BOSTON — Boston University defeated Vermont, 3-1, Friday night at Agganis Arena. Junior winger Matt Nieto scored all three Terrier goals to earn his first-career hat trick. Freshman goaltender Sean Maguire stopped a career-high 49 shots in the win.
The win gives BU a two-game winning streak, as it looks to reassert itself in the Hockey East playoff race. BU is now tied for fourth with Providence — one point shy of third-place New Hampshire and one point up on sixth-place Merrimack.
Vermont remains in seventh place. However, the Catamounts lead has fallen to one point. Massachusetts and Maine are currently tied for eighth place.
What I Saw
- More fantastic performances from freshman goaltenders. UVM goaltender Brody Hoffman had little opportunity on any of the three goals Nieto scored on Friday. Ditto for the goal Maguire allowed to Vermont’s Chris McCarthy. The roles for Hoffman and Maguire have been different this season. Maguire has split time with fellow freshman Matt O’Connor, and Hoffman has played nearly every minute of the season for UVM. On Friday, they both made a series of brilliant saves along with the simple ones goaltenders need to stop to give their team a chance to win. Hoffman’s 29 saves don’t exactly compare to Maguire’s 49, but both deserved a win on the night.
- Vermont wasn’t without its chances to beat Maguire. The Catamounts targeted Maguire’s occasionally lax rebound control with low shots from tough angles aimed mostly at generating second and third chances from the goalmouth. The BU defensemen collapsed on pucks to keep many of these rebounds from becoming goals. Still, Vermont had plenty of looks directly in front of Maguire that freshman managed to keep out of his net. The Catamounts are desperate for points at this stage, and they did everything they could to get pucks on net. Maguire was up to most of it on Friday.
- BU’s power play was 2 for 6 on the power play Friday night. It entered the evening on an 0 for 16 drought. After a wasted opportunity early in the first, Nieto’s power-play strike with 25 seconds left in the period ended the drought. Nieto’s second goal was also on the power play. Each of these goals games as a result of fantastic puck movement from Evan Rodrigues, Danny O’Regan and Ryan Santana. Nieto moved well between the goal line and circle to create passing and shootings lanes. His teammates, however, did most of the work in finding Nieto for the goals. Sound puck movement has been one of the many things BU has struggled with in the second half. They made drastic improvements in Tuesday’s win over Merrimack, and that continued on Friday.
What I Thought
- The effort from Vermont was valiant. After the game, UVM coach Kevin Sneddon said his team lacked urgency, but he was pleased with a majority of the effort. UVM had plenty of chances to poke pucks past Maguire. It’s difficult to say whether the goaltender was just up to each of these chances or if the Catamounts were just a shade too late on these chances.
- The goals were always coming for Nieto. The junior is one of the most talented players on BU’s roster and easily its fastest skater. In his time on Commonwealth Avenue, he’s also added quite the shot to his arsenal. For whatever reason, the goals didn’t pile up for Nieto the way many expected them to early in the season. However, he has now scored seven games in his last six games, matching his total from the previous 26 games. On Friday, Nieto was the recipient of some nice passes from his teammates that he finished for goals. But those looks were there throughout the season. His movement without the puck frequently wasn’t, however.
- Jack Parker said after the game that Evan Rodrigues has been BU’s best player for some time. Friday night, he certainly was a major catalyst for the BU offense. Nieto’s hat trick garnered most of the praise, but Rodrigues picked up assists on two of his three goals. He forced a turnover and raced up ice to set up the third and started the play that led to his second. On the year, he has 11 goals and 17 assists. Fellow sophomore Cason Hohmann has been as good for the Terriers for most of the season.
What They Said
“I’m very, very concerned with the shots we allowed.” — BU coach Jack Parker
Allowing 50 shots in a regulation game is pretty strange, even if you’re Alabama-Huntsville. BU saw the Catamounts total 85 attempts on goal on Friday. Only one of them landed behind Maguire, so it’s difficult to view the evening as anything other than rousing success for a team that found itself on the verge of falling out of the race for home ice as recently as four days ago. UVM had a clear gameplan with Maguire in goal, and it sent any and every shot it could on him.
What They Didn’t Say
Matt O’Connor will start for BU tomorrow night. Even with Maguire’s dominant performance, Parker is generally pleased with the rotation he’s maintained throughout the second half.
What Else You Should Know
- The teams play again Saturday night at Agganis Arena for the final time this season. Friday’s win gave BU a 2-0 lead in the season series.
- Vermont hasn’t defeated BU since Feb. 28, 2010 — a 3-2 win at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
- BU moved up to No. 15 in the Pairwise with the win. They started the week at No. 22.