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The last time Vermont faced Boston College in the playoffs, goaltender John Muse stymied the Catamounts 4-0 in the 2008 Hockey East finals.
Two years later, UVM still has not figured out how to solve Muse.
“I thought John [Muse’s] play was superb from the start to the finish of the game,” Eagles coach Jerry York said.
Tallying 30 saves and his third postseason shutout in the process, the East Falmouth, Mass., native backstopped the Eagles to their 18th tournament championship appearance in a decisive 3-0 blanking of the Catamounts Friday.
“They battled hard to try to mount a comeback, but unfortunately they just fell short,” Catamounts coach Kevin Sneddon said. “I think John Muse played great.”
BC needed only the offense generated in the final minutes of the first period to extend its perfect tournament record against Vermont to four games.
With less than five minutes to go in the opening frame, Eagles blueliner Carl Sneep blocked a clear attempt and sent a pass to winger Jimmy Hayes at the top of the right circle. Hayes’ shot deflected off a UVM defender and on to the waiting stick of linemate Chris Kreider. Kreider put BC on the board 1-0 at 15:49 with a wrist shot from the right dot that beat Catamounts netminder Rob Madore glove side.
Kreider’s tally shattered Madore’s postseason shutout streak of 151:41 that spanned three games, including two shutouts of New Hampshire in last week’s quarterfinals. Madore joins Boston University’s John Curry (182:48 in 2005) and UNH’s Kevin Regan (138:00 in 2007) as the only goaltenders in the Hockey East tournament to notch back-to-back blankings.
Thanks to an overly aggressive Eagles squad in the middle stanza, UVM had more than its fair share of opportunities to generate offense. But the Catamounts — who boast only a 16.4 percent success rate on the man advantage (ranked 43rd in the NCAA) — continued to be plagued by their power play. BC held UVM scoreless in four power play chances.
UVM’s best chance to gain momentum and even the score came at with under a minute to play in the first period. Senior winger Colin Vock went forehand to backhand on a breakaway rush, but Muse stoned him at the crease to keep the Catamounts off the board.
“I know for myself, I had a breakaway with a minute left in the [first] period that could have changed the game around and made it 1-1,” Vock said. “Maybe it we had buckled down a little better and stuck to our systems more, there could have been a different outcome.”
The Eagles sealed UVM’s tournament fate just seconds later. At 19:53, Hayes delivered the puck to rookie defender Philip Samuelsson at the blue line. Samuelsson dished to senior winger Ben Smith, who slammed it home before Madore could close the gap.
“I thought one of the real turning points in the game was John Muse’s save on the breakaway in the second period to keep it 1-0 and allow us to then go ahead with the late goal by Ben Smith to send us into the locker room with a two-goal lead,” York said. “That’s an amazing turn of events, you know. If that player is able to beat [Muse], then it’s 1-1 and who knows if we have the capability to score with seven seconds left in the period.”
BC cruised to victory in the final frame, lighting the lamp once more for good measure at 3:06. Rookie center Pat Mullane took a pass from Kreider and tried to tuck the puck past Madore. Kreider collected the Mullane’s rebound from behind the net and fed Hayes, who, from the left post, pushed it past Madore stick side.
Hayes, who had a hand in all three BC goals, posted his first three-point game since he collected four assists in a 7-1 rout of the Catamounts on Nov. 14.
Hayes and linemates Smith and Kreider — who combined for 33 goals and 71 points in the regular season — were responsible for the Eagles’ offensive output tonight. According to York, “Ben Smith’s line was our impetus up front. They cycled pucks really well, they used their size and strength and were a dominant line for us in the game.”
The normally dangerous and explosive line of Joe Whitney, Brian Gibbons, and Cam Atkinson — who collectively have 52 goals and 121 points in the 2009-10 season — were uncharacteristically quiet.
“We have great depth; all four of our lines can skate with anyone,” Muse said. “When you get to the playoffs, you need people to step up each and every night. … It’s been different lines each night that have been leading the way.”
BC, with its ninth win in its last eleven semifinal games, will face off against the winner of the Boston University-Maine semifinal matchup and eyes its ninth Hockey East tournament title.