Men’s Hockey: Catamounts Tie BU, Head on Road for Playoffs

Courtesy Vermont Sports Information

BOSTON, MA. – A third-period power play goal by Alex Esposito and 33 saves from Stefanos Lekkas earned the Catamounts a point in a 1-1 tie against Boston University in the regular season finale on Saturday night at Agganis Arena.

The Catamounts finish in ninth place with the tie and a 9-18-7 (6-12-6 HEA) regular season record. UVM will travel to Amherst to face 8-seed UMass in the best-of-three Hockey East First Round beginning with Game 1 on Thursday (March 1) at 7 p.m., followed by Game 2 on Friday (March 2) at 7 p.m. If necessary, Game 3 would start at 3 p.m. on Sunday (March 4) at the Mullins Center.

BU will host UConn as the 4-seed in the Hockey East Quarterfinals after a first-round bye with a 17-13-4 (12-8-4 HEA) mark.

Vermont had several opportunities on the power play in the opening frame but couldn’t sneak a shot past Jake Oettinger (28 saves).

The Terriers struck late in the first period when Jordan Greenway netted his first goal since returning from Team USA at the Winter Olympics. Brady Tkachuk held the puck in the corner and backhanded a sharp pass to Greenway, who snuck into the slot for a low one-timer that beat Lekkas. Kasper Kotkansalo was credited with the secondary assist on the goal that gave BU a 1-0 cushion heading to intermission.

The Catamounts came out aggressive in the second period, but Ross Colton was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for hitting from behind at 3:05. UVM was forced to kill off the major as well as a high-sticking minor from Max Kaufman to give BU a full two-minute 5-on-3. Lekkas was key on the penalty kill, most notably when he slid across to make back-to-back pad stops on one-timers from opposite circles.

When the teams returned to even strength, Matt Alvaro had the best Catamount chance of the period when he received a drop pass from Liam Coughlin and fired a shot on net before the rest of his linemates swarmed around the BU net.

Tkachuk was later handed a major penalty and a game misconduct for contact to the head in the final minute of the second stanza, giving the Catamounts a non-expiring power play that extended to the third period.

UVM set up in the Terriers’ zone to start the third frame and converted on Esposito’s 10th goal of the season. Alvaro dished a pass to Coughlin at the right doortep before picking out Esposito alone in the slot for a one-timer to beat Oettinger blocker side. The Catamounts returned to the extended power play and had a brief two-man advantage, but were unable to take the lead.

The Terriers drew a penalty with 2:10 left in overtime and set up on the power play in the Vermont zone. Shane Bowers created a pair of chances for BU, but the Catamounts completed a 5-for-5 night on the penalty kill to preserve a point.

The playoff matchup between UVM and UMass will be the second in series history after a dramatic 2-1 win for Vermont in the one-game 2014 Hockey East First Round at Gutterson Fieldhouse.