Hockey: UMass stuns No. 1 BU

BOSTON -- The bloodlines run deep between the Boston University and Massachusetts coaching staffs. That connection was on full display Friday night, when BU honored its back-to-back national championship teams from 1971 and 1972. Current BU coach Jack Parker was an assistant for those teams, which featured a pugnacious winger named Donald "Toot" Cahoon, the current UMass bench boss.

But, as Parker often says, he and Cahoon have already played their games. Friday, it was Cahoon's upstart Minutemen (10-12-5; 6-10-4 Hockey East) who ruined the celebration for the Terriers (17-9-1; 13-7-1 HE), getting their first road win of the season by upending the No. 1 team in the country, 3-2, before 4,779 at Agganis Arena.

"I told my team before the game that UMass was the best ninth-place team in any college hockey league ever, the way they play, how hard they play, how quick they are," said Parker. "And they came in and showed who they really are tonight, in a game they were completely ready to play."

Combined with a Northeastern loss, the victory allowed UMass to slip past the Huskies and climb into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Hockey East standings.

"The challenging thing in this league is that we don't get to enjoy this for too long, because tomorrow night's game (against Providence) has huge significance -- huge significance -- for us," said Cahoon. "So we'll enjoy it for the ride home and then get up tomorrow morning and, hopefully, be attentive to the details for the day."

For Cahoon, who spent a portion between the first and second periods shaking hands with his old teammates and sharing a hug with his old coach -- the legendary Jack Kelley -- the win was particularly gratifying in a season of near-misses, especially on the road.

"Obviously, it's a real big win for us, in a building that's really difficult for any team to come in and get games," said Cahoon, who once served as Parker's assistant. "It took good goaltending, it took a very honest defensive effort, and it took real good will on our guys' part."

The loss was the first for the Terriers between Beanpot Mondays (the first and second Monday of every February) since 2004. The Terriers spotted the Minutemen an early lead, but finished the first period tied 1-1. After that, said Parker, it was all downhill for his squad.

"We were horrible in the second period, and got worse in the third," said the BU coach. "A lot of that had to do with their speed and their quickness and their determination. And we didn't match it.

"In general, I thought we got outplayed by a team that was determined to come in here and give a great effort, and we weren't determined at all."

The start, however, didn't look promising for the visitors. The Terriers wasted little time testing UMass freshman netminder Kevin Boyle, firing several shots in the first three minutes as the Minutemen faltered out of the gate.

However, the Minutemen quickly regained their composure, and Branden Gracel opened the scoring with a power-play strike at 7:14. The Terriers had just killed off a brief 5-on-3, but with BU's Ryan Santana still in the box, UMass sophomore Troy Power ripped a shot from the right faceoff dot that BU goalie Kieran Millan caught with his right pad. The rebound shot straight up the slot, and Gracel took the puck on his backhand and roofed it over Millan's right shoulder.

Just over two minutes later, at 9:31, BU knotted the game with a blue-collar effort in deep. With the puck wedged between Boyle's right skate and the left post, BU's Alex Chiasson and Matt Nieto both took a whack at it before Terriers captain Chris Connolly snuck in through the crease behind the UMass goalie and tapped it into the net.

In the second, both squads began to crank up the offensive pressure. Within the first two minutes, the Terriers strafed Boyle with several bids in tight, but couldn't get the puck behind the freshman. UMass was able to clear the zone, and on the ensuing rush, Millan made two great saves in rapid succession. Minuteman Joel Hanley took a sweet saucer feed from Conor Sheary to break in alone on Millan, but the senior stoned him cold, and then lunged across the crease to stuff Sheary's bid on the rebound.

"I thought our goalie played great," said Parker of Millan (34 saves). "We had too many guys not show up tonight, but our goaltender showed up."

BU's Ben Rosen narrowly missed on a hard drive down the right side at 9:16. With Minuteman Steven Guzzo draped on his back, Rosen flicked the shot over Boyle and the UMass net. Though Guzzo got whistled for holding on the play, BU couldn't convert on the ensuing power play.

With BU's Wade Megan in the box for hooking, UMass struck for another power-play goal off another rebound. Millan blocked Michael Pereira's bid from deep on the right side, but the puck bounced across the crease to a waiting Hanley. The sophomore from Ontario coolly corralled the biscuit and fired it past a lunging Millan at 12:47 for a 2-1 UMass lead.

"We played ourselves down a level and UMass played themselves up a big level," said Parker. "I thought they were by far the better team tonight."

