The Terriers suited up in their home whites for the last time (…at home) in the team’s first game of the Hockey East playoffs with a matinee matchup against the University of Vermont Catamounts (11-20-5 5-17-3 HE). The No. 5 BU men’s hockey team (25-10-0, 19-6-0 Hockey East) dominated the opening frame and was already watching for a hat trick within the first 10 minutes –– they were not let down. A dominant 7-3 victory ensued with goals from up and down the Terrier lineup.
Seconds after the opening puck drop, an awkward collision between Domenick Fensore and a UVM forward sent the captain down the tunnel. It’s unclear what happened, but he limped to the bench and into the locker room. Minutes later, assistant coach Kim Brandvold disappeared into the locker room, likely to check on Fensore.
Head coach Jay Pandolfo had no real updates on Fensore immediately after the game, but said it was a lower body injury that will be reevaluated tomorrow. We’ll ask again during the midweek media availability on Thursday.
Despite missing its captain, BU lit the score sheet early with the first goal coming from Terrier Hockey Talk’s favorites, juniors Nick Zabaneh and Dylan Peterson. Jeremy Wilmer, who again has silently but consistently climbed his way up the BU points ladder, dished a clearing pass up-ice to find Peterson just past the blue line. Petey carried it in and waited for the last second cross-crease pass to find Zabaneh open on the other side. Carriere dove for Peterson’s puck, giving Zabs a wide open net to capitalize on.
After putting in the work these past two weekends, including three almost-goals against Providence last week, Zabaneh strengthened his case for most improved Terrier of the season, at least from a BHB point of view. His last goal came against Maine on January 20, so it had been a long time coming for the junior.
“I’m really happy for him. He’s earned everything he’s gotten this year,” Pandolfo said of the junior forward. “I know he wants to score, he wants to help the team offensively and he did that tonight. He’s been doing that, and he’s been arguably over the last month, six weeks you know, arguably our best forward.”
Two minutes after Zabs’ opening goal, Jamie Armstrong doubled the Terrier lead. While Lane Hutson danced with the puck at the blue line, junior Ty Gallagher practically begged for the puck. L. Hutson passed to the circle to connect with Sam Stevens down low, who gave it right back to Gally at the point. His snapshot got deflected by Army for the second tally of the night with a pretty dominant shift.
A minute later –– it was a very busy three minutes –– Petey and Zabs connected again for the good guys’ third of the game. Peterson, who has been having a phenomenal second half of the year, danced around a Catamount to carry the puck over the blue line. Vermont goalie Gabe Carriere kicked the puck to the side and Zabaneh was there with the final touch for his second in three minutes.
“Yeah, it felt great… I felt like our line was due for a while there and for the puck to finally find the back of the net, it felt great,” Zabaneh said. “At the end of the day, we won so that’s all that matters.”
Stevens was sent to the penalty box soon after for a faceoff violation, giving UVM their second power play chance of the game. An initial shot by grad transfer Robbie Stucker from the circle found its way to captain Jacques Bouquot at the crease, ending Drew Commesso’s chance for a third shutout of the year.
Despite some extra gas from the Catamounts following their goal, BU made sure to put that momentum to rest with a flawless tic-tac-toe goal on the power play, the kind of goal and simple play that Pandolfo had said his team had been struggling to execute during the four game skid.
L. Hutson sent the puck down to Wilmer in the right circle and the freshman showed his poise and maturity by saving the shot and opting for a pass to the crease to find senior Wilmer Skoog and an open net. BU has shown their resiliency all year and getting back on the board minutes after UVM swung the pendulum their way is just another classic example of BU doing just that.
“I was hoping for it,” Skoog said in regards to the extra pass from Wilmer. “He has a really good sense for the ice, so when it is open, I think he’s gonna put it there. So it was good to see him put it there and see it go in.”
The shut-down second period was just that: shut-down. UVM gave BU two man-advantages on tripping and hooking calls, but Carriere wanted to keep the score locked as it was.
His best save of the night came on a goal that was sure to go in from freshman Devin Kaplan, on a shot that almost perfectly mimicked Zabaneh’s opening goal. Minutes later, Carriere did it again on Quinn Hutson’s breakaway attempt.
Commesso made a few key stops on Vermont’s better chances, but it really was Carriere and an intense commitment to blocking shots that kept the score as it was. Ethan Phillips, whether intentionally or by accident, made a save with his helmet and Vermont’s D-core threw their bodies in front of pucks for the full 20 minutes.
While the 4-1 score would hold after 40, the final 20 minutes of play saw another five goals and another demonstration of BU’s offensive dominance. The Terriers just played a complete and thorough game as if their lapse in February never even happened. While I wish it never happened, losing the way they did seemed to ignite the spark of simplicity this team needed to complete the regular season on a high and head into the playoffs feeling good.
The third period started the same way UVM’s third began against Maine, with a goal on the road on the hopes of a comeback. Massimo Lombardi buried one even strength past Commesso to cut the Catamount deficit to two. Even though UVM brought themselves back within two, Zabaneh decided to have himself a night with his third goal 13 seconds later.
Zabs’ hat trick was facilitated again by Peterson and it was a testament to his commitment to bringing pucks in deep, on net, and every other cliché of the hockey world.
William Lemay again brought UVM closer to an upset with a goal from under the faceoff dot and a slick assist from Ralfs Bergmanis to make the score 5-3. This would be the Catamounts last goal of the season, as the Terriers added two more thanks to Skoog and Q. Hutson for the final 7-3 score. Skoog’s goal was a give-and-go with assistant captain Case McCarthy at the crease, again, exactly the same as Zabs’ opening of the game. BU did a great job crashing the net this weekend and reaped the rewards three times.
Senior Wilmer Skoog was an undrafted mid-year addition to the 2019-20 season, and leaves BU a seasoned veteran with the career to show it.
“I’m really thankful for all the opportunities and the moments that I’ll remember here,” the senior said of his last time in Agganis. “Before the third period, I was walking out, and I was thinking about it as the last period of playing here. So I’m happy with all of the things I’ve experienced.”
To cap off the night, the freshmen connected again, as Ryan Greene and Devin Kaplan crowded the corner to loosen the puck, and it found its way cross ice to Q. Hutson at the top of the circle. A slapper from the freshman was his 13th goal of the season, not including a hat trick of his own against Waterloo in October. When he came on the podcast after the opening weekend, he told the BHB he wanted to score 15 goals this season; including the Waterloo game… you do the math.
BU was poised, mature, and dominant through 60 minutes of play in a fantastic conclusion to their time at Agganis. For the first year head coach, Pandolfo has a lot to be proud of going 14-3-0 at home this year, with only one loss in regulation.
“It’s been awesome, it really has, the support our team has gotten. The band has been a big part of it since I’ve been here… a long time ago, then in Walter Brown is ridiculous but, even here they’re incredible,” Pandolfo said of his home crowd. “The support we’ve gotten from the home crowd this year has been excellent. And I think we played overall pretty darn well here so it was nice to see.”
With a hole-punched back to the Garden, BU will look to avenge a game we’re all hoping not to forget, but to learn from, in the Hockey East semifinals next Friday night, with time and opponent TBD. Stay tuned on Twitter @Boshockeyblog and Instagram @Boston.hockey.blog for more updates during the week.