BURLINGTON, Vermont — The pressure was on for the No. 3 Boston University men’s hockey team.
A power-play score off the stick of former Terrier defenseman Alexx Privitera at 15:17 in the third period had quickly cut into what originally was a three-goal cushion for the Terriers (14-4-4, 9-2-2 Hockey East) earlier in the frame.
Now with a little over four minutes left on the clock and BU now possessing a 3-2 lead, the Terriers were tasked with the challenge of holding onto a one-score advantage within the hostile confines of Gutterson Fieldhouse.
Based on his team’s past history in crunch time, BU coach David Quinn had little to worry about.
“We’ve been in that position before,” Quinn said. “I think we’re getting used to it and we’re getting a little ice in our veins.”
True to its coach’s words, a composed Terrier team would not relinquish the lead, prevailing over No. 12 University of Vermont by a score of 4-2 Friday night.
With the victory and a No. 5 University of Massachusetts Lowell loss against No. 18 Providence College Friday night, the Terriers now hold sole possession of first place in the Hockey East conference standings.
“Obviously, a hard-fought win in a hostile environment against a good hockey team. … It’s not easy coming up here — as young as we are — in this environment,” Quinn said. “I thought we looked a little nervous early, but I really thought our D corps settled down and started making some plays and we had some great transition. It was a great two points.”
Entering into the contest, the Catamounts (15-5-3, 8-2-2 Hockey East) paced the conference with just 1.78 goals allowed per game, but a balanced Terrier attack helped the scarlet and white put four tallies on the board against their foes from “The Green Mountain State.”
Friday’s game stands as just the second time this season that a team has managed to score four goals against the Catamounts.
Despite the final box score, the Catamounts’ defensive corps pressured the Terriers early and often throughout the first period.
Despite the Terriers’ best efforts to generate some offense against Catamounts netminder Brody Hoffman, Vermont’s aggressive blueliners constantly bullied BU into the boards, limiting the scarlet and white to just eight attempts on net in the first stanza.
“I thought we did a really good job of weathering the storm the first 10 minutes,” Quinn said. “They came out with a lot of energy feeding off their crowd after a tough weekend for them last weekend.”
BU junior goaltender Matt O’Connor and the Terrier defense also remained stout in the first, with Vermont totaling 11 shots but failing to light the lamp.
A poor line change from the Terriers created a gift-wrapped bid for the Catamounts to draw first blood with under five minutes left in the period, but forward Mario Puskarich’s wrister pinged off the crossbar, preserving the scoreless tie.
The start of the second period mimicked the opening 20 minutes, as neither team was able to build up consistent time in their opponent’s zones.
Finally, the Terriers broke through.
Sophomore forward Robbie Baillargeon coasted the puck over to junior forward Ahti Oksanen, who was planted near the right circle. Oksanen’s one-timer rip sailed past Hoffman to give BU a 1-0 lead at 13:53.
The Terriers were not finished, as a scorching BU power-play unit — which had netted a goal in each of its last six contests — once again made its mark after defenseman Nick Luukko was whistled for roughing in the closing minutes of the second.
With the clock down to 14 seconds, senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann bested Hoffman with a quick wrist shot near the left circle to hand BU a 2-0 cushion entering the final frame.
It was Hohmann’s first goal since Nov. 22 against the University of Connecticut — a span of 14 games for the Arlington, Texas native.
“He did a great job attacking off the goal line,” Quinn said. “Robbie [Baillargeon] did a great job getting him the puck and taking it to the net, creating a lane for him and we’re going to need scoring from all of our lines, and I think that’s a good line.”
BU would add to its lead at the start of the third, as senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues notched his eighth goal of the season at 3:03.
After gathering the puck in the Terriers’ zone, Rodrigues maneuvered his way into Catamount territory, concluding in impressive fashion with a top-shelf strike past Hoffman to push BU’s lead to 3-0 and extend the senior’s point streak to seven consecutive games.
Tallies from Vermont forward Colin Markison and Privitera managed to make things interesting, but O’Connor and the Terriers buckled down, negating the Catamounts’ scoring opportunities throughout the last four minutes of play.
In a desperate attempt to notch the equalizing goal, the Catamounts pulled goaltender Mike Santaguida — who replaced Hoffman after Rodrigues’ snipe — with just over a minute dwindling down on the clock.
The move ultimately created an opportunity for freshman center Jack Eichel, who buried the empty-net goal with 39 seconds left to seal the win for BU.
For Quinn, securing two points against a lofty conference foe is a positive takeaway, but he later acknowledged that the team will need to wrap up the weekend set on a strong note Saturday
“You come up here and get the first one, now you’re smelling blood,” Quinn said. “It’s a six-period weekend and we know that, and we know that they’re going to be even more charged up tomorrow night. We beat that team on a Friday, they’re going to be a little bit more desperate on Saturday.
“We’ve got to make sure that we match their desperation.”