BOSTON — When Boston University’s Ben Rosen scored his second career goal with 14:27 remaining in the third period to give the Terriers a 3-0 lead, most of the 4,418 in attendance at BU’s Agganis Arena chalked up the third straight victory for the hosts.
Few considered that Vermont, a team that had looked lackluster for much of the second and the beginning of the third periods, would mount a furious rally, tie the game to force overtime and be a fraction of an inch away from stealing a win.
Instead, when H.T. Lenz’s shot rang off the right post with 33 seconds remaining in overtime, BU fans could breathe a collective sigh as Friday’s contest ended in a 3-3 tie, sewing up crucial points in the standings for each team in the heated Hockey East playoff race.
“Tonight was a good tie for us,” said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon, whose Catamounts moved into sole possession of seventh place and maintain a three point lead over Providence, which also tied, 3-3, on Friday, for a spot in the Hockey East playoffs. “Our guys found a way to turn a point and they almost won it.”
Down three goals, Vermont began the comeback at 6:37 of the third when defenseman Anders Franzen jumped into the rush and buried a rebound of a Chris McCarthy shot while the teams skated four-on-four.
The Cats climbed within a goal at 12:57 on what looked like a harmless backhander from the point by Drew McKenzie. Instead, BU netminder Kieran Millan (38 saves) found himself screened and the puck floated to the upper right corner of the net.
Before the Vermont faithful that made the trek from Burlington had a chance to finish celebrating, the game was tied. Lenz brought the puck up the right wing side on the rush and fired a low hard shot. Millan kicked the rebound to the high slot when defenseman Lance Herrington picked the perfect time to bury his first career goal to erase the three-goal deficit.
“Our defensemen struggled a little defensively tonight,” remarked Sneddon of his blueliner who, on the other end, scored all three goals. “But offensively, our defensemen did some good things jumping into the play.”
The exciting finish was the polar opposite of the opening of the game, which was slowed by whistles and, most notably, six minor penalties in the opening period. Neither team took advantage of the three power plays in the frame. The most notable opportunity resulted in Vermont netminder Rob Madore (43 saves) making what certainly was one of the top saves of the year, stopping Wade Megan with an incredible toe stop on a two-on-one.
BU though, eventually struck when Sahir Gill cashed in for his fifth goal of the season. Vermont’s Jack Downing made an ill-advised pass in the defensive zone that Gill intercepted, walked in alone and deked Madore, tucking the puck inside the left post at 16:40, giving the Terriers the 1-0 lead through one.
In the second, BU extended the lead on one of the lengthiest reviews of a goal. Adam Clendening fired a shot from the right point that was blocked by the Cats’ defense. The puck came right back to the rookie blueliner and he had a lane to the net, pulling Madore out of position for what looked like it may have been a shot off the post.
After nearly 10 minutes of review, it was determined that the puck went off of Vermont’s Nick Bruneteau’s stick while on the goal line but it just crossed the line before the Cats defender pushed it out of the net. The goal at 12:52 sent BU to the final frame leading, 2-0.
That, though, only set up the wild third period and overtime.
In the end, both teams benefitted with points in the standings, but for BU, the tie stings considerably more.
“If it was back and forth scorewise, we would’ve felt better about [the tie],” said BU coach Jack Parker. “When we were up 3-0, it was demoralizing not to win the game.”
The tie pulls BU (16-9-8, 13-5-6 Hockey East) within a point of Merrimack, which lost 4-0 at Maine on Friday, for third place. Vermont (7-17-7, 5-13-6 Hockey East) reaped stronger benefits to stay three points ahead of ninth-place Providence and move a point ahead of Massachusetts, a 4-3 loser against Boston College, for seventh place.
The Terriers and Catamounts wrap up the weekend and season series on Saturday. The game will be played at a special 6:30 start time to accommodate television.