By Scott McLaughlin/DFP Staff
BURLINGTON, Vt. –– With teams four through nine in the Hockey East standings separated by a mere two points with now just a weekend and a half left in the season, everyone in that logjam is desperate for points.
BU coach Jack Parker said he knew the No. 18 University of Vermont would be desperate because it was in ninth coming into this weekend, but that he expected his team to be just as desperate because it could still end up ninth.
“I was incorrect,” Parker said of his expectations for his team. “The focus, the speed, the attention to detail, the physical play from the team in black [Vermont] as opposed to the team in white [BU] was like night and day.
“We weren’t ready to play. … In general, they outplayed us for every puck. They played a much better game in every zone. They wanted this game a hell of a lot more than we wanted it.
“We both needed it badly. They got it, because they wanted it. We might’ve needed it, but we didn’t want it that bad. I was very disappointed in my team. … I don’t think I could come up with one guy on my team tonight that played well.”
The Catamounts’ dominance was most evident in the second period, during which they outshot the Terriers by an eye-popping 21-2 margin. Already leading 3-1 after the first, junior forward Brett Leonard made it 4-1 Vermont two minutes into the middle frame when he wrapped around to the right side of the net and somehow snuck the puck through sophomore goalie Kieran Millan’s (29 saves) pads.
BU cut the lead to the 4-2 two and a half minutes later on one of its few highlights of the period (and the game for that matter). Sophomore forward Chris Connolly stole a pass behind the Catamount net and dished to fellow sophomore Vinny Saponari in the corner. Saponari then threaded a pass to sophomore defenseman David Warsofsky at center point, and he walked in a few steps before rifling a shot into the top right corner.
But Vermont regained the three-goal lead with a little more than four minutes left in the period. Senior forward Brian Roloff walked out front from the right side of the net and had his first shot saved before banging home his own rebound.
Parker pulled Millan, who was making his first career start at Gutterson Fieldhouse, in favor of classmate Grant Rollheiser to start the third. Parker said the move was more to try and wake his team up than to punish Millan.
“I thought it was pathetic how we played in front of him,” Parker said. “They were on the doorstep by themselves. Kieran made some great saves. I think he’d like to have the wraparound back, but other than that, he didn’t get much support from his teammates.”
Parker said that Millan would be back in net Sunday. Rollheiser allowed one goal on three shots before Parker pulled him for an extra attacker with more than four minutes remaining in the game.
Parker’s “on the doorstep by themselves” description was applicable to all three of the Catamounts’ first-period goals. After freshman forward Chris McCarthy rang a shot off the crossbar, junior linemate Josh Burrows was alone in the slot to bury the second chance.
Then, after freshman defenseman Anders Franzon had a shot blocked by Connolly, the puck found its way to a wide-open Brayden Irwin in the right circle. With no one around, the senior forward waltzed into the slot and beat Millan with a backhander. Finally, freshman forward Tobias Nilsson-Roos beat two Terrier defenders to a rebound and whacked it into the right side of the net.
After his team’s unexpected flatness Friday night, Parker wouldn’t even try and predict how his players will respond Sunday.
“I have no idea,” he said. “I don’t know how my team will react, whether it’s the next day or the day after. I know one thing – that was an embarrassing performance by us tonight.”