Last night’s Game 1 of the BC-UMass series has taken the crown of “best game I’ve seen in person with a heartbreaking ending.” The Minutemen clawed back from a number of deficits, including 6-3 to start the 3rd period, and thoroughly dominated the final frame, pulling within a goal with a ton of time left, but just couldn’t get over the hump to tie it despite numerous opportunities to do so.
And so it comes down to this: to keep playing Sunday, tonight is a must-win against a BC team that twice now has discovered it can coast through large portions of games at Conte and still eke out wins.
The offense was finally there, albeit thanks to a couple 5-on-3’s. The refs (who were brutal all night, by the way), after a whistle-fest through two periods, decided to let ’em play in the 3rd. This, of course, came after the 6th (and deciding) BC goal on a power play in the 2nd, following a penalty to Nolet on a play where he literally did not make contact with the BC player. But whatever, the fact that I literally pointed to the BC player walking up to the net to stuff home goal #6 and said “goal” to Walsh right before it happened shows us that the Minutemen didn’t play well enough on the penalty kill to win. Dainton was up-and-down, his defense burned him a few times, but he was certainly not the guy who took the ice two weeks ago here. Same with Milner; he looked sharp early, but Jimmy’s goal to cut it to 6-5 was the kind of bad goal break that UMass hadn’t been getting all of February. The fact of the matter is, though, you can’t give up 6 goals and expect to win, no matter how close UMass came to tying it up.
So it boils down to tonight and, hopefully, tomorrow. UMass has all the momentum in the world after silencing BC’s smattering of fans for the duration of the 3rd period and putting BC back on their heels. I much prefer what happened last night to, say, tying it up and losing in overtime to give BC that emotional energy. It still feels like an opportunity lost, but this was BC’s series to lose all along. My gut instinct tells me this series goes 3. (Don’t ask my gut instinct about what happens in a game 3. We’ll cross that bridge if and when we get there.)
On a side note: I think last night ends any debate over the quality of their fan support. This is a playoff game and the building was even emptier than it was two weeks ago for a meaningless regular season game at the start of their spring break. The odd thing was, the students actually were there in greater numbers (again, without the spring break excuse), eventually sort-of filling those tiny two endzone sections. The side of the arena opposite us and opposite the media booths, however, was practically a dead zone. Is there any other team in Hockey East whose arena would be half-empty for a playoff game, against anyone? To borrow from a certain regional furniture store’s ads, I DOUBT IT.
Whatever. Whether there’s 6 people in the building or 6,000…do it tonight boys, and live to fight another day.
Meanwhile, I didn’t really hear much of the UMass-Richmond game on the radio afterward, but it seemed like the usual “fall behind big early, make a semi-decent run at the game in the 2nd half and fall short” effort we saw against the likes of Xavier, Charlotte (at home) and URI (on the road) this season. The curse of Atlantic City lives on, although for the second year in a row, they were just happy to be there. Unfortunately, it sounds like cold shooting did them in early on. Still, congrats to Derek Kellogg and his squad for a couple of nice wins at the end of the season. The end result on paper was a little underwhelming, but I think there’s a bright future yet for the Minutemen basketball team. Hopefully when I get back from Florida next January they’ll be in the thick of things in the A-10 race – and the fans are out to support them. If you win games, they will come.