CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Peter Harrold’s goal at 10:41 of overtime completed a dramatic comeback for Boston College, giving the third-seeded Eagles a 3-2 victory over sixth-seeded Vermont and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series.
Harrold intercepted a blind pass at his defensive blue line. He then cut down the right wing side, skated just below the goal line and fired a bad-angle shot on Vermont goaltender Joe Fallon (31 saves). The puck hit Fallon’s stick as he tried to deflect it and then bounced between his legs into the net sending the sparse crowd of 1,679 into celebration.
“I was hoping it would bounce out, maybe into the slot,” said Harrold of the play. “I think [Fallon] stuck his stick out trying to poke check it and it just bounced in on him.”
“We haven’t had much [puck-luck] in our season,” said BC head coach Jerry York, whose team entered the playoffs 1-5-1 in its last seven and lost the Hockey East regular season title on the final night.
The goal came just 29 seconds after BC goaltender Cory Schneider (25 saves) saved the game, literally, for the Eagles. Vermont center Torrey Mitchell skated in alone and made a quick move on Schneider. He lifted a shot that Schneider had to reach in back of him with his glove to make a highlight-reel save.
“I saw [Mitchell] cutting down the slot… he’s one of their best forwards,” said Schneider. “I knew he was going to be patient and try to out-wait me. I thought I did a good job of staying up.
“I just stuck my glove out there and hoped I got it because at that point you’re just reaching and trying to cut off his angle as much as possible.”
The BC win spoiled a spirited performance by Vermont that took them within a minute of victory. BC’s Chris Collins scored the tying goal with 59.4 seconds remaining in regulation to steal the win from the Catamounts.
BC jumped out to an early lead thanks to Brian Boyle’s career-best 20th goal of the season. On the power play, Boyle received a Stephen Gionta feed from behind the net and quickly snapped of a shot that beat Fallon cleanly at 5:17.
Vermont answered with a power play goal of its own at 7:47. Mitchell and Dean Strong transitioned quickly off a neutral zone turnover and skated in two-on-one on Schneider. Strong had an empty net to bury a backhander after Mitchell drew both the defender and goaltender, knotting the game at one.
The first period was quite even territorially, evident in the shot chart that showed each club putting eight attempts on goal.
In the second, the physical play picked up but the skating seemed to slow a bit. Shots actually picked up in the period, with BC outshooting the Catamounts, 11-10. Each team, though, mustered just a single noteworthy scoring chance.
BC’s came at 10:45 when Nathan Gerbe took advantage of a Fallon miscue. The sophomore goaltender bobbled a rebound allowing Gerbe to take a wide-open swat. The puck hit Fallon, bounced over hit shoulder and floated to the top of the net forcing a whistle.
Vermont countered with a bid of its own at 15:10. With Schneider looking down and out, Brady Leisenring’s shot ended up right in the glove of the outstretched goaltender, keeping the game even heading into the third.
Vermont looked like it was on its way to victory when Jaime Sifers’ slap shot through an Andy Corran screen squeaked through the legs of Schneider at 3:28 to give the Vermont a 2-1 lead.
It remained that way into the game’s closing minutes. With 1:28 remaining, York lifted Schneider in favor of an extra attacker. After gaining the zone following a neutral-zone faceoff, defenseman Harrold found Benn Ferriero in the high slot. Ferriero’s original shot was saved by Fallon but Collins was camped out at the right post and slapped the puck into the wide-open net with 59.4 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.
“A couple of things went wrong [on the six-on-five],” said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. “One of our guys picked his own player and we couldn’t get out to the shooter. And obviously Collins is a pretty good guy to have net front. He’s going to bury those.”
The win puts Vermont on the brink of the season’s end. The Catamounts, who once looked like an NCAA tournament contender, now must put together four straight wins to make it to the national stage.
That all begins on Friday night, a game both York and Sneddon know will be a battle.
“The toughest thing in hockey is to take the sticks away from [the other teams],” said York. “Tomorrow night we’re trying to eliminate Vermont, and that’s a hard thing to do. We’ll have our hands full tomorrow night.”
“We’ve got our backs against the wall, but we remember what we did last year against Dartmouth,” said Sneddon of his club’s ECACHL playoff series in which the Cats lost the opener but rallied to win the series. “I don’t have to remind them that it’s do or die. They’re disappointed right now but we’ve got to shake that feeling and come back and play tomorrow night.”