BURLINGTON, Vermont — Don’t call it a comeback. The Terriers have been there all season long.
Horrendous LL Cool J references aside, the No. 3 Boston University men’s hockey team was able to manufacture another impressive late-game turnaround Saturday night, besting No. 12 University of Vermont to earn a series sweep against its Hockey East foe.
Starting at a 1-0 defeat for most of the contest, the Terriers were able to net the equalizer by way of a tally from senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues with a little over two minutes remaining on the clock.
The Gutterson Fieldhouse crowd would ultimately vacate the rink on a sour note, as freshman center redirected a shot from Rodrigues past Catamounts’ netminder Steve Santaguida to hand the Terriers a vital four points for the weekend.
Here’s a look at what went right and wrong for BU on Saturday night up in The Green Mountain State.
“Ice in our veins”
After BU’s 4-2 victory over Vermont Friday night — in which the Terriers held off a late-game UVM comeback to hold on for the two points — BU coach David Quinn admitted that his team “has a little ice in our veins” when it comes to late-game situations.
The Terriers exemplified that trend again Saturday night, albeit in a different fashion.
Instead of shutting down a third-period surge, the Terriers were the ones orchestrating it, as Rodrigues and Eichel’s goals in the third period and overtime, respectively, handed BU its third win a row.
For the ninth time this season, the Terriers faced a deficit in the third period and managed to come away with either a win or a tie.
For Quinn, the key to his team’s success in high-pressure scenarios lies in his players’ mutual respect and trust in one another.
“I think our guys have confidence, respectful confidence,” Quinn said. “And they just trust each other. They look around the locker room and I think they think every guy in there is pretty good. That’s where you get some confidence, not only within yourself but throughout the lineup.”
Just hours before the game, the Terriers blueliner corps was dealt a significant blow, as sophomore defenseman Doyle Somerby was suspended for one game by Hockey East after being called for an interference penalty during Friday’s match against UVM.
Despite only dressing five defenseman Saturday night, Quinn praised the play of his defensemen, who excelled at both limiting Vermont’s chances in front of BU netminder Matt O’Connor and moving the puck up the ice.
Junior captain Matt Grzelcyk in particular was impressive, as the Charlestown native was active on the backcheck, breaking up a UVM odd-man rush at one point while later poke checking the puck off the stick of Vermont winger Mario Puskarich on a prime scoring bid in the second period.
“I loved our D corps tonight, I thought they did a great job breaking the puck out,” Quinn said. “I thought the poise with the puck was a lot better than it was last night. I thought we defended well.
You beat a team on Friday, they’re a lot more desperate on Saturday and that’s what we were very happy with, with the first period because I thought weathered the storm a little bit and just really did a lot of good things. Our D corps was huge tonight.”
Once again, Rodrigues made his presence on the box score Saturday night, scoring his ninth goal of the season while later tallying the assist on Eichel’s overtime winner to tie him with linemate Danny O’Regan for second in conference scoring with 28 points in 23 games.
Rodrigues has registered a point in BU’s last eight games, compiling 15 points during that stretch.
For more on Rodrigues’ performance, check out Andrew’s sider.
While Eichel and Rodrigues might have stolen most of the headlines following Saturday’s game, the play of O’Connor helped keep the Terriers within one goal throughout the contest.
After relinquishing a goal to Vermont captain Mike Paliotta with 18 minutes left on the clock in the second period, O’Connor did not let another puck enter BU netting, finishing with 31 saves en route to his 13th win of the season.
O’Connor is second in Hockey East in both goals-against average (1.91) and save percentage (.937).
Penalties prove costly
While even Quinn admitted that the Terriers performed better in their second game of the weekend, the team was sullied by a few costly penalties.
The game was still locked in a 0-0 stalemate when freshman forward Nikolas Olsson was whistled for elbowing, handing Vermont its third power-play opportunity of the contest.
UVM’s extra-man unit would make Olsson and Terriers pay, as Paliotta fired a quick wrister from the top of the point, beating O’Connor glove side to put Vermont on the board at 2:00 in the second period.