BOSTON — What a difference six days can make.
Last Saturday, Vermont played what was arguably its best game of the season in a 4-1 win over No. 11 Northeastern.
Meanwhile, BU suffered through one of its most disappointing showings of the year on the same day, losing 3-1 to No. 10 Massachusetts-Lowell in a game that wasn’t that close – the Terriers were outshot 42-12 in the process.
Regardless, the Terriers came out strong from the drop of the puck Friday night and put together three solid periods for their first win since beating Cornell two days after Thanksgiving at Madison Square Garden.
Sean Maguire made 36 saves and Nick Roberto notched a goal and two assists in a 4-2 win in front of 3,707 at Agganis Arena.
Michael Paliotta and Jake Fallon each had two assists for the Catamounts.
The win snapped an eight-game winless streak for the Terriers, who now could move from 10th place to as high as seventh place in Hockey East if they can pull of another win in the rematch tomorrow.
“Well, that was a long time coming,” BU coach David Quinn said. “I was just proud of the way we competed, especially down the stretch there. We certainly made life difficult for ourselves in the third period, but I thought our last penalty kill was the best one of the night. We were aggressive, decisive.”
BU won despite allowing nine power plays.
“I thought we deserved to win,” Quinn said. “Nine penalties is just way too much – we’re going to certainly look at those and address those. Rarely do you win a game where you take nine penalties, but we found a way to win tonight. I couldn’t be happier for our team.”
For Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon, it was definitely a disappointing way to follow up last weekend’s play, especially in the way BU looked like the far better team in the early going.
“I certainly give BU a lot of credit,” Sneddon said. “I know they’ve been through some rocky times as of late. It looks like they’re starting to get healthier and we knew they were going to be an excellent team regardless. I thought they proved it tonight. They scored some timely goals.
“I was disappointed in our team the first 10 minutes. We talked about it: They’re desperate, but we’re desperate, too. These are playoff games.”
The first period was scoreless, but exciting as both teams hit a pipe and had two or three other good chances.
Vermont goalie Brady Hoffman made a nice glove at 9:35 on a Robbie Baillargeon shot and Maguire slid to make a pad save on Nick Bruneteau after Brendan Bradley set him up nicely on a power play at 15:50.
BU finally broke on top at 5:27 of the second period when Cason Hohmann skated in on the left wing before dishing the puck toward the net and onto the stick of Baillargeon, who in turn slipped a pass to Danny O’Regan crashing the far post for the score.
Vermont tied it up less than two minutes later on a power play as freshman Mario Puskarich got the puck near the goal line and opted for the sharp-angle shot that somehow caromed off of Maguire’s legs and went in.
A lucky bounce helped BU take the lead at 13:43. Roberto flipped the puck into the Vermont zone and it hopped over Bruneteau’s stick to set up Matt Lane for a clear shot at the net. The left wing made an excellent shot that went in high on the glove side.
After a dubious penalty call gave BU a five-on-three advantage, the Terriers capitalized. Hohmann teed up Ahti Oksanen for a shot just outside the right-wing circle and the sophomore’s characteristically accurate shot went in high glove-side once again.
“For us to get a two-goal lead right now is like hitting the lottery,” Quinn said.
That bonanza didn’t last.
Vermont pulled within a goal at 7:24 of the third on yet another power play. Paliotta’s shot from the point failed to get the net, bouncing off of someone, but Colin Markison was there to backhand home the rebound while falling down.
From there on it was a cliffhanger for BU fans longing to see the team’s first win in nearly two months.
Two more power plays didn’t help the Terrier cause and both teams played hard through the last several minutes.
Finally, a puck went over a Vermont defenseman’s stick and Roberto raced off to bury an empty-net goal with just 1.5 seconds to seal it.
“About time we got a bounce,” Roberto said. “It was a great feeling.”
“This was a great weekend to start the season over,” O’Regan added.
“At some point, you get sick and tired of losing,” said Quinn.
BU (8-13-2, 3-7-1 Hockey East) and Vermont (12-9-3, 4-7-0) face off again at 4 p.m. EST on Saturday.
Boston University played junior forward Evan Rodrigues sparingly tonight in his first game since injuring a knee against Harvard earlier this month. That went better than expected and Quinn hopes to play Rodrigues again tomorrow.