Through a late go-ahead goal by freshman forward Joel Farabee, the Boston University men’s hockey team came from behind to beat the University of Vermont 2-1 on Saturday night and clinch the series sweep over the Catamounts.
“Coming [into] a building like this and getting all four points is really big,” said Farabee, who saw his Terriers win out at Gutterson Fieldhouse to gain sole possession of fifth place in Hockey East.
With Vermont (12-18-2, 5-15-2 Hockey East) officially eliminated from playoff contention after Friday night’s overtime loss in the series opener, the Terriers (13-15-3, 11-8-2 Hockey East) were in search of the full four points on the weekend to keep pace in the division standings.
“To get a sweep on the road, it’s not easy,” said BU head coach Albie O’Connell.
The Catamounts took the front foot immediately, doubling BU in shots on goal at the halfway point in the first period. It was a complete reversal of the series opener, in which BU peppered the target from the opening puck drop. Junior goaltender Jake Oettinger was forced into action early and often for the Terriers, highlighted by a sprawling save to deny sophomore forward Bryce Misley five minutes in.
“He didn’t make a mistake all weekend,” said O’Connell of his standout netminder.
Oettinger’s only goal against of the series would come on a Vermont power play just moments after the Misley chance. Following a BU penalty with 13 minutes left in the frame, a shot from sophomore forward Max Kaufman fell dangerously in front, and freshman forward Joey Cipollone was there to sweep it in for the game’s first goal. It was an early opener compared to Friday’s, which took 64 minutes to find.
“They got a lot of momentum,” said O’Connell in regard to Cipollone’s tally.
The Terriers would narrow the shots on goal gap to 10-9 in favor of UVM by the end of the period, but the 1-0 lead would remain through the rest of the first.
“We just stayed in our system and didn’t get deterred,” said Farabee of his team’s response to the Catamount advantage.
As the middle stanza wore on, chances for both sides became more frequent and more dangerous. Still, each defense remained up to the task, including a sequence with four minutes remaining that featured a block by junior defenseman Dante Fabbro on a UVM three-on-one, and a double-save by Catamount junior keeper Stefanos Lekkas at the other end to preserve the one-goal lead.
“That kid was lights out again,” Said O’Connell of Lekkas, who followed up his 43-save effort on Friday with 24 hard-earned stops on Saturday.
While Lekkas was unbeatable through Friday’s contest and the majority of Saturday’s, the Terriers would finally get one by the Illinois native with 1:35 to play in the middle frame. On a well-worked passing move between the junior forward duo of Patrick Harper and Patrick Curry, it was Harper who found space to fire a shot past Lekkas from close range. It was the fourth goal of his third season with the team.
With BU buzzing after the Harper equalizer, the teams would return to the locker rooms tied at one goal apiece, with the Terriers holding the narrow lead in shots on goal 18-17.
“We battled hard, we battled back,” said O’Connell.
Looking to avoid overtime for the second consecutive night, BU and UVM demonstrated no hesitation to shoot in the final 20 minutes, but were often off target with their efforts. Four penalties would be split evenly between the teams in the period, the last of which would be called against a displeased Joel Farabee when the freshman forward tripped a Catamount just outside the BU bench.
With a minute to play and the teams still knotted up at one, Farabee would have the last laugh. Finding a soft spot in the Vermont defense just inside the left circle, the first-year Terrier captured a pass from sophomore forward Logan Cockerill and drove it home to give the visitors the late go-ahead goal. It was Farabee’s BU-best 12th goal of the season, and his 28th point to boost his team lead in that category as well.
“The whole weekend we had a lot of chances, so I think that was just one of them,” said Farabee in reaction to his game-winner.
The Terriers would withstand a final surge from the Catamounts, claiming the 2-1 win to sweep the weekend series and extend the win streak to three games.
“We made two really nice plays that ended up winning us the game,” said O’Connell regarding the goals from Harper and Farabee.
Jake Oettinger finished the contest with 19 saves, his fewest since the 17 he posted on November 10 in BU’s 3-2 win over the University of New Hampshire.
“Our defense played hard,” said Coach O’Connell. “We gave up one goal on the weekend, so it’s positive.”
While the results wouldn’t suggest it, the Terriers were undermanned for the series. Sophomore defenseman David Farrance was banged up and missed the first game of the weekend, while graduate forward Max Willman was unavailable for either contest due to illness.
“It’s the end of the year, it’s hockey. There are always guys [that are] a little banged up,” said O’Connell. “Hopefully we’re getting healthy.”
Perhaps the most significant absence for the Terriers was senior captain Bobo Carpenter. The forward was BU’s leading goal scorer when he left the lineup during the Arizona State series nearly a month ago, and has not appeared since. Still, Coach O’Connell voiced his optimism that Carpenter will be back in the scarlet and white very soon.
“Bobo’s looking pretty good. He’s on the ice and he’s skating so hopefully he’ll be back,” said the first-year manager.
With Terrier health appearing to be improving at the same time as their play on the ice, Farabee and his teammates have reason to believe they can make a run up the Hockey East table as they close out the regular season.
“We’re trying to grab home ice heading [into the playoffs], and we’re playing well,” said Farabee.
With Providence just two points ahead of BU in the fourth and final position to host a Hockey East playoff game, there will be a lot at stake when the Terriers visit the Friars on Thursday night at 7pm.