BOSTON — Vermont beat Boston University 5-2 on Saturday to gain some separation in the race for a playoff spot. The Catamounts are now two points ahead of eighth-place Maine and three points ahead of ninth-place Massachusetts. The Terriers, meanwhile, missed out on a chance to keep pace with the top pack. They are now three points out of first and two points out of home ice.
The Catamounts opened the scoring 3:24 into the game when Matt White capitalized on a shorthanded breakaway. Brett Bruneteau added to the lead three minutes later when he beat Sean Maguire (37 saves) from a seemingly impossible angle. Matt Nieto cut the lead in half late in the second on a power-play goal — his sixth goal in the last three games. Michael Paliotta made it 3-1 early in the second, and the score stayed that way until Garrett Noonan scored a shorthanded goal 7:29 into the third to pull BU within one.
Kyle Reynolds gave Vermont some insurance with 1:38 to go, then Chris McCarthy scored an empty-netter in the closing seconds. Brody Hoffman made 26 saves in the win. With the loss, the Terriers dropped one spot, to 17th, in the Pairwise.
What I saw
-Brody Hoffman made what might have been the save of the season midway through the first. Nieto fed Evan Rodrigues on a 2-on-1, and Rodrigues appeared to have the entire net to shoot at. Hoffman slid across and snagged the puck out of the air just before it crossed the line, though. Then, as he actually slid over the goal line, he kept his glove extended to make sure the puck didn’t slide in with him. The save helped preserve Vermont’s 2-0 lead for the time being. Earlier in the first period, Hoffman made a glove save to rob a breakaway chance by Nieto that would’ve tied the game at 1-1.
-Vermont’s second goal was one Maguire should’ve had. Brett Bruneteau collected the puck in the right corner and didn’t appear to have any good options. So he just threw it on net from a few feet in front of the goal line and somehow beat Maguire. It looked like the freshman netminder just wasn’t in good position, as the puck slipped between his body and the post.
What I thought
-The Catamounts really played a great road game. Coach Kevin Sneddon talked about all the things they did better tonight than last night. They got off to a better start and jumped out to a 2-0 lead. They did a better job of crashing the net and getting second chances — despite putting 50 shots on goal Friday night, that was something Sneddon said his team didn’t do well enough. They did a better job killing penalties — they did give up one power-play goal, but they also scored a shorthanded goal and held BU to just two shots on five man advantages. Sneddon said his team just had more urgency and played like it was a playoff game. As a result, the Catamounts are now in a much better position to make the actual playoffs.
-The Terriers just seemed to be a little off to start the game. They didn’t play terrible — despite falling behind 2-0 — but they were just missing on passes and they were holding onto the puck just a little too long. Coach Jack Parker credited the Catamounts for coming out strong, and said that his team didn’t seem ready to match their energy. Vermont took advantage with two early goals, and the Terriers had to fight an uphill battle for the rest of the night.
What they said
-Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon: “I’m very proud of our team. I thought we played a very complete game tonight. We weathered storms. I thought BU really had a lot of momentum there in the third after they scored [their second goal]. I think our penalty kill learned a lot from last night. We gave up one to, of course, Nieto, but we did a much better job overall on the kill. I’m just really pleased for our guys. I thought we played a pretty hard game last night, 50 shots on goal, but we only had one to show for it. I thought tonight we did a good job of finishing our chances when we had them.”
-BU coach Jack Parker: “Vermont was the more gritty team, the more determined team tonight. It sometimes happens in back-to-back games — we win the night before and we think it’s going to be easy, and they know they’re going to have to play harder. They jumped on us right off the bat and we never recovered from it. They got up, because of our lack of effort and our lack of concentration. Then we tried to play harder, but because we weren’t mentally ready to start, we couldn’t get it going.”
What else you should know
-Matt O’Connor was scheduled to start in goal for BU, but he was having trouble breathing Saturday morning, according to Parker. Parker said they’re not sure exactly what’s wrong with O’Connor yet, but that an x-ray revealed some fluid in his chest. Parker said it could be just a chest cold, or it could be something more serious like a collapsed lung.