Courtesy Vermont Sports Information
CHESTNUT HILL, Ma. – Ryan Fitzgerald’s deflected wrist shot near the midway point of overtime ended a hard-fought Hockey East Quarterfinal series on Sunday afternoon at Conte Forum as top-seed Boston College survived in the best-of-three set with a 4-3 win.
The Eagles (26-6-5) clinched the series 2-1 and advance to the Hockey East Semifinals next Friday at TD Garden against 6-seed Northeastern. The 9-seeded Catamounts closed the season with a 15-22-3 record after their heart-breaking defeat in Chestnut Hill.
UVM was inches away from a decisive goal on two occasions in Game 3. Early in the second period, the Catamounts had a goal disallowed as Yvan Pattyn‘s rebound was ruled a kicking motion off his left skate. In the opening minutes of overtime, another video review determined that a loose puck never fully crossed the goal line near the left post.
Mario Puskarich skated down the right side of the BC zone during an odd-man rush and wristed a shot on target. Thatcher Demko (36 saves) made the initial save at the near post, but Puskarich followed up and directed a weak-angle shot off a sprawling Demko into the crease. Amidst several bodies, the puck trickled along the goal line toward the post before deflecting inches outside the pipe off the skate of Miles Wood.
Prior to the close call, Demko kicked out a point-blank chance from Trey Phillips from the left circle with his right pad off a feed from Brian Bowen.
The game-winner came off a transition rush for Boston College at 9:47 as Adam Gilmour gained the Catamount zone along the right wing. Gilmour centered to Fitzgerald in the right slot, and the junior’s effort deflected off a UVM defenseman’s stick past Packy Munson blocker side to end the series.
“It was an unreal game and unfortunately it’s a game of inches and we ended up a fraction from scoring on two occasions,” said head coach Kevin Sneddon. “The latter one in overtime would have let us get to the Garden so it hurt a little bit more, but it didn’t get over the line.”
All three Vermont goals were scored by freshmen on Sunday, led by a pair from Conor O’Neil for his first career multi-goal game, while Brady Shaw finished the contest with three assists. Munson closed his rookie campaign with 31 saves after posting a career-best 43 stops in a Game 2 win on Saturday.
Zach Sanford struck first for Boston College at the four-minute mark of the first period, spinning a backhand high glove side on Munson off a centering feed from Gilmour.
Craig Puffer had the answer for the Catamounts less than five minutes later as Rob Hamilton wristed a low shot toward the right post. Puffer killed the puck’s momentum with his backhand, redirecting the shot through Demko’s five-hole to knot the score. Shaw collected the second assist on the play at 8:51.
Boston College went back on top two minutes into the second period as Colin White followed a JD Dudek shot and banged home the rebound from the top of the crease.
UVM thought it had tied the game during a 4-on-4 situation when Pattyn chased down a rebound in the crease following a Mike Lee point shot. The puck trickled over the goal line off Pattyn’s left skate, but video review negated the goal due to a kicking motion from the senior captain.
Vermont made the next one count as O’Neil converted the first of his two tallies at 16:28. Puffer sent a puck toward the goal from the left wing that was blocked into the slot for O’Neil, who quickly buried a one-timer glove side to beat Demko.
O’Neil then gave the Catamounts their first lead of the afternoon five minutes into the third on a similar play. Puffer’s effort from the far circle tipped out to O’Neil in the high slot, and the rookie ripped a shot blocker side through a partial screen.
Dudek brought the Eagles level at 10:30, tipping in Casey Fitzgerald’s center point shot for his first career goal. Ryan Fitzgerald capitalized on Boston College’s first quality chance in overtime after the near-misses from Phillips and Puskarich.
“In overtime, we played to win, which is what we wanted to do,” Sneddon said. “We played with confidence and poise and made plays. It was a terrific hockey game and one of the best series I’ve been involved in given all the circumstances, the depleted lineup, with different guys stepping up. I couldn’t be more proud of how hard they played.”
Vermont was searching for its second straight quarterfinal upset of Boston College on the road after beating the 3-seeded Eagles in three games last year. The Catamounts return to action in October for the 2016-17 campaign.