The men’s hockey team was eliminated from the Hockey East playoffs last night after dropping the second of two games in the three-game playoff. Vermont came into the weekend at 0-and-6 in playoff matches against the Eagles; they left with a few victories on their side.
The weekend was a tale of two teams for the men’s hockey team. Friday night, the Eagles were unstoppable in their 4-2 romp over UVM while Saturday and Sunday night, it seemed that all UVM did was stop the Eagles in their 3-1 and 1-0 victories over BC.
Friday night, the Eagles looked like a playoff caliber team, something that we have not seen very much of in recent weeks. They were playing some of their best hockey: there was an urgency and fire ignited within this team that seemed to be lacking this season. "The league we play in is very competitive and in the playoffs it steps up a little bit, and we definitely felt that tonight," Noah Hanifin said of the change in pace.
From the drop of the puck, the Eagles dominated. They controlled the pace of the game, working the puck up the ice with ease around the Catamount defenders. BC’s passing was crisp and players effortlessly foundeach other, as if they had a sixth sense for finding their line mates. "I thought our team got a great start tonight, we were very very sharp," said Jerry York of the night's game.
The Eagles struck gold 9:38 into the game when Mike Matheson sent a beautiful leading pass to Noah Hanifin, who brought the puck into the Catamount zone and hammered home the top-shelf goal. "I saw an opening up top and just went for it," said Hanifin of the opening goal. The Eagles were not only producing on offense, but they were playing solid defense as well; their game was on point on both sides of the puck.
The second period came with a flurry of BC goals in the opening minutes. 1:15 into the first, Zach Sanford worked the puck around UVM’s zone and scored a beautiful, NHL caliber goal, unassisted, to extend the Eagles’ lead to two. Sanford wasn’t done: two minutes later he hammered home a highlight worthy goal from Hanifin and Matheson. Not even a minute after Sanford made it 3-0, Ryan Fitzgerald rocketed a power play goal right through Mike Santaguida’s five hole, from Matheson and Teddy Doherty.
The Eagles completely ran the ice, with the exception of a ten-minute period late in the second where the Catamounts were able to get two goals on the Eagles. Brady Shaw and Brendan Bradley fired it home for UVM to bring them within two. A chippy third period gave the Eagles some scares, but Thatcher Demko came up big when needed. BC was able to hold them off through the third to win game one 4-2. "We finished very strong down the stretch," said York.
Saturday night was a different story. Whatever the reason, the Eagles came out looking lethargic. They were struggling to work the puck around the ice and string together a decent number of passes; there always seemed to be a UVM player in the way. "Vermont got the two power play goals early and it gave them some momentum," said York of his team's start.
It was the Catamounts who got on the board first in game two, getting the go-ahead goal 8:54 into the game. The effort was there for the Eagles as they tried to bounce back from the one-goal deficit, but they really struggled to get something going. Their effort was stunted even further when UVM extended their lead 16:36 into the game.
The Eagles came out in the second down by two, but with a new fire in their eyes. They tried everything they could to get something going, but Brody Hoffman was like a brick wall in the net. He seemed to be stopping everything that BC had to throw at him.
Fitzgerald was finally able to break through and get the Eagles on the board, 14:14 into the second; BC was within one. They carried that momentum into the third period and unleashed all they had on Hoffman, but it just wasn’t enough."Hoffman played very well, it's awfully difficult to win a game with just one goal," said York. The empty netter with just over a minute to play sealed the victory to keep UVM alive and fighting.
Sunday night, it was do or die for both teams. In the best of three series, both teams were vying for the chance to play on the sacred ice of TD Garden, in the Hockey East finals this coming weekend.
The Eagles started out just as slow as the night before, but unlike Saturday, their momentum never really seemed to pick back up. Play was sloppy on both sides, the result of playing two games in the two nights prior. The first period mostly consisted of sloppy turnovers and sluggish play on both sides.
UVM seemed to have it together more than the Eagles, however, getting chances on net and forcing Demko to come up with some big saves. One of the more impressive moments of the night came when Demko came up with three consecutive shots, robbing Vermont of the opening goal. On the other side of the puck, BC's first shot didn't come until 7:24 into the game. The Eagles just couldn't get a handle on the puck and were really struggling to string together strong passes.
The Eagles caught a lucky break when a UVM goal, with 3:35 left in the first, got called back to keep the score tied at zero. As the game drew on, the intensity heightened as both teams realized they were on the brink of elimination. Play picked up in the second period and so did the physicality on the ice; over the course of the second period ten total penalties were served.
Both teams were unable to capitalize on opportunities through an eventful second and thus headed to the third period at a stalemate. The deciding period began with both teams firing away, but it was UVM who was able to exploit a weak spot in the BC defense. Alexx Privitera was able to feed the puck to his brother, Jarrid Privitera, who somehow managed to slip in behind the BC defenders. Jarrid was in the clear and had the breakaway against Demko; he took advantage of the opportunity and launched the puck right through the five-hole; the Catamounts took the 1-0 lead 2:53 into the third.
BC fought hard to tie it up, but the Catamount defense was too strong last night. The game, and the weekend, really belonged to Brody Hoffman who came up with 39 and 36 save nights. Hoffman kept his team alive and ahead this past weekend. Both goalies fought hard to keep the games close, Demko came up huge in the third period with an ESPN Top-10 save to keep the Eagles within one. Sadly, their strong defense was not enough; a lack of offensive production was what doomed the Eagles.
"When you sign up to play at this level, in this city, with the expectations we have, there [are] no guarantees," said York of the second consecutive loss.
With this loss, the Eagles aren't completely dismissed from the NCAA playoffs; their pairwise rankings will determine their entrance into the tournament. We will likely see these boys on the ice again -- don't forget about them just yet.
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