By Michael Wax
Cover Photo Credit: Jessica Lam
Powered by a hat trick from junior forward Nick Zabaneh, No. 5/6 Boston University (25-10-0, 18-6-0 HE) defeated the University of Vermont (11-20-5, 5-17-3 HE) 7-3 in the Hockey East quarterfinals.
“Overall, happy with our performance,” BU Head Coach Jay Pandolfo said. “[I] thought offensively, we were really good. The power play was better, [I] thought the penalty kill was good as well.”
Senior forward Matt Brown returned to the lineup after missing the final game of the regular season, as he was given a maintenance day.
BU senior captain Domenick Fensore suffered an injury after a collision in the neutral zone. After staying on the ice for a few seconds, Fensore crawled through the door to the BU bench and hobbled to the locker room.
“No updates as of now,” Pandolfo said. “Lower-body injury. [He’ll] be reevaluated tomorrow, and we’ll go from there.”
BU took an early 1-0 lead after UVM controlled much of the puck possession. Following a defensive zone face-off win, freshman forward Jeremy Wilmer got the puck and sent a lead feed to junior forward Dylan Peterson. Peterson rushed up the ice, around a UVM defender, and back toward junior goaltender Gabe Carriere. With Carriere fully committed, Peterson sent a cross-crease pass over to Zabaneh, who tapped it in for his sixth of the season.
“I felt like our line was due for a while there,” Zabaneh said. “For the puck to finally find the back of the net, it felt great.”
BU doubled their lead just 1:24 after the Zabaneh goal. The fourth line of freshman forward Devin Kaplan and senior forwards Jamie Armstrong and Sam Stevens, who put together a phenomenal weekend against Providence, went to work in the UVM zone. With the Catamounts in a frenzy, Stevens found sophomore defenseman Ty Gallagher near the blue line. Gallagher’s shot was deflected in by Armstrong for his fifth of the season.
BU struck again 1:46 later to make it a three-goal game. The third line once again put in the work off the rush, with Peterson making another nice move around a UVM defender to gain zone entry. Carriere stopped Peterson’s initial shot, but Zabaneh was there for the rebound for his second of the game and seventh of the season.
“[Peterson] is just a great player,” Zabaneh said. “He has size, he has skill, he has speed, and I feel like we think the game really similar.”
UVM found their way on the board a few minutes later, thanks to the man advantage. After Stevens was given a face-off violation for putting his hand over the puck, the Catamount power play got to work.
As BU could not clear the puck throughout the penalty kill, Vermont senior captain Jacques Bouquot deflected a shot past junior goaltender Drew Commesso to make it a 3-1 game.
“I thought that us being here was a massive step for UVM hockey,” UVM Head Coach Todd Woodcroft said. “Got the first playoff win in how many years, I don’t know. It’s been a few to get here, [it] was a really big accomplishment for this group.”
BU’s power play also struck, giving them their three-goal lead back before the end of the period. An excellent passing play from freshman defenseman Lane Hutson and Wilmer found senior forward Wilmer Skoog open for the tap-in on the back-side post.
The third period saw an early session of 4-on-4 play that saw the teams trade goals. UVM got their second goal of the game when freshman forward Massimo Lombardi, who kicked the puck to his skate and put a backhander behind Commesso. BU responded 13 seconds later, as Zabaneh fired a wrist shot through Carriere for the hat trick to restore the three-goal lead.
UVM made it a two-goal game again with a snapshot goal from senior forward William Lemay, his third of the season. Skoog restored the three-goal lead for BU again by burying a give-and-go feed from McCarthy. Skoog’s final home game at BU saw yet another double-digit effort from the Swede.
“I think it’s been awesome,” Skoog said of the Agganis support. “I’ve been here for four years now. Obviously, the one year was tough when there were no people in attendance because of COVID. Everyone who was here when COVID was really appreciating all the support even more, so it’s awesome. And it’s kind of sad seeing it’s coming to an end.”
Freshman forward Quinn Hutson gave BU their first four-goal lead of the afternoon with a slap shot from the circle on the power play. Kaplan and freshman forward Ryan Greene picked up the assists.
BU will head to TD Garden next weekend to compete in the semifinal of the Hockey East tournament. They’ll face Providence on Friday with a chance to go to the Hockey East Championship, and the start time is 4 p.m.