Millan, though, kept the Terriers close, denying Sheary at the doorstop off a great feed from Allen at the 17-minute mark. The stellar goaltending continued into the final period, with Boyle knocking aside Nieto's clean breakaway bid for a short-handed tally at 4:50, and Millan responding almost immediately with a dandy glove save on Guzzo's one-timer from the slot.

The duel continued until Millan was pulled for the extra attacker. That's when the Minutemen showed the finishing touch that's been lacking all season, as Pereira buried an empty-netter at 19:04 for the eventual game-winner. Chiasson got one back for the Terriers when he rifled a snap shot over Boyle's glove, but with less than five seconds remaining, it was BU's last gasp.

"Every time I've seen [UMass] play, I thought they were a real good team. I picked them to be one of the sleeper teams in the league," said Parker. "I thought they were going to surprise a lot of people. And they still may. If they get goaltending like they did tonight, they could get into the playoffs, and nobody would want to play them."

Cahoon, meanwhile, isn't worrying about the playoffs just yet. He's simply looking at Saturday, and a game against the Providence Friars.

"Tonight our focus was on a complete game," he said. "Now our focus is on a complete weekend."


In other local college hockey action:

No. 7 UMass Lowell 3, No. 8 Merrimack 0

In the first-ever meeting between the two Merrimack Valley programs when both were ranked in the nation's Top 10, the No. 7 River Hawks whitewashed the No. 8 Warriors, 3-0, at the Tsongas Center. After skating through the first 40 minutes without a goal, Lowell (19-7-0; 14-6-0 HE) got on the board early in the third, with Derek Arnold getting the eventual game-winner with the first of his two strikes on the night at the 55-second mark. Merrimack (15-7-5; 11-6-3 HE) had no answer for Arnold, who scored the insurance marker on the power play at 17:03. Lowell's Riley Whetmore sealed the win with a short-handed empty-net goal at 18:26. Doug Carr (31 saves) got the shutout, while Merrimack's Joe Cannata kept the Warriors in the game, stopping 39 River Hawks shots.

No. 5 Boston College 6, Vermont 1

Like Boston College's Beanpot semifinal on Monday, the game between the Eagles (18-10-1; 13-7-1 HE) and Vermont (5-22-1; 2-18-1 HE) was close for a period. But after taking a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, the Eagles ran off four unanswered goals in the second -- including two by freshman Johnny Gaudreau -- to easily outdistance the last-placed Catamounts, 6-1. Gaudreau finished the night with 3 points (2 goals, assist), as did teammates Chris Kreider (2 goals, assist), Kevin Hayes (one, 2 assists) and Pat Mullane (3 assists). BC goalie Parker Milner, who came with a third-period goal by Colin Markison of recording the shutout, finished with 21 saves.

Harvard 2, Rensselaer 2 OT

It may not be the distinction coach Ted Donato wants, but Harvard (7-7-10; 6-4-8 ECAC) found its way into the NCAA record books by tying a Division 1 record for ties when the Crimson deadlocked Rensselaer (7-19-3; 4-10-3 ECAC), 2-2, for their 10th stalemate on the season. And this was one that slipped away. Though RPI scored first, Harvard rebounded to take a 2-1 lead on goals by Alex Fallstrom and Luke Greiner. But just when it looked like the Crimson might get win No. 8 on the year, RPI's Brock Higgs knotted the game with only 1:03 left in the final period, and the two teams skated through a scoreless overtime.

New Hampshire 3, Northeastern 2

Northeastern (11-123-3; 7-12-2 HE) was hoping to rebound from its Beanpot semifinal loss on Monday, but the Huskies ran into a New Hampshire team (12-14-2; 9-11-1 HE) fighting for its own playoff life. The result was a 3-2 Wildcat win over the Huskies, enabling New Hampshire to hang onto the seventh spot in Hockey East. The Huntington Hounds got on the board early, with Robbie Vrolyk's strike only 30 seconds into the game, but the wildcats responded with three straight goals, including two by Austin Block, to take a 3-1 lead into the final period. NU's Mike McLaughlin got one back for the huskies at 18:48, but UNH's Casey DeSmith (24 saves) wouldn't let another puck get past him.

Providence 4, No. 12 Maine 3

The Friars (11-14-2; 9-10-1 HE) raced off to a 3-0 lead, powered by two goals from Matt Berglund, but then had to withstand a determined comeback from the Black Bears (16-9-3; 11-8-2 HE) to tag a 4-3 loss on their visitors from Maine. Providence's Tim Schaller got the eventual game-winner with his 12th of the season at 7:02 of the third. Maine made one last-ditch effort to climb back into the game, but Joey Diamond's strike at 18:50 of the third was as close as the Black Bears would come.