Courtesy: UVM Athletics
BOSTON, MA- Senior Joe Fallon made 25 saves and junior assistant captain Peter Lenes and sophomore Colin Vock both scored second period goals 29 seconds apart to lift No. 18 Vermont to a 3-1 victory against No. 13 Boston University in the Hockey East Semifinals in front of a crowd of 12,522 at the TD Banknorth Garden on Friday night. Third-seeded Vermont (17-14-7; 13-9-5 HEA) advances to the Hockey East Championship game on Saturday at 7pm against fourth-seeded Boston College in a game that will be produced by NESN and televised on NECN (Channel 2 on the Comcast cable system in Vermont).
The game was delayed by 2 hours and 40 minutes after Boston College defeated top-seeded New Hampshire 5-4 in triple overtime in the first semifinal game in a contest that went 4 hours and 51 minutes. It was the 12th longest game in NCAA history and the second longest in Hockey East history.
The Catamounts meet the Eagles in their second-ever post-season tournament championship game since joining Division I in the 1974-75 season. Vermont lost its only other title game appearance in 1989 at the Boston Garden in the ECAC title game against St. Lawrence.
"The thing that has impressed me about this team in the second half is their mental toughness," said Kevin Sneddon, the Hockey East Coach of the Year. "I just think we have been in so many of these types of situations. I believe we are the most mentally tough team in the country."
Fallon improved 12-4-1 with a 1.63 goals against average and a .938 save percentage in his last 17 starts. He made a total of 21 saves in the second and third periods.
"Our defense did a great job tonight." Fallon said. "I'm used to this kind of game with this team through my four years. I felt pretty comfortable."
Junior assistant captain Corey Carlson added an empty-net goal with 29 seconds remaining to seal the win for Vermont. Boston University dropped to 19-17-4 (15-9-3 HEA) with the loss.
Junior Chris Higgins gave BU a 1-0 lead 10:17 into the opening period. Freshman Kevin Shattenkirk setup the score with a cross-ice pass to Higgins, who beat Fallon five-hole at the bottom of the left circle for his 14th goal of the season.
Vermont responded with a pair of goals 29 seconds apart in the second period. First Lenes flipped a backhander past BU sophomore goalie Brett Bennett at 13:48. Junior co-captain Dean Strong assisted on the goal with a perfect pass through the neutral zone.
"We played a solid defensive game," Lenes said. "Every game we try to keep things to the outside and when it gets to the middle we try and clear everything. As the game wore on they got frustrated and we did a good job keeping our cool."
Vock struck at 14:17 into the second when he scored on a rebound from the low slot. Sophomore Brayden Irwin sent the puck in front and freshman Jack Downing had his shot stopped by Bennett. But the rebound came to Vock crashing to the net for his ninth goal of the season to put the Catamounts in front 2-1.
BU senior Bryan Ewing, a Hockey East First-Team All-Star, had a chance to tie the game with 3:25 left in the period but Fallon turned away his backhander from in tight.
Fallon made nine more saves in the third period before Carlson's empty-netter with 29 seconds left secured Vermont's first-ever trip to the Hockey East Championship game.
"We're excited," Sneddon said. "We haven't had good success against Boston College this year, but I look back and the turning point of our season was at BC. We did not play well as a team. There was a lot of adversity at that point and the guys became more accountable. So, maybe it's fitting we get to take them on again."
Vermont held Boston U. to 0-for-3 on the power play. The Catamounts went 0-for-6 on the man advantage. BU out shot UVM 26-16. The 16 shots on goal tied a season low for the Catamounts.
Vermont meets Boston College on Saturday at 7pm at the TD Banknorth Garden in the Hockey East Championship game. Tickets to Saturday's game are still available online at www.ticketmaster.com, by phone at (617) 931-2000, or in person at the TD Banknorth Garden box office. The Catamounts went 0-2-1 against the Eagles in the regular season.
NOTES: Tonight's game was televised on NESN ... Tonight's attendance of 12,522 was the largest crowd the UVM men's hockey team has ever played in front of ... The previous high was 12,328 at the Bradley Center in 1997 against Wisconsin in the Badger Classic ... Vermont is 62-3-10 in the last 75 games when leading after two periods in the Kevin Sneddon era ... The Catamounts are 9-7-4 against ranked teams this season ... Former Catamount and current Boston Bruin goalie Tim Thomas ‘97 spoke to the team after practice on Thursday afternoon at the TD Banknorth Garden ... Former Catamount Dave Browne ‘91, who scored the game-winning goal for Vermont in a 3-2 overtime victory against Harvard in the ECAC Semifinals at the Boston Garden in 1989, sat at Vermont's table at the Hockey East Awards banquet on Thursday evening.
---Channel 3 Sports