If Boston College head coach Jerry York ever gets tired of winning hockey games, the State Department could use him. York is a pleasant yet devious liar when he needs to be, and that’s usually when he’s talking about opposing teams. He doesn’t change his tone when he’s giving his real opinion, and that would make him a great ambassador.
“It’s mind boggling that [Vermont] finished ninth in our league,” York said. “It’s a team that’s right with ourselves, Providence, BU and Lowell. We played them about five times in three weeks, so I got a pretty good feel for them.”
He was telling the truth there because that claim is empirically true. The Catamounts probably should have been better than they were this season. College Hockey News tracks even-strength Corsi index for percentage, which is essentially just plus/minus with shot attempts, minus special teams. The stat is the best way to approximate which teams have the puck more than their opponents. Entering Sunday, Vermont out-attempted its opponents by 217 shots. BC was at +174. The Eagles go from good to great by having better shooters and a better goalie than just about anyone else in the country, never mind the conference.
After the first 10 minutes of the first game, the series played out about as expected possession-wise. Both teams controlled the run of play for extended stretches, and the scoring chances evened out. What surprised was that Vermont equaled BC in net and in finishing touch. Inserted after BC went up 3-0 in the series opener, freshman goalie Packy Munson stoned several of BC’s top-end forwards throughout the weekend, and those forwards aided him at times with some blown chances.
“We’ve been impressed with Packy’s play in the four games he’s played against us,” York said following the third game of the series, a 4-3 overtime winner for the Eagles.
“Packy was outstanding all weekend for us,” Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon said.
Vermont’s skaters supplemented their usual grease with a dose of flashiness. Liam Coughlin tied up Game Two with a top-corner missile, and all three Vermont tallies on Sunday had a good amount of finesse. Craig Puffer deftly redirected the Catamounts’ first goal through BC goalie Thatcher Demko as the BC goalie was moving from post to post, and Conor O’Neil efficiently banged in two rebounds before Demko got back into position. Vermont was on the wrong end of two video reviews regarding would-be Catamount goals, as well, including one in overtime.
Despite the difference in pedigree between the programs, both teams skated, scored, and stopped pucks just as well as the other one did. Hockey’s not always fair, and that’s most apparent when deflected overtime shots decide postseason series. It won’t make Vermont’s bus ride home any shorter, but if a shot like Ryan Fitzgerald’s game winner is the equivalent of a coin flip on ice, then the way Sunday’s game ended is actually as just as hockey gets. Vermont deserved a 50-50 shot at advancing to TD Garden.
Fitzgerald’s shot trickled through Munson minutes after that same puck spun in place on BC’s goal line. After Munson took up residence in goal, the Eagles needed every inch it could get because the Catamounts didn’t give them any. Vermont took them to the wall for the second year in a row, and so perhaps they were due for a little divine intervention. Either way, BC needed it.
“It was one of those shots where you throw it on net and say a quick prayer,” Fitzgerald said. “Thank God it kind of trickled in.”
Featured Image by Savanna Kiefer / Heights Editor