Tumultuous, topsy-turvy, flat-out and all-out, swapping the lead the way hockey players swap hip checks, the Boston University Terriers and the University of Vermont Catamounts played one of the most exciting semifinals in NCAA hockey history last night. It’s a shame that only one of these spirited teams could move on to the Saturday night finals — but it’s sweet that the Terriers are that team.
For thousands of fans who crowded Washington, D.C.’s Verizon Center and BU’s Agganis Arena, who watched at home and in bars across the country, what mattered most was that when the final buzzer sounded, BU had five goals on the board and Vermont had four. The victory over third-seeded Vermont sends the top-seeded and top-ranked BU team to the championship round to play against Miami University of Ohio on Saturday night. The win places BU in the finals for the 10th time and ties the school record for wins in a season (34), set during the 1993–94 campaign.
In the first period, the Terriers came out strong, with Colin Wilson (CAS’11) tipping in a pass from Kevin Shattenkirk (CAS’11) nine minutes in and Jason Lawrence (MET’09) driving home another goal seven minutes later. BU was on a roll, but that roll slowed for much of the second period. First Vermont’s Wahsontiio Stacey ripped a shot from the right to the far side, beating BU goalie Kieran Millan (CAS’12) and putting the Catamounts on the board. Twelve minutes later, Millan made a great kick save on a shot by Viktor Stalberg, but the rebound slid to Justin Milo, who dropped the puck in an open net. Just 42 seconds after the Catamounts tied the game, Josh Burrows fooled Millan to give UVM its first lead.
Like most leads in last night’s game, it didn’t last long. With one minute left in the second period, Vinny Saponari (CAS’12) came through with a finish on a great pass from Nick Bonino (CAS’11), tying things up at 3-3.
In the third period, UVM’s Drew MacKenzie ripped a shot from near the blue line. And while Millan got a piece of it, he didn’t get enough — the puck trickled into the goal. Next up was Lawrence, who dished to Chris Higgins (MET’09) streaking up the right side. Higgins looked to pass to Lawrence, but the puck caught a Vermont stick at the far post and snuck into the net — reminiscent of the last-second game winner against New Hampshire that put the Terriers into the Frozen Four. With six minutes to go, the game was tied.
One minute later Wilson, by most accounts the game’s most valuable player, knocked in a rebound on a shot from Higgins and the Terriers regained the lead once and for all.
Last night’s game was the latest chapter in a remarkable hockey rivalry. Vermont had been the only team in the country to have a winning record against the Terriers this season. After BU posted a convincing 7-2 road win over the Catamounts on November 1, Vermont visited Agganis Arena three weeks later and became the first team in 16 years to pull off a weekend sweep on BU’s home ice, winning both games by identical 4-3 scores. The Catamounts were responsible for one-third of BU’s losses this season and also ended the Terriers’ 2007–08 Hockey East campaign.
But that’s history. Now the Terriers face off against Miami University at 7 p.m. at the Verizon Center in D.C. on Saturday night, with the national championship on the line.
The game will be broadcast live on ESPN.