BOSTON — Although Feb. 2 is still over a week away, both Boston University and Vermont might be feeling like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day over the last two weekends of action.
Last weekend, BU had a great effort on Friday against Boston College before looking like a flat, lethargic team against Massachusetts-Lowell.
Meanwhile, Vermont came up just short on the road against Northeastern on Friday night before bouncing back with one of its best efforts of the season in beating the Huskies on Saturday night.
That was a recurring theme this weekend. On Friday, BU again looked great, while Vermont was not good enough. On Saturday, BU seemed spent, while the Catamounts played with great energy all night.
The upshot was that Vermont salvaged a split of the weekend series with a decisive 6-2 win over BU in front of 4,948 in a late afternoon game at Agganis Arena.
Senior co-captain Chris McCarthy had a terrific night with a pair of goals, while freshman linemate Brendan Bradley added a goal and two assists for the Catamounts.
“First and foremost, I was very pleased with our team’s effort tonight,” Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said. “I thought we looked like a different hockey team tonight, which has me a little concerned. I’m hoping we can find a way to play the first night as well as we did the second night. But I think the difference tonight was that we sprinted to spots. We used our speed; we played well in every facet of the game. So it was a great win for us.”
“Seems to be a little bit of a pattern over the last two weekends,” Terriers’ coach David Quinn said. “Play well and play hard on Friday night, not able to match it on Saturday night. I thought Vermont set the pace early [and] I don’t think we were able to match it.”
BU’s depth appears to be a factor in their Saturday night letdowns. The Terriers are really missing standout defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, who is out for the season due to injury. Evan Rodrigues returned from an injury this weekend, but played somewhat limited minutes, especially Friday, and Jake Moscatel remains out of lineup.
Additionally, forward Sam Kurker recently left the program.
“We play our best players so many minutes on Friday night [and] there might be a correlation to what’s happening on Saturday night,” Quinn said. “I mean, [freshman center] Robbie Baillargeon played 30 minutes last night. And you saw it on our power play – it was lethargic, not a lot of life to it. Depth isn’t one of our strengths right now.”
Sneddon said that he figured BU might be worn down today and he had his team ready to come out flying. At just 3:18 of the first period, Vermont made it 1-0. Bradley got the puck behind the net before curling out in the right-wing circle before wheeling to beat Sean Maguire with a high snipe.
A two-on-one rush led to the second Vermont goal late in the period. McCarthy carried the puck up the left wing, glancing over at right wing Mario Puskarich before beating Maguire on the short side.
“I think Chris McCarthy is one of the best players in college hockey,” Sneddon said. “I think he’s proving it now. He’s strong over pucks, he’s producing, he’s great defensively on the kill. He’s on the point on the power play, which doesn’t mean he’s going to score a lot, but he’s certainly controlling things back there. So he’s been outstanding.”
BU settled down in the second period and was rewarded with a highlight-reel goal by Danny O’Regan. The sophomore rushed the puck out of his own zone and raced in on the right wing for a two-on-one break. Vermont defenseman Nick Bruneteau slid in attempting to break up the play and O’Regan managed to pivot 360 degrees, somehow keeping the puck on his stick before making a quick move to flip the puck over Vermont goalie Mike Santaguida
After getting outshot 14-8 in the first period, BU also seemed to tighten up defensively for much of the second period, only to have defenseman Ahti Oksanen cough up the puck at the left point, leading to a breakaway for McCarthy and a shorthanded goal.
BU has now surrendered eight shorthanded goals this season without scoring any. The McCarthy goal was a real back-breaker.
“I just thought from start to finish, they were the better team,” Quinn said. “We had a little life in the second period, but they were able to get that third goal to make it 3-1 and really change the complexion of the game.”
At 2:21 of the third, Brady Shaw dug the puck out of a scrum in the right-wing corner, driving unimpeded to the net before beating Maguire low on the far side.
Six minutes later, freshman Kevin Duane got that one back for BU on a wraparound after stealing the puck along the boards. But that was negated when co-captain H.T. Lenz knocked in his own rebound at 13:39.
Colin Markison sealed the scoring with another goal resulting from a won battle by Vermont behind the BU net, followed by an immediate shot and score – the third time that happened in the game.
“We got ourselves in trouble last night trying to work high cycles [and] I thought BU did a job of defending it,” Sneddon said. “Tonight’s game plan was to keep it low and work it low and get more traffic to the net and I thought we did a good job of that tonight. I give our players credit for adapting and executing the game plan tonight.”
BU senior goaltender Anthony Moccia made his collegiate debut in the last four minutes, stopping the only shot that he faced.
BU (8-14-2, 3-8-1 Hockey East) plays at Massachusetts next Friday, while Vermont (13-9-3, 5-7-0) will enjoy a week off before continuing its long stretch on the road with a pair of games at New Hampshire.