Terriers draw with UMass
AMHERST - The bus rides home from the western part of the state used to be so much more festive. Boston University won 15 of the first 20 hockey games it played at the Mullins Center, building on its historic domination (49-10-5 in a series dating to 1919) of the University of Massachusetts. But in the last six trips to Amherst, BU is just 3-3-1.
Last night, the best the Terriers could do was ride home on an even keel, as they played to a 2-2 tie with the Minutemen before 5,326, many in Halloween garb.
BU (2-2-1, 1-1-1 Hockey East) might derive some self-satisfaction from the fact that it came back from a 2-0 second-period deficit. The Terriers have Matt Nieto to thank for that.
Though it was Sahir Gill who tied the game at 5:16 of the third period, Nieto was the one who got BU back into the game - and not just on the scoreboard.
UMass (1-2-2, 0-1-2) had taken the lead on a first-period power play, with T.J. Syner scoring with 34 seconds left before intermission. The Minutemen then made it 2-0 at 6:08 of the second, ostensibly on another man advantage. A cross-checking penalty to Sean Escobedo ended three seconds before Conor Sheary’s goal, but BU didn’t yet have a fifth skater in the play.
Then, with just over five minutes left in the period, UMass went on a breakaway. Kieran Millan made the save, and seconds later Nieto took a lead pass on a two-on-one breakout and beat Kevin Boyle to close the gap.
“That certainly got us going,’’ said BU coach Jack Parker. “We’d just given up a breakaway on a stupid play, but instead of going down, 3-0, it was 2-1, thanks to Nieto.’’
And thanks to Millan, who made 33 saves. “He kept us in the game,’’ said Parker.
As for Nieto, you might as well pencil him in for 34 goals this season - one for each game - and no doubt a bunch more in the postseason. The Terriers have played five contests, and the sophomore forward out of Long Beach, Calif., has scored in each one.
The goal at 15:45 of the second energized the Terriers, at least for a while.
“There were times when we skated and times when we didn’t,’’ said Parker. “For much of the game, though, the only time this looked like hockey was when UMass was making it look like hockey.’’
The teams will try to make it look more like hockey tonight when they meet at Agganis Arena.
The Minutemen lead Hockey East in penalty minutes, and they took the evening’s first two trips to the box. The first time, when Conor Allen was whistled for holding 5:16 into the game, BU got nothing that resembled a scoring opportunity. But when Oleg Yevenko took a boarding minor at 14:49, the Terriers pounced.
However, the Minutemen, near the bottom of the league in penalty killing, survived three consecutive chances from in close.
But then BU found its way to the penalty box and the Minutemen made the Terriers pay.