BURLINGTON — It was a silent night in the near-empty Gutterson Fieldhouse this evening, and not just because the telecast audio feed cut out for a large stretch in the third period. With few penalties whistled and fewer goal horns, the No. 13 Boston University Terriers (7-2-0) gutted their way to a 1-0 victory over the University of Vermont Catamounts (1-6-2).
Sophomore defenseman Alex Vlasic extended his goal-scoring streak to three games, notching the only tally with less than 17 minutes left in the game. Sophomore forward Jay O’Brien and freshman defenseman Thomas Jarman had the assists.
Freshman goaltender Vinny Duplessis cruised to his first career shutout, saving all 18 shots he faced, and Vermont netminder Gabe Carriere made 28 saves in the loss. The strong play in net supplemented the defensive battle taking place on the ice to keep this game low-scoring.
BU captain Logan Cockerill returned to the lineup tonight after missing four games due to an undisclosed injury. Cockerill didn’t get back on the scoresheet, but coach Albie O’Connell was happy to have him back in the lineup.
“I thought he played pretty good considering he’s been off so long,” O’Connell said.
The Terriers entered the game with the best scoring offense in Hockey East, averaging 3.88 goals per game, but they couldn’t generate much offense to start. Both sides opened with a strong forechecking game, preventing each other from settling into an offensive groove.
“It was really hard to get to their [Vermont’s] net. They were really strong in the corners, and you know, they had a good game plan,” O’Connell said.
The shots on goal were just 4-3 in BU’s favor with six minutes left in the first period. A hooking call on senior defenseman Joseph Campolieto put the Catamounts on the power play just 1:45 into the game, but the penalty kill stepped up even without freshman defenseman Cade Webber, a stalwart on the special teams unit who was suspended for this game after his high cross-check in the previous game against BC.
The Terriers got two power play chances in the first period, both from too many men calls on Vermont. While BU couldn’t net a goal, it did allow the team to gain momentum in the offensive zone and generate more chances on net. Carriere was up to the task, and the period ended scoreless with BU holding a 10-3 shots on goal advantage.
The Terriers were given their third man-up opportunity of the night just 36 seconds into the second period when Vermont forward Jacques Bouquot was called for cross-checking. The power play got just one puck on the Catamount net, and the opportunity passed to keep the game scoreless.
Defensively, the Terriers didn’t allow a shot on goal for the first 6:11 of the second period, snuffing out Vermont zone entries and delivering big hits when the puck got deep in their end. There were a few lapses throughout the period when the Catamounts got a good look at the net, but Duplessis held firm. Vermont did their part to keep the Terrier attack out of the center lane, forcing BU to the corners and throwing bodies in front of shooting lanes.
The Terriers have never been a high-volume shooting team so far this year; they are only averaging 19.3 shots on goal per game, and had eclipsed 21 just once in a single game before tonight. Through two periods, BU led Vermont 22-11 in the shots on goal count. The Terriers were getting pucks to the net, but not too many that challenged the Vermont freshman in the crease.
“Offensively, we weren’t sharp,” O’Connell said, “I just thought some guys missed some plays as far as, like, they had a little bit of the blinders on tonight. But yeah, you gotta tip your cap to [Vermont].”
The third period saw the Catamounts rely on dumping in the puck to try and start possessions, but the Terriers regained possession with ease. Less than four minutes into the final frame, Vlasic came in from point position, crept in on an opening down the middle and tucked in a shot from close range to put the Terriers ahead 1-0 with 16:26 left in regulation.
“I thought he was the best player on the ice tonight,” O’Connell said of Vlasic, “I’m happy for him because he wants it. He works hard, he was a beast tonight. He was like a man amongst boys out there.”
Finally holding the lead after dominating the offensive chances, the Terriers didn’t let their foot off the gas, continuing to harass the Catamounts in the defensive zone and creating more rushes up ice, eventually earning their fourth power play chance of the night when Vermont defenseman Andrew Lucas was called for interference with 9:54 left in the third.
The power play unit had a strong possession and generated a few shots that went wide, but after two minutes the score remained 1-0, dropping the man-advantage to 0-for-4 on the night. The Catamounts responded with a few chances of their own, attacking more aggressively as time wound down, but the Terriers continued to execute a strong forecheck, and Duplessis paddled away close chances.
An interference penalty on freshman forward Nick Zabaneh gave the Catamounts just their second power play of the game with 3:20 left in the third.
Vermont compiled some strong chances, but didn’t pull their goalie despite dominating possession in the offensive zone with less than two minutes remaining. Instead of setting up six-on-four play, and perhaps risking a BU empty netter that would have iced the game, Vermont kept Carriere in his crease and was unable to capitalize on the penalty.
Both sides used their timeouts within the final minute, strategizing to the last second, but BU held on for the final whistle, which saw some minor tussles break out between the two sides, but ultimately settled down as BU walked off the ice with the 1-0 victory.
O’Connell mentioned only Webber when asked if anyone would be returning to the lineup tomorrow when the two sides meet again in Burlington. The freshman was set to come back after serving his suspension, indicating no one is expected to return from injury tomorrow.
Follow our coverage here and @BOShockeyblog on Twitter for tomorrow night’s 6 pm game against Vermont.