BOSTON — Boston University goalie John Curry played in one game last season, for all of 310 seconds. Although he obviously was not the run-of-the-mill third goaltender for use in emergency situations only, he started this season third on the depth chart.
But after Stephan Siwiec and Karson Gillespie struggled at the Lefty McFadden Invitational last weekend, opportunity knocked for the sophomore, and the Shorewood, Minn., native answered the call.
Playing in front of a sellout crowd of 3,806 at Walter Brown Arena for the Terriers’ home opener, Curry enjoyed a storybook first start, stopping 24 of 25 shots to help BU beat Vermont 4-1.
David Van der Gulik potted a key shorthanded goal and added an empty-netter as well as an assist for the Terriers, while freshman Joe Fallon provided Vermont with some consolation, stopping 34 of 37 shots. Still, the improbable success of his netminding counterpart was the most intriguing story of the night.
“All day I was kind of a nervous wreck,” Curry said, who learned he would get the call after practice yesterday. “Nervous in that situation is good, but to see that clock running out was unbelievable, getting that first win under your belt. The defense had to bail me out a few times. I played solid at times, but it was great to have the team play like that in front of me in my first start.”
After a poor showing by his team last weekend, Terrier coach Jack Parker had reasons for satisfaction Saturday.
“It was like night and day from last week to this week, and I thought Vermont tried to put more pressure on us than those other two teams did because they really came at us hard with their forecheck,” Parker said. “They just kept moving and moving, so we had to find a way to get out of zone, and we did a good job as the game progressed there.”
For Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon, the evening was irritating, except for the play of his goaltender. “I’m frustrated,” Sneddon said. “I don’t think we played anywhere near our potential tonight. We just didn’t look crisp at all; I thought our power play was absolutely awful. We worked on it a lot this week, but our execution was extremely poor. It looked like we hadn’t practiced it at all.”
After struggling with the power play in recent years, Parker relished the two goals and an eyebrow-raising 22 shots that 10 man advantages produced. “On the whole it’s the best our power play’s looked in the last two or three years, so I was really impressed with that.
“But I thought the biggest change was we got solid goaltending from our goalie, and our six defensemen played well in front of him, and they didn’t play well we last week,” Parker said. “This was what we expected from our defensemen; they played with a lot of poise tonight, didn’t give up a lot of shots.”
Given how early we are in the season, Parker was asked if another full week of practice made the difference in the power-play performance tonight. “I think what had more effect was saying to Chris Bourque, ‘Hey, go play the point on the power play.’ That had more effect than anything else because he’s so calm out there, so poised. He’s a top-notch player. He doesn’t get rattled, and all of a sudden [Bryan] Miller is as poised as he is. Having point men like that really calms things down.
Before the game even started, Vermont got some bad news. Forward Brady Leisenring — the team’s leading goal scorer last season — suffered back spasms during the pregame skate and turned out to be a late and unexpected scratch.
“Yeah, it was a challenge to us,” Sneddon said of Leisenring’s omission from the lineup. “Obviously, he’s a go-to player. I was hoping we would respond a little better. The work ethic was there. There’s no question that our kids worked hard till the final buzzer. We just didn’t look like a sharp unit tonight. Our passes were off. Credit to them-they played hard to the body, and I think we panicked with the puck a little.”
BU scored on the game’s first power play. From the right point, Bourque passed to Miller high in the left-wing faceoff circle, and Miller’s shot found the corner of the net. Less than eight minutes later, BU notched another goal with the man advantage. Brian McConnell took another left-wing side shot, and this time the rebound kicked out to John Laliberte on the far side of the slot. He converted the rebound to make it 2-0.
The Terriers dominated the second period but only maintained their two-goal lead, thanks to the heroics of Fallon. The freshman from Bemidji, Minnesota stopped Brian McConnell on a breakaway three minutes in, then stopped Sean Sullivan’s bid on the rebound.
However, the Terriers made it 3-0 at 13:42 on Van der Gulik’s shorthanded goal, caused by his opportunistic read on Catamount defensemen Kenny Macaulay at Jamie Sifers just inside the blue line.
“They were pretty close to each other, and I kind of anticipated that he was going to pass it back, and I got my stick on it,” Van der Gulik said. Stealing the puck, the winger went in on Fallon and slipped a backhander in between his skates.
Shortly thereafter, Vermont had a five-on-three advantage for 73 seconds, but the Terrier penalty kill did its job, led by forwards Matt Radoslovich and freshman Peter MacArthur.
Late in the third, Vermont avoided the shutout despite confusion surrounding the call of referee John Gravallese. At 15:40, Sifers took a shot from the right point, and forward Andy Corran deftly redirected the thigh-high shot with his back to the goal. The puck went between Curry’s pads, and Gravallese blew a quick whistle, only to have the puck trickle over the goal line a half-second later.
“There’s no question that he blew the whistle too quickly,” acknowledged Parker. “So in reality, it probably should have been a goal. But he did blow the whistle before it crossed the line.”
Vermont outshot the Terriers in the final stanza, but BU still had the better scoring chances, most notably a Bourque backhander on a rebound at 11:30. In the end, Van der Gulik sealed it with his empty-netter in the final minute.
Curry played well but wasn’t tested severely by the Catamounts. As far as he was concerned, the real story was how much better the defense played this week.
“God, they played well,” Curry said. “They played unbelievable in front of me. In the first, I had a horrible rebound, and they bailed me out with an open net. That happened a few times. I’m really grateful for that.”
“Huge night for him,” Van der Gulik said. “The biggest part was we were kind of looking for someone to step up, and he definitely did that tonight. It’s nice to have confidence back in the net, and it feeds from there. Our defense played great, and our forwards played real hard, so it was good all around.”
The Terriers (1-2-0) commence their Hockey East schedule by hosting Providence on Friday night, while the Catamounts (1-2-0) host a pair of games against Niagara next weekend.