BOSTON — It took three games, half an overtime period, and an imaginary road trip, but Boston University finally managed to end Vermont’s season.
BU dominated the first half of regulation before squandering a 2-0 lead and heading to overtime to decide its best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series against Vermont. A Ryan Weston breakaway forced Peter Macaulay to take a penalty to prevent a goal, setting the stage for Brandon Yip’s power-play goal 13 seconds later.
“Pete [MacArthur] made a great faceoff win to [Matt] Gilroy, and he threw it back to me at the point,” Yip said. “I was thinking shot the whole way and took a shot; [Torrey] Mitchell blocked it. Fortunately it came back to me because I thought it was going the other way on the breakaway, but I got it and buried my head and shot. Fortunately it went in.”
“I was calling for the pass and he totally just flipped me off,” Chris Higgins said, drawing laughs from those at the press conference.
“I heard about three people calling for it, and I just decided to shoot,” Yip replied.
John Curry stopped 24 of 26 Vermont shots in the 3-2 win in front of 3,769 at Agganis Arena. Higgins and Jason Lawrence scored the other two goals for BU, while Viktor Stalberg and Peter Lenes lit the lamp for the Catamounts. Joe Fallon made 31 saves in a losing effort.
“What a fabulous college hockey game — an absolutely fabulous college hockey game,” Terrier coach Jack Parker said. “After winning the game last night, the way we came out tonight … The first 35 minutes I thought we were in complete control of the game in every phase: penalty killing, power play, forechecking, getting the puck out of the zone. We looked terrific.
“We were up two-nothing, and then we turn the puck over and can’t get a change, and the kid makes a great play coming out of the corner to score. And all of a sudden, we got back on our heels.”
Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon concurred with Parker’s assessment. “BU-UVM hockey: What a great series it was,” Sneddon said. “Obviously tough to be on the losing end of it, especially after our team did such a nice job of digging themselves out of the two-nothing deficit. I’m just so proud of our team.
“It’s hard for me to go in there and tell them how well they did; they’re hurting pretty bad right now. They felt like they had the energy back in the third period going into overtime. They really felt good about the way they were playing and felt that they had momentum. Unfortunately we take a penalty: Beautiful shot by Yip, and our season is over.”
BU broke on top at 9:33 of the first period. In his own end, MacArthur fired a long cross-ice pass to Eric Thomassian on the right-wing side. The senior skated into the zone and crossed to Higgins. “I just kind gave a shoulder fake like I was going to shoot first and then slipped it five-hole,” Higgins said.
On a power play seven minutes later, BU came close when Kenny Roche fired a pass to Bryan Ewing at the far post, only to have Ewing fan get slightly handcuffed by the pass and fan on the shot. Seconds later, though, Dan McGoff got the puck on the right point and slid it over to captain Sean Sullivan on the left point. Sullivan fired a wrister, and Jason Lawrence tipped it down to redirect it past Fallon for the 2-0 lead.
The Terriers almost made it 3-0 20 seconds into the second period. Lawrence and Ewing came in two on one, and Ewing’s shot went right into Fallon’s breadbasket — only to have the netminder drop the puck and have it slip through his legs into the crease. There was quite a scrum but no goal.
UVM threatened three minutes later on a power play in which BU got the puck on sticks three different times but never did manage to clear its zone until there were two or three seconds left in the man advantage. Stalberg had the only serious bid, though.
BU had a pair of shorthanded chances a few minutes later, with Ewing pulling off a nifty spin-o-rama move for one shot before Higgins raced in with one of a few electrifying moves of the night, drawing a penalty this time around.
The Terriers looked content to sit on the lead and got a little sloppy in their own zone. Following an anemic power play, they ultimately paid for their carelessness. Stalberg grabbed a puck that Thomassian dumped into the corner and skated out with it along the goal line. Curry seemed to anticipate a pass and pulled off the near post just as Stalberg shot it in the net on that side.
Ewing had another good chance off a Lawrence feed early in the third, but Vermont kept hanging around and eventually tied it on a power-play goal at 6:52. BU centerman John McCarthy had a Vermont pass go right on his stick, but he couldn’t get the handle on it. The puck caromed over to Lenes, who buried a wrister for the stunning game-tying goal.
Roche almost got the go-ahead goal off a Ewing feed halfway through the period, and then Macauley very nearly sealed it for Vermont at 15:20. Falling down, he tried to poke it home while Curry rolled over la Dominik Hasek to ensure that the puck wouldn’t go in. BU was fortunate to get to the end of regulation.
“If that was a regular game and we had to take two minutes and then start the overtime then and there, we would’ve been in trouble,” Parker said. “But the fact that we went back to the dressing room was terrific for us because they had all the momentum the last six minutes of that game.”
BU dominated the extra frame, outshooting Vermont 10-3 in just over nine minutes of play. Weston’s breakaway loomed large.
“I was screaming for a penalty shot,” Parker admitted, smiling. “Now I’m glad we didn’t get it. The ref was right again.”
That set the stage for Yip, who has had a star-crossed season with recurring injuries after being named Hockey East Rookie of the Year last season.
“I almost benched him after Friday night’s game,” Parker revealed “He really had a tough night; I was upset with the way he was cruising around. He was fortunate he wasn’t the only one playing that way Friday night or else he would’ve thought that I was picking on him. I moved him to third line because of that, and he played great last night and played well tonight. Obviously, it was a big goal tonight.”
“Jack said to me before the game, ‘It’s going to be double overtime,’” Sneddon said. “After the game, he said, ‘I was only kidding; I didn’t mean it.’ I think that there’s a great respect.
“I went through the line with the BU players, and talk about winning with grace. Their comments to our players and our staff were exactly what you’d want out of your own team after a win. They realized that this was a big battle. And I think that this series will certainly help him them go really far … After that first-night loss, they had to get back to the way of playing that’s made them successful.”
BU (20-8-9) now faces red-hot Boston College in the 8:00 p.m. semifinal at the TD Banknorth Garden on Friday night, while Vermont (18-16-5) can look forward to next year with many talented players returning.