Top Story, Men's Hockey

Eagles Eliminated By Vermont In Hockey East Quarterfinals

“Right from there, I was just thinking five-hole.”

-Vermont forward Jarrid Privitera on his game-winning goal

Thatcher Demko stayed beside the bench following a timeout by Boston College with 1:48 remaining in the third period. He had played on his head throughout the game for the Eagles, nearly breaking the Internet, at least among college hockey fans, lunging for a glove save off a Mike Paliotta rocket that rebounded off the post.

Demko did what he needed to do, for the most part. No. 17 Vermont (22-14-4, 10-9-3 Hockey East) raced out of the gate with 10 shots in the first period, launching 23 in total. Demko stopped all but one, a soft dribbler that snuck behind him. Now it was time for the Eagles’ offense to step up with a man advantage.

But as has happened for much of the season, the young Eagles’ offense couldn’t get a shot to drop. They provided the pressure—plenty of it—yet not enough to break the 6-foot-4 brick wall in between the pipes.

And now, it’s a long wait.

For the second straight season, No. 9 BC (21-13-3, 12-7-3 Hockey East) will not reach the semifinals of the Hockey East Tournament. The Eagles will not compete for the Lamoriello Trophy in back-to-back years for the first time since the 1995-96 season, Jerry York’s first as head coach of the Eagles. And for the third time this season, an opposing goaltender shut out the Eagles by a 1-0 margin.

At the beginning of the game, BC looked dead on offense, not because of the stellar play of Brody Hoffman, but by Vermont’s punishing defense. Led by Paliotta and Ori Abramson, the Catamounts punished BC’s top line, especially Zach Sanford. UVM defensemen repeatedly prevented the Eagles from getting off good shots on goal—Quinn Smith notched BC’s first shot nearly eight minutes into the game. Paliotta and Co. also created offensive chances for UVM, moving the puck back in front of BC’s blue line.

Then the game shifted focus to a third team on the ice—the referees. It started with a shot by UVM’s Travis Blanleil that hit the twine top shelf past Demko, seemingly breaking the scoring drought. Upon review, the men in the black and white stripes determined Paliotta committed goalie interference. He lept to the same plane as Demko while he raised his glove and while doing that, his skates entered the crease. Although questionable upon review, Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon didn’t feel the need to argue given what’s written in the rulebook.

“The referees made the right call,” Sneddon said. “I don’t agree with the rule—we had a lot of confusion about it with coaches at the beginning of the year.”

It gave the Eagles new life heading into the second period, one that turned out wild for the two teams. After BC got on the man advantage following a Colin Markison slashing penalty, the zebras again inserted themselves into the game. A highly controversial goalie interference call on Alex Tuch which, on replay, clearly showed Paliotta shoving the BC freshman forward into Hoffman, sparked a parade of power plays over the next seven minutes. Given the timing of some of the penalties, the Eagles had several golden opportunities, some coming in 5-on-3 situations. But the luck from the first overturned call ran out—despite 18 shots to UVM’s 5, Hoffman didn’t flinch, turning away each attempt.

“Two nights in a row now, we’ve just scored one goal,” York said. “We have enough good players that we should have goals scored.”

Throughout the season, BC’s freshmen rose to the occasion when the team needed a goal. Early in the third period, Vermont’s youngest (and smallest) player stole that narrative. Jarrid Privitera, a 5-foot-8, 151-pound sparkplug on the third line for UVM broke away from the BC defense after receiving a pass from his older brother, Alexx. He raced down the ice and firing a shot at Demko that just snuck past under his pads through the five-hole.

“I can’t even call him a little guy because he’s got a massive heart,” Sneddon said, praising his makeshift freshman line of Blanleil, Privitera, and Rob Darrar.

But his biggest appreciation came for his goalie. After Mike Santaguida gave up his fourth goal in 30 minutes on Friday night, Sneddon noticed Hoffman leap up immediately, showing a readiness that convinced him to put his junior goaltender in the game. The move changed Vermont’s fortunes—Hoffman allowed only one goal in the 150 minutes he played this weekend. “Brody Hoffman was our MVP of this series for sure,” Sneddon said.

With the loss, the Eagles’ fate now falls out of their hands. BC currently sits at No. 10 in the Pairwise Rankings—with what they’ve done this season, the Eagles should still receive an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. In two weeks, the selection committee may put BC back on the ice to skate against a to-be-determined opponent in a four-game quest for a national crowd—York feels that’s not out of the question.

But that depends largely on the results from each conference’s tournament. There is a slight chance, given potential upsets, that we have seen the last of York’s team on the ice this season.

And it’s a long, long wait.

Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor

March 15, 2015