BURLINGTON, Vt. — Nathan Gerbe finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play for the game-winning goal with 5:10 remaining, as No. 8 Boston College topped No. 9 Vermont in a thriller in front of a sold out Gutterson Fieldhouse crowd on Sunday afternoon.
On the winning goal, BC came into the offensive zone 3-on-1 as Brock Bradford, Dan Bertram, and Gerbe worked a pretty play, which came out of the net as fast as it went in. It was Gerbe’s second of the day and third of the year.
It was a defensive struggle for both teams, as they took turns shutting each other down offensively, but in the end, two defensive lapses for the Catamounts did them in, costing UVM its first win against the Eagles since 1994.
“Most guys would shoot right in the slot, but the patience that kid has — he just slid it over to me for an empty-net backdoor. Credit to Danny and Brock for that one,” said Gerbe of the pass that Bertram made to him for the goal.
“It’s hard for our guys right now,” said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. “They’re in the looker room with their head down, but I think that is one of the best hockey games we’ve played. Unfortunately, we made two really bad mistakes and a quality team like Boston College is gonna make you pay for those. That really was the difference in the game.
“We had trouble generating offense but I thought we also did a tremendous job of taking away their offensive opportunities, aside from the two mistakes.”
The first period was the first of three tight-checking, hard-hitting on, as both teams were only able to muster a handful of scoring chances in the period. The teams traded power play chances in the early going. The Catamounts fed off the energy of the packed house and struck first. Jeff Corey entered the BC zone, cut across the top of the slot, using a screen in front, and snapped a shot surprising Cory Schneider at 17:45. Corey’s sixth of the year and third of the weekend was assisted by Corey Carlson and Kyle Kuk.
“We executed our game plan to a ‘T’,” Sneddon said. “We wanted to attack their defensive corps, four freshmen back there, who are very skilled. We felt if we could put as much pressure on them as possible, we could create some turnovers. We actually did it very well. We did everything we were supposed to do except for making two of those big mistakes.”
UVM’s Joe Fallon was only called upon to make a couple of tough saves in the period. One came on a point shot with traffic in front with nine minutes remaining, and another from below the right circle on Gerbe.
Through one, the Cats held a slim 5-4 shots advantage.
The Eagles knotted things up 11 minutes into the second period as Bertram sprung Gerbe on a breakaway. The freshman made a move forcing Fallon to go into the splits. On his way down, Gerbe slid the puck five-hole to quiet the raucous crowd and get BC back into the game.
Both goalies were busier in the period, stopping nine shots apiece. Schneider made saves on Torrey Mitchell twice from in close, Corey, and Mark Lutz, who made a nice move around a BC defender to get a shot off.
“They do a nice job in their defensive zone coverage, in that we had some good puck possession, but we had a real tough time getting the puck to the net and getting to the rebounds,” Sneddon said. “When you have a very good goaltender make that first save, you really have to find second and third opportunities, and they did a great job of shutting it down.”
On the other end of the ice, Fallon made big saves on Andrew Orpik and Stephen Gionta, both from the slot, to keep it tied up going into what promised to be a great final period.
After BC’s go-ahead goal in the third, Vermont was awarded a power play with 2:31 left. With under a minute to play, Fallon was pulled to make it a 6-on-4 advantage for the home team. Corey had a golden opportunity for the equalizer in the slot, but a centering pass missed his stick and dribbled out of the zone.
Both teams went scoreless on the power play – Vermont had five chances, BC four.
Schneider finished with 18 saves to picked up his fourth victory of the year, and Fallon stopped 14 in his second defeat.
“They’re a great team and I thought it was a great college hockey game,” said Sneddon. “We went toe-to-toe with them and unfortunately we ended up on the other side.”
“Vermont’s in our conference, but they’re in it, in my opinion, a team that can win our regular season championship,” said BC coach Jerry York. “They’re with New Hampshire, they’re with BU, Maine … probably ’bout five or six of us right now that feel that we’re going to contend for a championship, and surely Vermont, in my mind, is one of those teams.”
BC (4-2-1, 3-1-1 Hockey East) is home to play Harvard on Tuesday. Vermont (8-2-0, 2-2-0 Hockey East) travels to Merrimack on Friday, both games begin at 7pm.
“We are going through some learning stages,” York said. “This is a great stage to learn on here. Our best hockey’s in front of us.”