Apparently, if UMass-Boston is to capture the Codfish Bowl crown for the first time since 2014, its strategy will be to employ a “Big Mac” diet.
In Friday’s opening game of the 54th annual holiday classic, the host No. 8 Beacons edged NESCAC entrant Tufts, 3-1, behind a superb 31-save performance by Beverly junior Bailey MacBurnie.
“The guys are making big plays, unbelievable plays in front of me. We have six senior defensemen and they give everything they have for me,” the 23-year-old MacBurnie said. “Last year, we were in the same position, ranked No. 4, and now we’re ranked eighth. As long as we keep playing our game we should be OK.”
UMB coach Peter Belisle made no bones over the fact his 6-foot-2 goalie was the difference.
“Yeah, he was rock-solid. We made some unbelievable chances for them in front and he bailed us out with some big-time saves. There was no question that our number one guy was our best player today,” Belisle said.
The offensive production was provided by a newly constituted line of junior Nolan Redler (assist) of Winchester, sophomore center Zack Bross (goal), and 21-year-old freshman Evan Rochowiak (goal, assist). Redler’s helper gave him 82 career points in just 65 games.
“It’s just been a lot of hard work in practice. We have good chemistry. It’s our first game together but it’s going well,” Rochowiak said.
UMB took a 1-0 lead while outshooting the Jumbos, 10-9, in the first period although Tufts generated the better of the scoring opportunities. The Beacons (12-2-0) scored at the five-minute mark thanks to relentless pressure by its second-line unit comprised of Redler, Bross, and Rochowiak. The trio buzzed around the crease area of Tufts goalie Drew Hotte and when the former Milton Academy player roamed too far in a quest to retrieve a rebound, Bross made him pay with his sixth goal.
The real story was the superb play of MacBurnie. The acrobatic netminder stoned Jumbos forward Machlan Sawden, who walked down the slot alone with UMB skating shorthanded near the 12-minute mark.
Tufts (4-6-0) dug itself a huge hole in the middle period, surrendering a pair of goals to the Beacons. UMB connected 14 seconds into the stanza when freshman right wing Ethan Nitkin, who hails from hockey hotbed Miami Beach, beat Hotte for his seventh goal in nine games. The deficit grew to 3-0 at 9:59 of the period when right wing Rochowiak potted his first collegiate tally.
UMB needed a line change late in the period and couldn’t get it and the Jumbos took advantage when freshman Justin Brandt found the open side at 18:41.
In the third period, MacBurnie made a clutch glove save on Tufts sophomore Charley Borek. Then with eight minutes to play, the Beacons received a diligent effort on the penalty kill from the unsung duo of freshman Steve Bryant and Wrentham sophomore Jack Riley.
Tufts used its timeout with 2:13 left to lift Hotte (34 saves) for an extra skater but couldn’t close.
“I liked our compete-level. It’s something to build on. I thought we out-chanced them in the third but their goalie played great. He was outstanding for them and I thought our guy played well, too,” said Tufts coach Patrick Foley, a former UNH skater.
The tournament, which was founded in 1965 by former Boston State athletic director James “Gus” Sullivan and Warriors coach and ex-Bruin Eddie Barry, is the nation’s second-oldest invitational (after RPI Invitational) and has featured future NHLers like Craig MacTavish (Lowell), Hubie McDonough (Saint Anselm), Todd Krygier (UConn), and Matt DelGiudice (Saint Anselm), as well as notables Bill Berglund (Bo State and NE Whalers) and Dick Lamby (Salem State, BU, US Olympian).soccer Stream HD
UMass-Boston will face SUNY-Cortland (5-8-0) in Saturday’s Codfish final at 4 p.m. The Red Dragons rallied past Bryn Athyn, 2-1, with junior forward Connor Beck’s tip-in at 1:19 of the third period the eventual game-winner. Bryn Athyn (4-11-0) will face Tufts (4-6-0) in a consolaton at 1