BURLINGTON, Vt. — Fourth-ranked Boston University and No. 16 Vermont locked horns in an entertaining up-and-down affair that had a little bit of everything except a winner at a raucous Gutterson Fieldhouse.
With goaltender John Curry out for the extra skater, senior defenseman Dan Spang tied the game at one, with 27 seconds left in the third on a power play shot from the point.
The game featured everything from some outstanding offensive play, terrific goaltending, and two game misconducts one for each team for hitting from behind.
The tie leaves the Terriers (19-9-3, 15-7-1 Hockey East) in second place, three points behind Boston College. The Catamounts (18-10-5, 10-9-5) remain in sixth, trailing UNH and Providence by four points for the final home-ice playoff spot.
You might expect a coach to be frustrated when his team gives up a tying goal late, surrendering a crucial Hockey East point down the stretch, yet that wasn’t the case for Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon, who was pleased with his team’s play.
“You come away from that as a coach, and you can’t ask for a more complete hockey game of effort, execution, than what we got out of our guys tonight,” said Sneddon.
“It was two teams that left it all out on the ice, and as a coach that’s all you can ask for. Sometimes it’s gonna be enough to win, other times it’s enough to tie, and sometimes you lose those games, but, really, I’m just so proud of our guys right now.”
From the other bench BU head coach Jack Parker concurred.
“I thought it was a fabulous college hockey game. I thought it was really well refereed. I thought it was up and down the ice. The first part of it was a little cutie for a while, guys really being concerned but not taking a lot of shots. But after that, it opened up a little bit more. I thought it was a fabulous college hockey game, well played by both teams,” he said.
The teams skated to a scoreless, but relatively even first period. UVM goaltender Joe Fallon (25 saves) was forced to make a couple of tough saves in the early going, including three from point-blank range, and on the other end, John Curry (20 saves) turned aside the four shots that he saw in the period. Both squads traded power plays with neither capitalizing on them.
Vermont came out flying in the second period and tallied the game’s first goal on the power play. A BU penalty killer tried to chip the puck out of the zone up the middle, but it was kept in nicely. Corey Carlson floated it past Curry’s at 4:14 for the 1-0. Brady Leisenring got the primary assist on the play tying him with John LeClair for the most points by a Vermont-born player in UVM history.
From that point forward in the period, it was all Vermont. Mark Lutz rang the crossbar from the point with 14 minutes left in the period, then with 11 minutes left, Leisenring found the puck on his stick, made a move on Curry but the goalie made a nice pad save.
Later Chris Myers had another sparkling chance for the Cats as he took a terrific pass from Torrey Mitchell from behind the net and ripped it on Curry. The puck lay behind the junior netminder, before he reached back to cover it.
Vermont was awarded a five-minute power play when Jason Lawrence hit a UVM player from behind at 13:58. The Cats didn’t score on that man advantage but put considerable pressure on the BU end.
“I thought Vermont played extremely well at their blue line. We never got any opportunities to transition and attack them at the blue line,” said Parker.
“And they played great, down low. I don’t know how many teams outshoot them. It was nice for us to do that. But the reason why we did, is, I think, they were up by a goal and didn’t come as hard [in the third period]. In general, it was a very, very well played game, and what we expected from Vermont.”
As the buzzer sounded to end the period, defenseman Slavomir Tomko got a hitting from behind penalty of his own. The Terriers started the third with fresh ice and a full five-minute power play.
The UVM penalty-kill unit did its job to take care of the major with good defense along with solid goaltending from Fallon.
The Terriers nearly tied things up, with less than eight minutes left in the third. Fallon played the puck in front of his net, giving it away to Chris Higgins. Higgins took a shot that Fallon got a piece of, as it trickled near the wide-open net. Jaime Sifers was on the spot to clear it from harm’s way.
With 3:53 remaining, Brady Leisenring sped into the BU zone, making a move on a defender, and rang the post on a shot that could have put the game away for the Cats.
Then at 18:34 Kyle Kuk took a holding penalty giving BU a power play for the rest of the third. With Curry pulled to make it 6-on-4, Spang found the equalizer, ripping a point shot through a maze of bodies and past Fallon, to send it to overtime.
Nothing was settled in the extra session although Leisenring had the best chance. Curry made the save on the shot from the right circle.
“We just did so many good things tonight,” said Sneddon. “[BU] is one of the best teams in the country and I thought we, for parts of the game, outplayed them. I think the fans were treated to some of the best college hockey of the year. We’re excited to be able to come back at them, tomorrow night.”
The teams close out their season series on Saturday.