BOSTON — It’s not often that a goalie stops 49 of 50 shots and fails to get the No. 1 star, but Boston University goalie Sean Maguire’s outstanding night in net was trumped by Matt Nieto’s first collegiate hat trick – a natural hat trick at that.
It was the both the first hat trick and natural hat trick for a Terrier since the program’s national championship season in 2008-09 when Jason Lawrence scored three in a row in a comeback win over Massachusetts on Feb. 27, followed by a Brandon Yip hat trick against Providence a week later.
Nieto scored all three goals in tonight’s 3-1 victory over Vermont in front of 4,010 fans at Agganis Arena and now has scored the team’s last five goals in a row.
“It was great,” Nieto said. “My parents are in town [from California] this weekend and I wanted to play well for them. I didn’t expect to play that well, but my teammates made it easy for me, set me up for success. I just had to tap pucks in.”
The win leaves BU fourth in the jam-packed Hockey East standings, where three points separate first and sixth.
“I was real pleased with our team after the first period,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “We gave up a lot of shots tonight, but we didn’t bend and our goaltender had a fabulous night. They got a lot of shots right in our crease – wham bam bam bam – three or four shots in a row and Sean stood tall there. We’re going to have to take a look at the film and see how we can lessen the pressure on him.”
Vermont had 11 shots in the first, 17 in the second and a whopping 22 in the third.
“I thought our team finished the game a lot stronger than we started, certainly,” Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said. “You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Mr. Maguire tonight. Anytime you see 49 saves on the board, your goaltender’s had a pretty good night, but I didn’t think we played with the sense of urgency that we needed and talked about prior to the game.”
Vermont scored first with just 1:33 remaining in period one. Near the goal line, Kyle Reynolds backhanded a puck across the slot and Chris McCarthy banged it in low on the glove side.
BU went on the power play 32 seconds later and capitalized. Ryan Santana got the puck in the left-wing circle and made a great feed to Nieto near the opposite dot. The junior fired an off-balance shot and fell down as it beat freshman goalie Brody Hoffman high.
“I thought Santana gave us a real good game,” Parker said. “He’s our fourth-line center, he kills penalties for us, he plays on the power play, does a great job of screening and winning faceoffs. Did a great job on the power-play goal at the end of the first.”
The goal was scored with just 24.2 seconds left in the period, making it a real buzzkill for Vermont.
“We’re up 1-0 on the road and we have two chances to clear the puck on a penalty kill and a costly turnover turns up in the back of the net with less than 30 seconds to go,” lamented Sneddon. “That was a tough start and it gave them life in the second period.”
Then BU scored on their second power play in a row after failing to score on 18 straight man-advantages. Evan Rodrigues had the puck on the left point and slid it down low to freshman Danny O’Regan, who slipped a pass across the top of the crease to Nieto at the far post for the easy goal.
Vermont almost tied it early in the third when Anthony DeCenso and Connor Brickley banged away repeatedly at the puck around the crease, but apparently, it didn’t cross the line.
A minute later, Nieto completed his hat trick. With Rodrigues carrying the puck up the right wing on a two-on-two rush, Nieto managed to get a little ahead of his man and one-timed the pass in to make it 3-1.
“He’s got 14 now and he’s on a real hot streak,” Parker said of Nieto. “His line’s playing extremely well. Danny has played well and Rodrigues has been our best player for quite a while.”
Having one player score five of his team’s goals in a row is not unprecedented for Parker.
“I remember Joe Sacco getting five in a row when we won a playoff game,” Parker said. “That was a while ago.”
Nieto’s feat slightly overshadowed the play of Maguire, who saw a lot of rubber. Like most goalies, he liked getting so much action.
“It keeps me focused, keeps me on top of things,” Maguire said. “This a desperate hockey club we played tonight and they’re going to be shooting from everywhere, trying to get some gritty goals, and that’s exactly what they did tonight.”
No. 19 BU (16-14-2, 13-9-2) will look to strengthen their hold on a home-ice spot in a rematch at Agganis Arena on Saturday. Vermont (10-16-5, 7-12-5) is in seventh place and just one point ahead of both Maine and Massachusetts, so the Catamounts are still battling to ensure that they aren’t the odd team out in the playoff mix.