CHESTNUT HILL — It would have been easy to put too much emphasis on BC’s 7-2 dismantling of Vermont in their Hockey East season finale last Saturday. It was only one game, after all, and Vermont had tied them, 4-4, the night before.
It was even easier when the goals started on Friday in the opener of their Hockey East quarterfinal series. One in the first for BC. Two more in the second. The game was tipping toward another lopsided contest.
Not so fast.
Vermont came back, putting the pressure on with two third-period goals, including one shorthanded. But it wasn’t enough as second-seeded BC held off the Catamounts for a 4-2 win in front of 3,213 at Conte Forum.
“We started putting them back on their heels in the third period, but you can’t give a team a three-goal lead and then hope to come back on them in the playoffs,” Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said. “That was the disappointing part. I didn’t think we played with enough heart, enough passion, enough urgency in the first two periods.”
Down 3-0, Vermont got its first goal of the night 4:56 into the third by Ben Albertson. The Catamounts continued to put on the pressure, with the puck remaining in BC’s end for much of the period as the hosts picked up four penalties — three by Steven Whitney — and were down two men for 48 seconds midway through.
“Our ability to defend that 5-on-3 penalty was a huge part of the game,” BC coach Jerry York said. “We’d like to stay out of the box a little more. We had to kill three penalties. It’s hard to do that. It kind of gave the shift of momentum in the game.”
But it was with Vermont serving a penalty, Caylen Walls off for interference at 12:09, that things got a bit more interesting — and a bit more uncomfortable for the Eagles.
Catamounts junior Matt White nabbed the puck and went in alone on BC’s Parker Milner, scoring with 7:23 left to go to cut the deficit to one.
But despite some good chances on Milner (24 saves), it just wasn’t the Catamounts’ night. They couldn’t capitalize when they had the opportunities early in the game, only coming back after the game seemed to be heading out of hand.
Johnny Gaudreau scored an empty-net goal at 18:58 to give the Eagles a two-goal cushion.
As Sneddon said, “That’s still a sign of a team that hasn’t had a lot of experience in the playoffs. And not a lot of experience winning.”
The Catamounts will now take what they learned and return to Conte Forum for a do-or-die game on Saturday.
It wasn’t the big names on the Eagles squad who beating them Friday, though. Brooks Dyroff and Cam Spiro each scored just their second goal of the season, sandwiched around a power-play goal by Michael Matheson.
“We got two really big goals from players that haven’t scored a lot during the year, which really helps us,” York said. BC went up, 3-0, in the second. Matheson scored on a one-timer from the point at 9:13, from Pat Mullane, and Spiro put one past Brody Hoffman (23 saves) from just outside the crease.
“Quite often you see the top two lines of Boston College beat you,” Sneddon said. “Tonight we were out-willed by the third and fourth line.”
For BC, a notable story line was the return of defenseman Patch Alber, who had been out since December after suffering a displaced lateral meniscus in his knee. It was expected that the senior’s hockey career would be over. But there was Alber on the ice two weeks earlier than his expected return date after his Jan. 1 surgery.
“Patch was, I thought, a player that really made a difference in our lineup tonight — with his speed, his ability to defend,” York said. “That’s a long time between games, but I thought he played exceptionally well tonight.”