CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — The Boston College seniors left the ice at Kelley Rink on Saturday night after a 4-1 win over Vermont knowing that they had played their last game at home and having never lost a playoff game in the building.
Now they’ll got to yet another venue where they haven’t lost looking for a Hockey East championship.
BC finished off its quarterfinal series with a sweep of the Catamount and the BC seniors finished 8-0 at Kelley Rink in postseason games. They’ll face Boston University next Friday night in the semifinals, where the senior class is 14-0 when counting Hockey East and Beanpot games.
“I almost got a little emotional there leaving the ice, knowing it would be my last time skating on this ice,” said BC senior Pat Mullane, who finished Saturday’s game with a goal and assist.
Emotions were running high for all members of the Eagles team prior to the game when they learned that, for the second time this season, head coach Jerry York will have to have surgery to replace a detached retina in his right eye. York was unable to coach on Saturday and his return is unclear, having missed two weeks behind the bench earlier this season with the same issue.
“First off, to address Jerry’s situation, we talked to him and when we got in the locker room – he had sent a text and he’s really excited to be moving on to the [TD] Garden,” said BC associate head coach Mike Cavanaugh.
As for the game itself, it was a battle of two teams looking to find flow as the officials whistled a combined 20 penalties for 51 minutes. Vermont took the brunt of those calls, placing the Eagles on the power play 11 times, but the Catamount penalty killers did everything possible to keep the team in the game.
“I’m going to be honest with you, I thought we deserved better tonight,” said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon, insinuating his dismay with the officiating without actually vocalizing it. “I’m not going much further than that. I think my kids played hard. I’m proud of them.”
Even the Eagles, despite never trailing in the game, had trouble staying focused, admitted associate head coach Greg Brown.
“There were long lulls for a lot of guys who didn’t get a lot of ice time,” said Brown talking about his players not part of the power-play unit. “But they stayed positive encouraging the power play. When Vermont was doing so well on the penalty kill, it got frustrating, but they stayed positive and we kept moving forward.”
The Catamounts nearly dug their own grave in the opening period taking six penalties, including a five-minute major to Connor Brickley for kneeing that was immediately followed by a slashing call to Michael Paliotta creating a five-on-three for a full two minutes.
That two-man advantage, though, was the only time BC could capitalize as Steven Whitney got open at the backdoor, burying his 25th goal of the year past Brody Hoffman (29 saves).
The fact that Vermont came away down just a single goal was fortunate, given that the team spent 15 minutes of the 20 shorthanded.
In the second, while the penalties continued for the Cats, Vermont’s three trips to the box were matched by BC’s three of its own. The only goal, though, came five-on-five as BC’s Patrick Brown banked a loose puck off Hoffman’s skate and into the net at 16:45 for the 2-0 Eagles lead.
On Friday, Vermont rallied in the third, scoring twice to bring the Cats within a goal. On Saturday, the Eagles made sure that didn’t happen.
In a weekend where the Eagles relied heavily on their bottom two lines, Johnny Gaudreau and Mullane found the net to put the game away.
Vermont’s Matt White scored his second goal of the weekend, beating BC goaltender Parker Miller (16 saves) with 6:53 to play to spoil the shutout.
The season for Vermont comes to an end with an overall record of 11-19-6. The Catamounts garnered just five wins in 2011-12. Though unable to advance past the quarterfinal round this season, Sneddon still feels his club took steps forward.
“I think our guys had to learn how to compete,” said Sneddon. “Coming off a down year, you’re so fragile. In the first half of the season, we had to be more mentally tough and in the second half, our leaders stepped up.”
For BC, it is the 21st time the team has advanced to the conference semifinals. The Eagles will be looking to make a record 17th championship game appearance and take a 12th tournament title next weekend.