Ice Hockey, Sports

Sweep surrender: Shoddy defense costs Icedogs

Two weeks ago, the Boston University men’s hockey team sat atop the college hockey world ‘-‘- literally. The Terriers had ascended to the No. 1 spot in the national rankings after a blistering 6-1-0 start, vanquishing brand name opponents with shocking ease to spark talk of the program’s first national title in more than a decade.

Oh how things have changed.’

The No. 15 University of Vermont came, saw and conquered in its trip to Agganis Arena this weekend, staking claim to a pair of 4-3 victories Friday and Saturday over the No. 2 Terriers (7-4-0, 4-4-0 Hockey East) to become the first team to defeat BU at home on consecutive nights since the University of Maine in 1992.

‘To state the obvious, Vermont came in here and ate our lunch on us this weekend,’ BU coach Jack Parker said. ‘They come in and get four points, they come in and dominate us in a whole bunch of different ways and they came in and dictated how the game had to be played both nights.’

Senior Chris Higgins (two goals) and sophomores Colby Cohen and Colin Wilson (four assists apiece) accounted for the bulk of BU’s offensive production, but it was a collective listless defensive effort against the Catamounts (7-3-2, 4-3-1) that has the Terriers staring at three losses in their last four games since being anointed on the national stage.

‘There’s no question in my mind that we were full of ourselves because we got the No. 1 ranking and thought, ‘We must be pretty good,” Parker said. ‘We’re not pretty good right now, so that takes care of that. We won’t be full of ourselves when we play Holy Cross on Tuesday.

‘We’re back to the middle of the pack in our league and back to the middle of the pack in foolish polls that don’t mean anything. The bottom line is we had a good start and now we’re in a bad strait.’

UVM senior Corey Carlson took advantage of a conservative BU defense 8:07 into the third period to decide Saturday’s tilt, threading an unchallenged wrist shot from the top of the right circle that beat screened Terrier freshman goaltender Kieran Millan (career-high 28 saves), who suffered his first loss as a collegiate netminder.’ ‘

The Terriers drew a man-advantage with 2:33 remaining in regulation, but failed to capitalize against a chaffing Catamount penalty kill that kept BU’s scorching power play off the scoreboard in three chances Saturday.

An uncontested wrister from the right circle by Wilson with 22.7 seconds remaining settled between the pads of Vermont junior goaltender Mike Spillane (32 saves), all but cementing the outcome.

Saddled with a 3-1 deficit early in the second period, the Terriers responded with strikes from freshman Chris Connolly (13:13, shorthanded) and senior Brandon Yip (1:13) to energize an Agganis crowd that had witnessed 11 straight BU wins coming into the weekend.’ ‘ ‘

A 41-24 shot advantage and two power-play goals weren’t enough for the Terriers to overcome their most careless defensive showing of the season Friday, as the Catamounts also converted twice with the man-advantage to back a 38-save performance from freshman goaltender Rob Madore.

‘There was no determination to make the next right play and there was no determination to play defense,’ Parker said Friday. ‘They had more 4-on-2s and 3-on-2s and 3-on-1s than we’ve given up all year long in any game combined. They played a very solid game mentally, physically and emotionally. We did none of those things.

‘I think we gave them the game. We were very casual with the puck and had to make the fancy play when all we had to do was go direct off the boards no sweat. We wanted to make a big play all the time.’

With BU freshman Vinny Saponari off for an ill-timed boarding penalty late in Friday’s contest, UVM junior Brayden Irwin redirected a snipe of a slap shot from senior Peter Lenes (goal, two assists Friday) inside the left post to break a 3-3 tie with 5:59 remaining.

But in a game in which grade-A scoring chances were the norm for the Terriers, sliding the equalizer past Madore proved too tall a task.

‘Rob Madore was obviously sensational tonight,’ Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said Friday. ‘BU threw everything at him. The goals that were scored were second, third and maybe even fourth opportunities. That’s the best we’ve seen him. He was a big difference in the game.’

The same could not be said for BU rookie backstop Grant Rollheiser, who allowed four goals for the second straight start in an unimpressive 20-save effort.

Game notes: Freshman forward Corey Trivino left Friday’s game with a knee injury, but returned later in the contest. He did not play Saturday and was replaced in the lineup by classmate Andrew Glass. ‘hellip; Parker cited Millan as the ‘only positive’ of Saturday’s loss. ‘I think he can rationale that ‘I played well,” Parker said of his goalie. ‘hellip; BU continues its six-game homestand with a non-conference matchup against the College of the Holy Cross Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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