CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — For the second straight weekend, the nation’s premier matchup turned into one team making a major statement.
One week after No. 1 Wisconsin swept then-No. 5 Colorado College in the WCHA, No. 2 Boston College completed a two-game sweep of No. 5 Vermont with a 3-0 victory Saturday night.
It was the third straight shutout for the Eagles and goaltender Cory Schneider, who finished the weekend with 55 saves. It was also the second straight game where all of Boston College’s offense came from its top line of Brian Boyle, Chris Collins and Stephen Gionta.
“That’s as good of goaltending as we’ve seen,” said Boston College head coach Jerry York of Schneider. The sophomore netminder has an active shutout streak of 217:49, second on the school’s all-time list only to Scott Clemmensen, who posted 254:23 minutes of scoreless play in the 1997-98 season.
“Well, Cory Schneider’s not a bad goaltender,” said Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon with a laugh.
Sneddon went on to admit that he felt his team threw everything it had at Schneider on Saturday night but nothing was beating the red-hot netminder.
“I thought he had a fantastic weekend, and certainly I thought he may have been better tonight than last night.”
Schneider was called upon to make 33 saves on Saturday night, most coming in the game’s opening two periods when Vermont peppered him, but the first-round draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks made things look incredibly easy.
Similar to Friday night, Schneider saved his best for last. On Friday he stopped Brady Leisenring with a stellar glove save in the game’s closing minutes. Saturday, he one-upped that, bringing the sellout crowd to its feet stopping Corey Carlson on a breakaway.
Carlson, in alone from center ice, dropped his left shoulder to get Schneider to commit to his blocker side. He then pulled the puck around Schneider and, looking at a wide open net fired a shot that somehow the sophomore tender reached back and stuffed with his glove.
“It’s getting pretty close,” said BC defenseman Peter Harrold when asked if it seems like Schneider is becoming unbeatable in net. “[Cory] was the backbone of this team tonight. Without him we wouldn’t have won this game.”
“I’m just seeing the puck real well right now and I’m anticipating,” said Schneider. “The game seems to have slowed down a little bit and I’m fortunate to be on top of my game for the past two weeks.”
When Carlson broke in with four minutes left, Schneider’s stop really only helped preserve the shutout. The Eagles top line had already given the Eagles a 3-0 lead thanks to an early goal by Boyle and goals in the second and third period by Collins.
Said Collins, who became the first Eagle in two years to reach the 20-goal plateau, this season the puck just seems to be finding the back of the net
“I’ve always been getting chances,” said Collins. “I just feel like this year from the first game at Michigan, I’ve been getting bounces and they’ve been going in for me.”
The opening period lacked the crisp passing and play making that defined Friday’s game. Still, the Conte Forum crowd of 7,886 was still entertained by physical play from both sides which led to referee Tim Benedetto whistling a total of 40 minutes of penalties.
On Friday night, BC definitively beat Vermont in physical play. Saturday night, Sneddon hoped to shake things up and emphasize the physical game, benching Leisenring, the team’s leading goal scorer and sophomore forward Reese Wisnowski.
“Those were coach’s decisions,” said Sneddon. “I wanted to go with guys tonight who I thought were willing to play physical.”
Before the rough play started though, BC had already taken an early lead. After defenseman Peter Harrold made a nice play to keep the puck in at the right point, he found Boyle wide open in the slot. Boyle’s hard wrister beat Vermont goaltender Joe Fallon (26 saves) over the shoulder for a 1-0 BC lead at 4:23.
Minutes later, Vermont looked to have tied the game when Torrey Mitchell banged home a rebound into a wide open net. Benedetto disallowed the goal though, ruling that he’d lost sight of the puck and blown the whistle.
In the second period, BC extended its lead when Chris Collins buried his 19th goal of the season. An attempted Vermont clearing pass bounced off the shin of Boyle right to Collins in the slot. With no one between he and Fallon, he fired a shot over the right pad to give BC a 2-0 lead at 16:07.
BC killed a five-on-three Vermont power play early in the period only to be the beneficiary of an extended two-man advantage in the period’s final minute. It looked as if Collins had netted number 20 on the season when his shot went off of Fallon’s right arm and into the net. Again, though, Benedetto blew the whistle having lost sight of the puck, disallowing the goal and sending the game to the second period 2-0 in favor of the Eagles.
That 20th goal wouldn’t elude Collins for long, though, as just 48 seconds into the third period, with BC still up two men, he fired a shot off the left post and in for a 3-0 Eagles lead.
From there, the only question was, “Can Cory post another shutout?” And making six saves in the third, he answered in the affirmative, tying the school record with three straight shutouts and helping BC get a further stranglehold on the conference lead.
The Eagles, with the benefit of both Providence and New Hampshire losing, now lead Hockey East by eight points. BC’s current winning streak extends to seven and its unbeaten streak to a nation’s best 10 (9-0-1).
Vermont drops its seconds straight and is 2-3-1 in its last six games. It seems inevitable that the Catamounts will drop in the national polls. The only question that remains is how far.
The Cats will face Merrimack in a two-game series in Burlington next weekend, while BC will face one of Hockey East’s hottest teams and arch-rival Boston University at home on Friday.