Boston College men’s hockey entered Saturday’s game against Vermont four points away from clinching the No. 1 seed in the Hockey East playoffs and a regular-season title. But it also came in fresh off embarrassment.
After blowing a three-goal lead to the Catamounts the night before, ultimately settling for a tie, BC had something to prove. Judging by the Eagles’ opening goal, it appeared that they would succeed in doing so.
Yet, once again, Vermont found a way to equalize—this time coming back from a couple of one-goal deficits—and the two sides tied for the second straight night.
With the 2-2 stalemate, BC (18-12-4, 13-4-3 Hockey East) is now 0-3-2 in its last five games.
1) Fast Start
For the second consecutive game, the Eagles stormed out of the gate, scoring within the first three minutes. Students were still piling into Conte Forum when Graham McPhee found Julius Mattila for a one-time, wrist-shot goal. As soon as the freshman center received the puck, he flung it past goaltender Stefanos Lekkas, locating the the back-left corner of the net.
While BC may have lit the lamp 32 seconds later than it did on Friday, Mattila’s goal set the tone in the first period—one that consisted of seven shots, eight blocks, and stellar play from Joseph Woll.
But, just like the first game of the weekend series, starting out fast didn’t mean anything in the end. Only this time, the Eagles conceded a pair of one-goal leads—a step up from the three-goal advantage it gave up to the Catamounts (17-10-5, 9-7-4) on Friday.
Six penalties were called on Saturday night—and there could have been plenty more. Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon summed up Kelley Rink’s atmosphere in just a few words.
“It sure felt like playoffs,” he said.
Although both sides struggled from time to time on offense, this game was entertaining as any. Each possession featured a battle for the puck—a battle that typically ended up with an Eagle or a Catamount on the ice.
Initially, it appeared to be a classic case of bullying. Excluding its goalies, Vermont has eight 200-pounders—double the amount BC has. The Catamounts were simply using brute force to disrupt the Eagles’ offense.
Eventually, York’s group decided to stand up for itself.
Close to the 13-minute mark in the third period, Ori Abramson slammed star forward Colin White into the bench-side boards. Fellow linesman, J.D. Dudek spotted White falling to the ice and avenged Abramson’s hit with a decking of his own. Dudek laid out Brady Shaw, drawing a kneeing penalty in the process. Despite picking up a penalty, the sophomore sent a message: he had his teammates back, and that BC wasn’t a pushover.
The physicality continued up until the final horn—something that is sure to happen come postseason.
3) Austin Cangelosi
Austin Cangelosi was all over the ice on Saturday night. The 5-foot-8 speedy senior was on the receiving end of several scoring chances. On two separate occasions in the second period, Cangelosi darted down the left side of the ice, creating space in the Vermont zone. Both times, he was set up off of Lekkas’ left flank, but could not cash in.
That didn’t stop BC’s leading-goal scorer from finding his way into the box score, especially on Senior Night. Thanks to a Ross Colton interference call to begin the third period, BC got its second power play of the game. Matthew Gaudreau located White, and the sophomore whipped up a shot. Lekkas made the save, but White corralled the rebound and gave it another go. This time, Cangelosi was there to tip it in.
While the Florida native may come away with the signature moment, York made to sure to praise the entire graduating class for their achievements on and off the ice.
“As a senior class, they’ve done an outstanding job, bringing them [underclassmen] along and keeping our team right in this pennant race,” York said. “I’ve never had that before.”
Collectively, the Eagles accounted for 10 penalties in their two games against the Catamounts this weekend. Even though BC killed every Vermont power play, the damage was done—over the span of Friday and Saturday, the Eagles were forced to play shorthanded for a total of 20 minutes.
An entire period.
Luckily for York’s crew, the Catamounts were not on their game.
“Our power play just had trouble with the breakout,” Sneddon said. “We certainly worked on it this week, but I didn’t think we executed very well.”
Regardless, while a handful of BC’s finest were sitting in the box, the Catamounts were applying pressure on the defense and Woll. It may not show in the box score, but every possession takes a toll on a team that is one man down.
The same is true for the Eagles, which could potentially explain their recent lackluster, late-game defense.
2) Playing With the Lead
For the first few minutes of the game, BC kept the puck on Vermont ice. But as soon as Matilla scored, the offensive pressure seemed to ease up a bit. Eventually, the Catamounts began to capitalize, capturing a large majority of faceoffs and outshooting the Eagles. Before long, a Brian Bowen wraparound goal knotted it all up at one.
It was even worse following Cangelosi’s goal. The scoring play gave the Eagles a one-goal lead—one that would exist for all of 100 seconds.
Soon after Cangelosi was officially credited with the goal, Colton ripped a shot at Woll. The freshman batted the puck away, but Bowen was there for the rebound score. Prior jubilation was greeted with a silencing replay of Bowen’s second goal.
If BC is to make a run in the postseason, it must play with a sense of urgency for 60 minutes. Complacency has no place in regional or national play, no matter what kind of lead a team has.
3) Missed Chances
Vermont held the Eagles to two goals on Saturday, in part because of physicality, but largely due to the fact that BC could not finish scoring opportunities.
Early in the first period, White and Dudek had numbers in transition. White found his fellow sophomore near the left zone, but the wide-open Dudek failed to handle the puck and consequently whiffed his shot attempt.
With time winding down in the third, Gaudreau intercepted a Catamount pass, setting himself up for an open shot in front of Lekkas. Gaudreau launched one, but the Vermont netminder came through in the clutch, recording the save.
Last, but not least, was Mattila’s act of desperation. Seconds remained in overtime when the Finland native eyed up the game-winning goal. But his attempt to go shortside high failed, and the Eagles were left with the draw.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor