could never seem to get their extraordinarily potent offense going against junior goaltender Joseph Woll, who was sensational at times in stopping all 36 shots he faced.
The Minutemen had seemed to be able to at least hang with the Eagles for the first period, but that all changed just a few ticks before the horn would sound; David Cotton took advantage of a defensive lapse by UMass when two players chased the puck-carrier, and had just enough space at the left post to beat a surprised Filip Lindberg with just 12.3 seconds remaining in the opening frame for a 1-0 lead.
Chris Grando finished a 2-on-1 with 7:24 left in regulation, and Julius Mattila iced the game with a lengthy empty-netter with 37.5 seconds left to account for the final margin of victory.
For Boston College, the focus immediately shifts to Saturday night’s title game against Northeastern, which can be seen live on FloSports at 7 PM.
“It should be an outstanding game tomorrow night,” York said. “Two of the best goaltenders going head-to-head again.”
For UMass, however, a berth in the NCAA Tournament has long since been locked up for them, but Friday night’s loss leaves an inexperienced group with far more questions than answers as they head to a far bigger stage than one they seemingly just failed to show up on.
“(The inexperience in relation to other programs) is definitely a factor that we didn’t want to discuss all week with our kids,” Carvel said. “I’m sure most of those kids on that Boston College team had played six, eight, ten games here. That’s a distinct advantage. Our kids…this is a big stage that they’re not used to, and I think it was being comfortable. This was like home-ice advantage for (BC) considering how many more times they’ve played on this ice, and it took us a while to get going. They were obviously more comfortable than we were.”