UMass hockey: Amherst’s Ryan Leonard scores hat trick to lift No. 1 Boston College past Minutemen 6-4

UMass defender Scott Morrow (23) knocks Boston College’s Oskar Jellvik (21) into the boards in the second period Friday night at the Mullins Center.

UMass defender Scott Morrow (23) knocks Boston College’s Oskar Jellvik (21) into the boards in the second period Friday night at the Mullins Center. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 02-18-2024 4:58 PM

Modified: 02-18-2024 5:28 PM


For the second time in three days, the UMass hockey team was overwhelmed by the offensive firepower of Boston College, as the N0. 1 Eagles completed a weekend – and season – sweep of the Minutemen with a 6-4 victory at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill on Sunday afternoon.

Amherst native Ryan Leonard certainly enjoyed his first battle with UMass. The freshman forward finished the weekend with five goals, highlighted by a hat trick on Sunday.

But just as it did on Friday night at the Mullins Center, UMass had plenty of chances to seize control of the game and come out victorious.

“I’m very proud of our effort tonight,” UMass head coach Greg Carvel said. “Our guys played extremely hard. We overcame some adversity early in the game and then faced some adversity late in the game that was out of our control and decided the game.”

After falling behind 2-0 in the first period, the Minutemen scored three unanswered goals in a second-period flurry to take the lead.

Kenny Connors got UMass on the board with a goal eight and a half minutes into the second frame to cut the deficit in half. Aydar Suniev then tallied back-to-back beauties to give the Minutemen their first lead of the series against Boston College.

BC’s Jamie Armstrong netted a late goal to send the game into the third period with a 3-3 tie.

Another freshman then came up big for UMass. This time it was Dans Locmelis, who gave the visitors a 4-3 lead when he tallied with assists by Samuli Niinisaari and Lucas Mercuri.

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It was all Eagles the rest of the way however.

Leonard found the back of the net twice in a row, and Cutter Gauthier – who scored twice on Friday – added an empty netter to cap off three unanswered Boston College goals. That brought the game to its 6-4 final.

UMass was whistled for five penalties to BC’s three. The Eagles converted on 3-of-5 opportunities while UMass finished 0-for-3.

Following Friday’s loss, Carvel said he left that game feeling his team was good enough to knock off top-ranked Boston College. Although Friday’s lopsided 5-1 result may not have supported that statement (despite UMass hanging with the Eagles toe-to-toe), Sunday certainly did.

The Minutemen were just a few plays shy of picking up a statement win heading into the postseason, though the weekend sweep now has the club down to No. 15 in the PairWise Rankings – firmly on the NCAA bubble.

BC ended the contest with a 46-24 advantage in shots and went 3-for-5 on the power play, while the Minutemen were 0-for-3. Michael Hrabal set a new career high with 40 saves for UMass.

UMass (16-9-3) returns to the ice next weekend for another huge home-and-home series – this time with No. 19 New Hampshire (17th in the PairWise). Friday’s game is at the Mullins Center while Saturday will be played in Durham, N.H. Puck drop for both contests is at 7 p.m.