BOSTON, Mass. — The glass was half empty for both the Vermont Catamounts and Boston University Terriers tonight.
With every point difficult to come by in the log-jammed Hockey East standings, it’s painful for any team to feel like they let one slip away. Both teams had reason to feel that way tonight.
After a mediocre first half of play, BU pressed hard for the win — outshooting Vermont 17-4 in the third period — but couldn’t get the winner. Meanwhile, Vermont had three fantastic but unsuccessful scoring opportunities in the last 35 minutes.
The final outcome was a 2-2 tie in front of 5,438 at Agganis Arena. Jack Downing led the way with two goals for Vermont, while Joe Fallon stopped 36 of 38 shots for the Catamounts. Bryan Ewing had a terrific goal for BU, and Karson Gillespie had several highlight-reel saves for the Terriers.
“I thought we played very well at times tonight,” Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said. “I don’t think our team is complacent or satisfied with the tie; we felt we had some good chances to win the hockey game at various points. But as I told my team at the end, it was a playoff battle in the third period and overtime. That was some really good hockey being played by both teams. BU in the third period for a good segment had some unbelievable scoring chances to go up.”
It was a tale of two games for Terrier coach Jack Parker. “I was very disappointed with how we played the first half of the game; I was very happy with how we played the second half of the game,” Parker said. “We didn’t seem to come out with enough zip. Actually, we came out the first couple of shifts ok and then we got a goal and they got a goal right off the bat. Once they did, we deflated, I thought. We didn’t do a very good job on our power plays. They were all in the first when we weren’t playing well anyways.”
Neither team mustered much offense until the five-minute mark, when there was a sudden flurry. Off of an offensive-zone faceoff at 5:05, BU’s second line of Nick Bonino, Joe Pereira, and Brandon Yip struck first.
“Nick made a nice play, won the faceoff and brought it to the net,” Yip said. “I think Joe kicked it with his feet, and I kind of saw it there and banged it home.”
That early lead lasted all of 27 seconds. The Terriers coughed up the puck behind their own goal line on the right-wing side, and top-line right wing Corey Carlson pounced on it.
“The first one was a turnover in the corner,” Downing said. “I just popped out in the slot and Carlson found me. I just one-timed it on goal, five-hole.”
Vermont almost got another one 34 seconds later, hitting a post and fooling the goal judge in the process. BU almost regained the lead when Bonino hit Pereira with a 75-foot pass to launch a breakaway, which was unsuccessful, but resulted in a penalty. Late in the period, Bryan Ewing almost scored on a broken play after a penalty expired, then UVM had a great bid on a three-on-in, only to have Gillespie come up big when Colin Vick crossed to Josh Burrows on the doorstep.
After Ewing cycled the puck effectively with linemates Chris Higgins and Pete MacAthur eight minutes into the second stanza, Ewing made a great individual effort to give BU the lead. He got the puck in the left-wing faceoff circle and stickhandled through traffic before beating Fallon with a wrister.
However, UVM tied it up on a fluke goal at 12:34 off another BU turnover in the defensive zone.
“Dean Strong made a nice play on the boards to pinch down and take the defenseman, and I covered him high,” Downing said. “It just went to my stick, and I choked up on it to keep it in the zone, and it went over him and in. Throw everything on goal and see what happens.”
It appeared that Shattenkirk stood between Gillespie and his view of the puck. Gillespie never moved when Downing casually flipped it toward the net. With the goalie hunched over facing the play, the puck sailed right over his head and into the net. He never moved.
BU’s fourth line of John McCarthy, Brian McGuirk, and Ryan Weston looked good all night and almost got a goal at 16:38. Weston backhanded one from the side of the crease that snuck through Fallon’s five-hole, only to have defenseman Josh Burrows stop the puck before it crossed the goal line.
That set the stage for BU’s offensive outburst in the third, shot-wise at least. Yip had a third of the net to shoot at 8:10 but couldn’t bury it.
“I saw Joe bringing the puck to the net, and I actually did a spin to try to fight for position, and I really didn’t know where I was,” Yip said. “I just saw the puck and spazzed out and hit the post. I’d love have that one back, but it’s just goes that way sometimes.”
Vermont left wing Colin Vock countered almost immediately with a breakaway, only to have Gillespie come up huge.
“The breakaway in the third period was pretty tough; I wasn’t sure where it was, kind of lost sight of it in my pads,” Gillespie acknowledged.
The Terriers pressed hard all period, but couldn’t score despite the whopping 17-4 shot advantage.
“I think we had good scoring chances,” Sneddon said. “Shot totals aren’t always the best indicator.”
Vermont had the better of it in overtime, as Viktor Stalberg set up Peter Lenes on a two-on-one that required another great save by Gillespie. In the end, though, time ran out on two disappointed teams.
“Two things that jumped at me watching the game were that both goalies played real well,” Parker said. “And I know that they’ve been worried about Fallon, who’s obviously shown in the past that he can be a real good goaltender. He’s been up and down this year, but he played real well for them tonight. And this is the second good outing in a row for Gillespie. I thought he made a couple of huge saves. In the third period, we kind of owned them and couldn’t put it by him.”
BU (5-10-3, 4-6-2 Hockey East) plays at Maine for one game next weekend, while Vermont (4-7-5, 3-3-3 Hockey East) plays at Boston College on Wednesday and Friday with school out.