There are power plays. Then there are power surges.
The one we saw on Saturday gave UMass-Boston the surge it needed.
After two straight losses, including a 3-0 setback a night earlier to Babson, the team nipping at their heels on the final weekend of the season, the Beacons went 5-of-7 on the power play in an 8-4 win over Babson that secured first place in a loaded New England Hockey Conference.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” said UMB coach Pete Belisle (Manville, R.I.). “It’s a body of work in a conference that’s so difficult; we have five teams ranked nationally. … I’m so happy the boys got it done.”
UMB (18-6-1, 14-3-1) earned the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament and will host eighth-place Southern Maine (5-17-3, 4-13-1) in the quarterfinals this Saturday. The Beacons will play at home as long as they keep advancing.
Needing a point against rival Babson to win the league outright, the Beacons found themselves trailing 3-2 when Matt Wiesner was called for a five-minute major for tripping and a game misconduct.
In a 3-minute, 11-second span, the Beacons scored four man-up goals — two apiece by defenseman Nick Albano and winger Nolan Redler (Winchester, Mass.) — to take control of the game. Redler finished the game with four goals.
“Momentum on that power play — it just steamrolled,” said Belisle, “and our power play hadn’t been clicking.”
This is the third regular-season title in program history, the others coming in 1981-82 and 2015-16.
The loss dropped Babson (16-6-3, 11-4-3) into third place, and it will host No. 6 Skidmore (13-9-3, 9-6-3). Surging Norwich (18-4-3, 13-4-1) won its 10th straight game to earn the No. 2 seed and will host No. 7 Suffolk (8-16, 5-13). The other quarterfinal game sees No. 5 New England College (16-4-5, 9-4-5) visiting No. 4 Hobart (17-6-2, 11-5-2).
After turning on the power over the weekend — and upping their man-up conversion rate to 20.8 percent — the Beacons will try to generate more power going forward. Their efforts have also been aided by a senior-heavy defensive core and junior goalie Bailey MacBurnie of Beverly, Mass. (1.74 GAA, .930 save percentage).
“With 10 seniors on Senior Day, I felt confident,” said Belisle. “But could we blow it? Sure. Babson’s a darn good team. But like I said to them, ‘If you had told me (before the season) we’d have a chance on the final day to win the league on our home ice … now we go after the ultimate goals.
“We’re hoping for 6-7 more weeks of hockey. But we know we’re not guaranteed more than one.”
Team of the Week
When the weekend was over, the Mules only had a split of two games, but both efforts teased how tough an out they should be in the NESCAC tournament.
Colby (9-9-4, 6-7-3 NESCAC) was done in by Michael Grande’s power-play goal in overtime in a 3-2 loss to No. 11 Trinity on Friday. But it rebounded the next day to hand first-place and No. 12 Wesleyan its first conference loss of the season, 4-1, with sophomore Spencer Hewson notching a goal and an assist.
The Mules, currently in sixth place, wrap up regular-season play with home games against Conn. College and Tufts this weekend.
Player of the Week
Ben Churchfield, soph., G, University of New England
The Nor’easters (17-5-2, 11-4-1) took an important three points away from a weekend home-and-home with Nichols, and enter the final weekend just two points behind first-place Salve Regina in the Commonwealth Coast Conference.
Churchfield made 40 saves to preserve a 2-2 tie, and stopped 18 shots the next night as UNE took a 2-1 win. On Division 3’s highest-scoring team, he owns a 2.30 GAA and .913 save percentage.
Games to Watch
Trinity at Wesleyan, Friday, 7 p.m.; Wesleyan at Trinity, Saturday, 4 p.m.
The top two teams in the NESCAC square off in a home-and-home. Armed with a four-point lead, Wesleyan (15-5-2, 13-1-2) needs just a point to secure first place outright. Only eight players in Division 3 have scored more goals than Walker Harris, who has 16.
Trinity (14-3-5, 10-2-4), led by junior defenseman Liam Feeney (Foxboro, Mass.), a semifinalist for the Concannon Award, is surging, unbeaten in its last 11 games (8-0-3).