In the first of a two-game set at the University of Vermont, the Boston University men’s hockey team gained a fortunate overtime winner to defeat the Catamounts, 1-0.
“It was a big win,” said Terrier head coach Albie O’Connell, who saw his team skate to their second consecutive victory after breaking a six-game losing streak.
The two points at stake were crucial for both teams entering the contest. BU (12-15-3, 10-8-2 Hockey East) travelled to Burlington at sixth place in the Hockey East standings, and just four points off of second place. Meanwhile, Vermont (12-17-2, 5-14-2 Hockey East) sat seven points outside of a playoff spot with four games to play.
“They were desperate, and we were desperate,” said O’Connell.
The first 20 minutes of play would conclude scoreless, but not for a lack of chances. Both teams had promising looks throughout the opening frame, but it was BU who looked the more dangerous, attempting 13 shots on goal to Vermont’s seven.
Late in the period, the Terriers would gain odd-man rush threats from sophomore forward Logan Cockerill, among others. Despite the pressure, UVM’s defensive effort led by a junior tandem of goaltender Stefanos Lekkas and defenseman Jake Massie kept the game level through one.
“He was on,” said Coach O’Connell of Lekkas, who would go on to tally 43 saves in the contest.
The second frame would see no change in score line, even with four power play opportunities – three for BU and one for the Catamounts. Over the course of the middle stanza, the Terriers would add another 13 shots on goal, while UVM would also match their first period total with an additional seven.
The most threatening moments for either side came in the latter half of the second period. After a shorthanded bid from Massie went narrowly wide, BU tilted the ice on the Catamounts, peppering Lekkas with chances both on the man advantage and in five-on-five play.
Still, with acrobatic stops on back-to-back attempts for freshman forward Joel Farabee and an aid from the iron on a shot from junior forward Gabe Chabot, Lekkas would stay perfect through 40 minutes. Again, the teams would return to the locker rooms deadlocked.
“[Lekkas] stopped all of them with ease,” said O’Connell of BU’s chances in the second.
Play would open up with both teams hunting for the elusive opener in the third, but neither side could find the back of the net. The Catamounts threatened first in the final period, as freshman forward Joey Cipollone’s back-post effort came up empty on a power play eight minutes into the period.
Through the final ten minutes at even strength, BU had the better of the chances, but Lekkas was still up to the task. As time began to dwindle, Farabee was denied from close range by the outstretched leg of the junior, who would stone a Cockerill bid up close just moments later.
According to the O’Connell, “Lekkas put on a performance.”
Backed by their standout netminder, the Catamounts would survive regulation, and the game would require an additional frame.
“I thought we deserved the win,” said Coach O’Connell.
In overtime, UVM poured on pressure in search of the essential two points to keep their playoff hopes alive. While his counterpart in the opposite crease was stealing the show, BU junior keeper Jake Oettinger also stood tall throughout, most significantly in the early minutes of OT.
“Jake was dynamite tonight,” said O’Connell. “Everything was clean.”
As the Catamounts threw everything at BU, Lekkas vacated the Vermont net in favor of the extra attacker with a minute to play.
“When they did it, our eyes kind of lit up,” said O’Connell regarding the decision for UVM to pull the goaltender.
Gaining control inside his own half, BU junior defenseman Chad Krys turned and tossed the puck 150 feet into the gaping Catamount goal to give the Terriers the 1-0 victory.
“He was one of our best players,” said O’Connell about his assistant captain Krys, whose goal was his fifth of the season.
It was just the second overtime win in six tries for the Terriers on the season, albeit with the winner coming against an empty net. Regardless, the two points were welcomed by the Terriers, who jumped into a two-way tie for fifth place in the conference with the University of Maine following Friday’s fixtures.
BU and UVM will return to Gutterson Fieldhouse to finish off the weekend set on Saturday at 7pm.