By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff
BURLINGTON, Vt. — After a tumultuous week for the program, the No. 5/6 Boston University men’s hockey team got a much-needed win at the University of Vermont Friday night, when the Terriers (19-11-1, 15-8-1 Hockey East) topped the Catamounts (6-24-1, 3-20-1 Hockey East), 5-0.
Senior goaltender Grant Rollheiser made only his third start of the season Friday, but he recorded 18 saves on the night to shut out the last-place Catamounts .
“The guys really played hard in front of a great teammate in Rollheiser who’s a really good goalie but he’s always played, always had problems with Kieran playing so well in front of him,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “I was so happy for Rollheiser tonight and I was really happy for the team who played as hard as they did in front of him to make sure we got a shutout.”
The Terriers were held scoreless by Vermont goaltender Rob Madore through the first period, as he made 10 saves to Rollheiser’s five. However, BU’s offense finally broke through Madore in the second period with three goals on 11 shots.
Junior defenseman Sean Escobedo tallied his first goal of the year at 2:21 in the second on a low shot from the right of Madore that slid underneath the Pittsburgh native. The puck looked as if it may have remained on the goal line, but after an extensive review the shot was determined a goal.
“I don’t think I’ve seen as long a time to go over it,” Parker said. “I looked at [Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon] and said, ‘Hey, you want to just flip a coin here and get going?’ But we were fortunate that we got the goal.”
Freshman center Cason Hohmann also became an unlikely goal scorer, netting his second goal of the season on a low shot from the slot just after the midway point in the second period. The assist on the goal went to senior defenseman Ryan Ruikka, while junior forward Justin Courtnall made the screen to open the shooting lane for the freshman.
After Vermont defenseman Anders Franzon received a five-minute major penalty for hitting from behind on freshman Evan Rodrigues, BU capitalized with another goal from Escobedo. Just under two minutes after Hohmann’s tally, freshman defenseman Alexx Privitera sent in a low shot that was tipped by sophomore forward Sahir Gill off Madore’s pads and Escobedo was able to find the loose puck in a mess of players for his second goal of the game and the season.
The third period didn’t get much better for the Catamounts, as BU immediately expanded its lead. Junior forward Wade Megan fired a wrist shot past Madore 1:13 into the third for his team-leading 16th goal of the season. The play involved some strange bounces to set him up for the goal, as he capitalized on a loose puck in the slot. Junior center Ben Rosen and Gill were credited with assists on the goal.
Just 29 seconds after the Megan goal, freshman forward Evan Rodrigues found Courtnall streaking through a Vermont defensive breakdown, where he used a backhand-forehand shimmy to undress Madore and tuck the puck into the back of the net.
The goal was Courtnall’s fourth of the season, in a year in which he has spent much of it playing on the Terriers’ bottom two lines. While he hasn’t had the scoring touch or the power-play minutes the top forwards earn, the assistant captain has found other ways to contribute.
“You can’t speak enough about [Courtnall], in the corners and all the little battles he wins that doesn’t get the press or anything like that,” Escobedo said. “He comes ready to play every night and for him to get a goal like that – it was a pretty goal too – it’s really nice to see.”
Privitera found his spot back on the blue line after recovering from a broken wrist, and his recovery came at a perfect time with the loss of former defenseman Max Nicastro. Privitera proved his return is crucial to BU’s late-season success by notching significant minutes on the power play and playing solid two-way defense five-on-five.
“I thought [Privitera] played extremely well,” Parker said. “I thought he was smart with the puck and I thought he didn’t miss a beat, he looked like he was in pretty good shape and he didn’t miss a shift.”
The game got rough at points, as each team tallied plenty of penalty minutes. UVM totaled 31 penalty minutes in the game, while BU earned 12 minutes in the penalty box.
While there was not much about the Terriers’ game to pick on, BU went only 1-for-9 on the power play. However, the Terriers kept good puck possession, and recorded 10 shots in their nine chances.
The team’s win was important for their mindset after the turbulent week, but the win held postseason positioning importance as well. Because No. 7 University of Massachusetts-Lowell lost to No. 12/13 Merrimack College on Friday, BU moved into second place in Hockey East, only two points behind first-place Boston College.
“I think this win is extremely important, not just because of the week we had but if you look in the standings so many teams on top are so close – a point away or two points away,” Escobedo said. “To get the two points is huge for us.”