CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Vermont learned a valuable lesson in Friday’s Hockey East quarterfinal: don’t dig yourself a hole against a three-time defending tournament champion.
No. 7-seed Vermont did just that, spotting second-seeded Boston College a 3-0 lead through 40 minutes before rallying in the third on goals by Ben Albertson at 4:56 and a shorthanded tally by Matt White with 7:23 remaining.
But BC and its defense bent, never broke, and an empty-net tally by Johnny Gaudreau with 1:02 remaining allowed the Eagles to skate to a 4-2 victory. BC’s seniors improved to a perfect 13-0 in Hockey East tournament play and are now one win away from advancing to the TD Garden.
“You can’t give a team a 3-0 lead and hope to come back on them in the playoffs,” said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon, whose team generated great pressure in the final period that forced turnovers that led to goals. “The fine line for our guys is to take chances and apply pressure and aggressiveness when it’s 0-0.”
A major storyline on Friday was the play of special teams.
While Boston College allowed a shorthanded goal, it also scored once on the power play, but more importantly, shut down the Catamounts on their seven power play chances, including a five-on-three when the Cats trailed, 3-1, and a late kill when Vermont was within a goal.
“[The penalty kill] was instrumental in the game,” said BC coach Jerry York. “I’d rather not have to talk about having to kill penalties, but we were sharp [tonight].”
One of Vermont’s objectives entering Friday was to shut down BC’s top two scoring lines. They did exactly that at five-on-five for the entire night, but the Eagles showed their depth, getting goals from third-line winger Brooks Dyroff and fourth-line center Cam Spiro.
“Those guys are unbelievable,” said BC defenseman Patch Alber, returning to the lineup for the first time since the holiday break, about BC’s bottom two lines. “They come to practice each day and work so hard. It’s really showing that their hard work is paying off.”
Both teams traded quality chances in the early going with each goaltender needing to stand strong. It wasn’t until Dyroff broke through on a great individual effort that either team got on the board.
Skating one-on-two, Dyroff shot down the left wing and cut to the net. Untouched by the Eagles’ defense, he fired a lot shot that Vermont goaltender Brody Hoffman (23 saves) stopped. The rebound, though, bounced right back to Dyroff, still unmarked, and he fired a shot under the crossbar at 14:47.
In the second, BC tightened its defense, allowing just eight shots on net, none from the grade ‘A’ area, and at the same time, extended the lead.
On BC’s second power play of the night, defenseman Michael Matheson collided in the neutral zone with Vermont’s Chris McCarthy. Matheson looked a little slow in getting up and trailed the play coming into the offensive zone. Maybe being lost by the Vermont defenders, Matheson got open for a one-timer that he blasted through a screen and past Hoffman for a 2-0 lead at 9:13.
Just about four minutes later, the Eagles increased the lead to three off an offensive-zone draw. After Vermont won the draw, Brendan Silk forechecked the Cats’ defenseman, forcing a quick turnover. The puck squirted to Spiro in the slot, who got two whacks at the puck, the second beating Hoffman for the 3-0 lead.
BC netminder Parker Milner earned his 21st win of the season making 24 saves.
The seniors for Boston College (21-10-4) will look to keep their run of perfection in the Hockey East tournament alive on Saturday. If successful, they’ll close out the season for Vermont (11-18-6). That, though, won’t be an easy task if the Catamounts can carry momentum from Friday’s solid late-game play.
“The challenge tomorrow if these guys want to still have hockey sticks in their hand, they’ve got to play that way for 60 [minutes] and if they do, they’ve got a great shot at going to Game 3,” said Sneddon.