WASHINGTON, D.C. — What at one point appeared to be a cakewalk is now officially a barnburner.
After spotting overall top seed Boston University a 2-0 lead through one period, East Regional champion Vermont responded in the second, exploding for three goals in less than six minutes to take a 3-2 lead.
A late power-play tally by the Terriers, though, sent the game into the third period tied at 3 in the second national semifinal at the Verizon Center.
The winner of the game will meet Miami, a 4-1 victor over Bemidji State, in the national title game on Saturday evening.
The Terriers dominated early, outshooting the Catamounts 14-7 in the opening period. Vermont goaltender Dan Madore was forced to be sharp, but was unable to stonewall Colin Wilson, a Hobey “Hat Trick” finalist.
After Kevin Shattenkirk patiently pulled back at the offensive blueline on the rush, he floated a wrister that Wilson redirected at the center of the zone past Madore inside the right post for the 1-0 BU lead.
The Terriers extended their lead with 3:33 remaining in the first. Lawrence and Higgins worked a perfect give-and-go with Higgins feathering a feed across the crease that Lawrence roofed over Madore to give the Terriers a 2-0 advantage.
Early in the second, the Terriers appeared to add to the lead again.
Sniper Nick Bonino fired a shot from the right faceoff circle that beat Madore over the right shoulder. The on-ice official immediately signaled goal, but after looking at replay, it was clear the puck hit the left post, forcing the referee to reverse his original call.
With new life, the Catamounts immediately took advantage. Wahsontiio Stacey fired home his eighth goal of the year, using two BU defenders as a screen to beat Kieran Millan and pull Vermont within a goal at 3:50.
The Cats continued to get chances, including a point-blank bid by Justin Milo at 8:45 that forced Millan to make a sliding left pad save.
Millan robbed Viktor Stalberg minutes later, but the rebound wound up on Milo’s stick again and this time he wouldn’t be denied. He put his shot into a wide-open net at 9:04 to draw the game even at 2.
And before the fans finished cheering Milo’s tally, defenseman Josh Burrows fired a shot that completely eluded Millan to give the Cats the lead, 3-2, at 9:49.
That marked the first time in this year’s NCAA tournament that the Terriers have trailed and led BU coach Jack Parker to call his timeout.
The Terriers responded with chances, most notably a Colby Cohen bid at 12:08. The shot, similar to Bonino’s earlier in the frame, beat Madore but rang off the crossbar.
A late power play allowed BU to draw even. After a near-clear by Vermont, Bonino picked up the puck and fed Vinny Saponari near the left post with 1:21 remaining to send the game to the third period deadlocked at 3.