CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — After a lackluster showing at Clarkson in a 4-2 loss on Saturday, the Boston College Eagles knew they would have to take charge of Wednesday’s game with a pesky Vermont team early.
Nathan Gerbe was whistled for a charging penalty in the game’s opening minute. Though an inauspicious start, it effectively accomplished the Eagles goal.
“On the first shift, you always want to throw some big hits,” said Gerbe. “I left my feet so [the penalty] was a good call, but I just wanted to hit someone to get in the game myself.”
That physical onslaught never stopped for the Eagles, who outmuscled the Catamounts and dominated the scoreboard as well, recording a 4-1 victory in front of a sparse midweek student-less crowd of 4,208 at BC’s Kelley Rink.
BC’s ability to take the body throughout was the most frustrating point for Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon, who said he was disappointed that his team wasn’t willing to pay the price physically.
“They physically just dominated from a strength standpoint,” said Sneddon of the Eagles. “Hits must’ve been 50-to-10. The goals they scored were all net-front battles where they outmuscled us.”
Offensively, BC’s top line of Gerbe, Brian Gibbons and Brock Bradford set the pace. Gerbe and Gibbons finished the game with a goal and two assists, while Bradford, playing in his first game back with the team since the season opener when he broke his arm, netted a goal and an assist.
“It’s a world of difference,” said York about having Bradford, a 45-point scorer last season, back in the lineup after 17 games. “It’s good for all of us to see how much he had to persevere. He gives the whole team a new dynamic.”
“It’s nice to be back,” said Bradford. “When you sit out so long, you have a new appreciation of being out there.”
The opening 20 minutes saw Vermont outshoot the Eagles, 12-7, but an early goal by BC’s Pat Gannon made the difference.
Gerbe, serving his charging minor in the opening minutes, came out of the penalty box, picked up the puck in the neutral zone and wheeled around the net to Vermont goaltender Joe Fallon’s (20 saves) right. Drawing the defense below the goal line, Gerbe centered a quick pass that Gannon roofed over Fallon’s left shoulder for a 1-0 lead.
The Eagles nearly extended that lead late. On a power play, Dan Bertram fired a doorstep shot off the left post.
In the second period, BC came out flying and quickly expanded their lead.
Gerbe, after being stopped at the left post, centered the puck to Bradford, who had a wide-open net to bury his first goal of the season just 16 seconds in.
“I’ll take them anyway I can,” laughed Bradford when asked if seeing a wide open net was a good feeling in his first game back. “It was exciting to score, no doubt.”
Shortly thereafter, Gerbe buried a goal of his own, beating Fallon short side with a backhander at 3:09. It was Gerbe’s 17th goal of the year and extended his goal scoring streak to seven games.
Over that seven game span, Gerbe has scored 23 points and 12 goals, an average of three points and nearly two goals per game.
In the third, BC extended the cushion when Gibbons buried his fifth of the year on a backhand at 7:48.
Vermont answered at 8:16 when Wahsontiio Stacey netted his first career goal off an offensive zone face off, ending BC goaltender John Muses (23 saves) shutout bid.
The victory catapulted BC (9-5-5, 5-3-4 Hockey East) to sole possession of third place in Hockey East, just a point behind front runners New Hampshire and Northeastern. BC has won six of seven, outscoring their opponents, 37-14, in that span.
Vermont (4-8-5, 3-4-3 Hockey East) drops below .500 in league play and remains in eighth place, a point behind Providence and Boston University for sixth place.
The two teams square off in the second of this two-game series in Boston on Friday night at 7 p.m.