Boston College Recap

As word got around the Mullins Center that freshman Steve Mastalerz, not Kevin Boyle or Jeff Teglia, would be making the start in this huge opportunity to take the season series from Boston College pretty much anyone and everyone I knew was asking me “Why?”. I of course reassured them that Mastalerz, despite only starting 3 games and his one win coming against Holy Cross, was more than up to the task and gave the Minutemen the best chance to win. OK, maybe not. Maybe like them I just scratched my head, threw up my hands, and hoped this decision to play an untested goaltender would not join similar decisions to start Dan Meyers and Mike Waidlich against good teams which ended in disaster. Disaster, it turns out, is the furthest word possible to describe what happened last night.

Steve Mastalerz more than rose to the occasion, which is surprising given the importance and pressure of the occasion and his relative inexperience, but he came into the season with just as much of a shot at the goaltending job as the other two. Some close to the program thought he may even be the better of the three. It was only injury that kept him from getting his fair share of games from the very start of the season. Last night he was (to ruin the surprised of the FTT Player of the Game) the most important player on the ice. It’s easy to quickly look at the score and see 4-0 and think that UMass just rolled in this one but it wasn’t that simple. BC hit the ice and for a good part of the first were the dominant team. Shots initially were 6-0 in favor of the Eagles and at one point increased to 12-2. Mastalerz kept this one from getting ugly early. I thought he showed some really quick lateral speed and had a number of quality kick saves with his pad. He also showed his ability to move the puck, something Coach Cahoon specifically called out as one of his strengths, which resulted in assisting on the first goal of the game.

That’s not to say Mastalerz didn’t have a lot of help from the guys in front of him however. Prior to last night’s game I felt that the 4-2 over then top ranked BC in November was probably the best defensive effort against top notch competition on the season. Yesterday’s win took that fine defensive effort and brought it to another level. The team as a whole blocked 20 Boston College shots. Not only did they shut down the Eagles power play, killing all six opportunities, but they kept them to only 7 shots on net during that time. It was a great defensive all around but when asked about the improved penalty kill Cahoon specifically mentioned how Peter DeAngelo has taken it upon himself to become the team’s PK specialist and it paid off last night as he not only kept BC off the board but scored the team’s first shorthanded goal since 2009.

DeAngelo’s goal was one of three that came on odd man rushes. All three featured some great passing to get the scorers into position. T’.J. Syner’s first of two goals came thanks to a heads up play by Joel Hanley who, just out of the box, very quickly collected a loose puck caused when Tommy Cross whiffed on a shot and without hesitation turned and skated to create the rush. Syner’s second goal came when he and Conor Sheary drove straight to the net with the puck and though Syner was not able to get the shot off initially he was able to hold his ground in front of the crease and eventually put the loose puck behind Chris Venti. Conor Allen continued to show he has dangerous wrister when he gets to the faceoff dot and he unleashed a nice shot that got by Brian Billet that led to the first UMass goal. Allen also assisted on DeAngelo’s shorthanded goal. Though you obviously want to see the team produce more than 15 shots total in a game, it’s more important the team does something with the scoring opportunities given. UMass used their superior speed and skating to their advantage, made tape to tape passes on the rush, and buried their chances when they got them. Continue to do that and overall shot totals will not matter.

So UMass does not suffer from any kind of emotional letdown following the Fenway heroics of last week. They continue their successful streak that started at the beginning of December going 4-1-2 in that time. They pick up another two critical points, and probably a couple that people were necessarily counting on. Boston University beating Northeastern last night allowed UMass to move into 7th place all alone ahead of New Hampshire, the Huskies, and Vermont. The Catamounts upsetting #11 Lowell helps keep the River Hawks within reach, just two points ahead in 5th place (though Lowell has two games in hand). It also shows that next week’s opponent in the Catamounts, despite overwhelming amounts of injuries, are not down and out just yet. While taking the season series from BC will probably not come into play on a head to head basis, it could potentially help in the tertiary tiebreakers used at the end of the season. But more importantly it shows that this UMass team is continuing to improve as the season goes along and just may do some damage in the next few months of Hockey East play, especially if they get that kind of defensive effort from their goaltenders and penalty kill units.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game
35 save shutout of 1st place and 4th ranked Boston College and even picking up an assists, the first for a UMass goaltender since Jon Quick in 2006, in only his 4th career start? Yeah, despite some great performances by Syner, DeAngelo, and Allen, this is a pretty easy pick. Mastalerz gives Cahoon the very pleasant problem of having three quality goaltenders to pick from each and every night the team plays.

Honorable mention for FTT POTG to everyone who came out last night and supported the team! Best January crowd I can remember in maybe forever.

So as loyal readers know I keep extolling the virtues and benefits of joining the Pond Club. Last night I got to enjoy another one of those said benefits and watched the game from the scorer’s box. It was an interesting perspective and you certainly get a new understanding of the speed of the game and operations of the bench. I also have new respect for the job done by MattyG and the timekeeper to be able to keep up with the quick pace of the game itself and the rapid fire PA duties. And thanks to Matty for the FTT shout out during the 2nd period!

Why did Mastalerz get the start last night? As Cahoon explains in the Gazette recap, he was the best goaltender in practice.

Cahoon credits assistant coach Blaise MacDonald for the improved penalty kill in the Republican game story. BC Coach Jerry York also says he didn’t think his players were looking ahead to this afternoon’s game at Fenway as most of them played there a couple years ago.

The Globe also has a story on the big UMass win.