BOSTON — The game started at 10:40 p.m., but the offseason for Boston University began around 1 a.m. — much earlier than the Terriers hoped.
Meanwhile, a half-minute of offensive production proved sufficient for the University of Vermont.
Despite being outshot by a 26-16 margin, Vermont’s first visit to the Hockey East semifinals proved to be a satisfying one. The Catamounts bottled up BU’s offense and scored twice in a 29-second span of the second period, and that was the difference in a 3-1 victory in the second game of the Hockey East semifinals at the TD Banknorth Garden.
Joe Fallon led the way with 25 saves in the Catamount net, and Peter Lenes added a goal and an assist. Chris Higgins scored the lone goal for the Terriers.
“We’re obviously very thrilled with the outcome,” Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said. “I thought my team played very smart from start to finish … I thought it came down to timely scoring. We had trouble mounting any kind of attack; they were preventing us from getting shots as we went into their zone… It was frustrating but as time went on we were able to use our speed to our advantage and capitalize on a few opportunities.”
For Terrier coach Jack Parker, it was a downer Friday after a 12-3 Terrier run down the stretch. “I was disappointed in our effort tonight,” Parker said. “I thought we played okay at the start of the game, but when we got up one-nothing we played like it was four-nothing … It looked as if the game was won by a one-minute stint with a couple of goals, but the game was won by how hard they played in their zone in front of their goalie.”
“It was the kind of game Vermont likes to play. It was not the game we wanted to play.”
The Catamounts didn’t look intimidated early, and Viktor Stalberg had a shot at 1:20. Vermont didn’t do much with an early power play, but Corey Carlson had a decent chance on a two-on-one a few minutes later. BU goalie Brett Bennett made the save.
Just after an uneventful power play expired at 10:17, the Terriers took the lead. All-Rookie Team defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk fired a pass from the right point to Chris Higgins on the far side of the slot. The centerman took aim and beat Fallon with a low shot.
BU had a few nominal chances late in the period — most notably a rush by Terrier co-captain Pete MacArthur that led to a backhand shot at 18:40 — and Vermont fired a number of shots just wide, but mainly it was a tight opening frame with few great chances either way.
“I thought we played a solid defensive game; we kept everything outside,” Lenes said.
“We did a good job of breaking the puck up and keep them out of our zone for an extended period of time,” added Fallon, who actually napped during the triple-overtime opener Friday.
The action perked up in the second period. Corey Carlson set up Dean Strong on a two-on-one in the period’s opening minute. BU appeared to gain momentum close to midway through the period with territorial domination by the second line of Nick Bonino, Jason Lawrence, and Joe Pereira, then MacArthur set up Bryan Ewing for a great chance at 10:40.
Then UVM suddenly struck with two goals in under a half-minute. The Catamounts took a 1-0 lead at 13:48 when a long pass by Strong sent Peter Lenes off to the races. The left winger fought off a defender and backhanded a shot on goal. Bennett got part of it, but the puck trickled in before the goalie could reach back to stop it.
“Dean gave me a good pass, and I got a break,” Lenes said. “Guys were closing in one me, and I just had to get it off as fast as I could.”
Twenty-nine seconds later, Vermont stunned BU with the go-ahead goal. Skating past the left-wing side of the net, Brayden Irwin threw the puck back into the slot. Jack Downing attempted a shot, and the puck caromed off BU d-man Colby Cohen and right onto the stick of Colin Vock for the tap-in to make it 2-0.
That got the Terriers’ attention, and they had the better of the play for the rest of the period. Ewing had a good bid at 16:35 when he burst in with a backhanded shot. Then BU dominated the last minute, culminating in Brandon Yip blasting a shot from tight quarters that was blocked by freshman defenseman Kevan Miller. Vermont had to be happy to hear the buzzer for the second intermission.
The breather helped Vermont calm down, and BU couldn’t pick up where it left off in the third. Bonino did have a shorthanded chance at 6:30. Still, as the period wore on, the Terriers began to self-destruct with penalties. They had four penalties in the period’s first 16 minutes — including a very uncharacteristic roughing penalty on Chris Higgins — while Vermont had none.
“We reverted to some things we did earlier in the year,” Parker said.
Vermont (17-14-7) goes on to face Boston College with the opportunity to win its first Hockey East championship, as well as having a national tournament berth at stake.
“The thing that has impressed me about this team is their mental toughness,” Sneddon said of the prospect of the high-stakes game on Saturday night. “I just think that we’ve been in so many situations this year that we’ve had to focus on the next 200 feet. I feel very confident that we have the most mentally tough team in the country.”
BU (19-17-4) wraps up a year that ultimately proved to be disappointing despite a second-place finish in the Hockey East regular season.
“There’s an old adage: you get what you deserve,” Parker said. “We’re not in the national tournament — not because of what happened in the last couple of months in the season but because of what happened a long, long time ago. Those games count, too, and we weren’t ready to play them.
“I thought it was a remarkable turnaround, to tell you the truth. There were a lot of things going wrong that guys could’ve pointed fingers at. To go as well we did the second half of the season is a credit to these guys.”
Parker also added that he “hoped like hell” that Vermont got in the national tournament — not because of wanting BC to lose but wanting Hockey East to have three teams from a great league in the tournament.