April 10, 2009 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Bounces Break Against Vermont This Time

by Matthew Conyers/CHN Staff Writer

Vermont's Wahs Stacey, who scored earlier in the game, reacts to the defeat. (photo: Josh Gibney)

Vermont's Wahs Stacey, who scored earlier in the game, reacts to the defeat. (photo: Josh Gibney)

PICTORIAL: BU-Vermont Semifinal (see full pictorial)

Dean Strong falls trying to keep up with BU's Erik Gryba.

Boston University defeated Vermont, 5-4, in the NCAA semifinals in Washington, D.C. The Terriers went up 2-0, but lost the lead, and had to fight back with two goals late in the third to win it. (photos: Josh Gibney)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — When the puck finished its slide into the net with 5:41 minutes left in the game, Vermont simply shrugged it off.

This was just the latest in a long line of obstacles the Catamounts would have to overcome in this most memorable of seasons.

Vermont — built on its self-made fighter mentality — was in a hole. But certainly not out.

Then again, this wasn’t Bridgeport.

The Catamounts failed to get the magic back in the nation’s capitol Thursday as Boston University shut down the Vermont forwards in the final three minutes to win 5-4 and advance to the National championship for the first time since 1997.

Bounces — the good and the bad — are part of the game.

“That’s the game of hockey — sometimes the bounces go your way and sometime they don’t,” the Regional hero Dan Lawson said. “You know the one thing that is for sure is that every guy on our team gave it their all until the final buzzer sounded.”

Lawson scored the game winner that went through the net to send Vermont to the Frozen Four with a 3-2 double overtime victory over Air Force.

With Boston University trailing by a goal with 6:54 left, Vermont for the first time in two weeks felt the heartache of a dramatically bad bounce.

Chris Higgins sent a shot off the glove side pad of Vermont’s Rob Madore that bounced off the stick of Drew MacKenzie and into the back of the net. Moments after MacKenzie had given the Catamounts the lead with his first goal of the season, he found himself in the middle of Boston University latest great NCAA tournament moment.

“It was a two-on-two and the guy was able to squirt through Mackenzie and I,” Lawson said. “[Mackenzie] went to dive for it and block the shot and it went off his stick and in. That’s a tough break.”

“You deserve the bounces you get,” Junior Viktor Stalberg said. “Boston University played a great game and it was one of the best games I’ve seen in all my three years here. I thought we played pretty well. Tough ending but that is how it goes sometimes.”

Vermont refused to get down. This was the game and the fighters were still alive.

But Boston University went on to effectively smoother any more heroics from the dramatic group from Burlington. The Terriers were delivering the finishing move.

“They did a great job at the end,” Stalberg said. “We wanted to get out there and create some offense but I feel like we lost our energy a little bit after they scored that goal. I guess we couldn’t really do it at the end.”

“BU is a great team, they’re never going to let up,” Lawson said. “They’re always looking for more pressure and more goals. The last few moments of the game we didn’t have the puck that much but I don’t know if it was anything they were able to do differently.

“They’re just a good puck control team.”

Throughout the game, Vermont saw fortunate slides back-and-forth.

“We got a lot of fight in us and I think that shows,” Vermont’s Josh Burrows, who had a goal and assist, said.

The Catamounts fell behind 2-0 in the first period only to go up 3-2 halfway through the second period on three goals in six minutes.

“We’re a tough team mentally and physical,” Lawson said. “They came out hot and put a couple pucks in the net. We got back in the locker room and no one was worried or down. Everyone had confidence. We knew were going to comeback.”

Then momentum shifted back to Boston University with a late second-period goal.

“It was just a see-saw game from there,” Lawson said. “What can you do? Emotions are so high and so low and then so high. It was a tough loss.”

Still even that was short-lived for the Terriers. Vermont took back the lead with 10:20 remaining the game.

It was a wild game that Vermont endured from start to finish.

“It was a National semifinal game here, you just keep feeding off what you have and you keep going,” Stalberg said.

Even the captain Dean Strong was unable to escape the swings in emotion. After never missing a game his entire career and leading the Catamounts to their first Frozen Four in 12 years, Strong failed to pick up Colin Wilson on the game-winning goal after losing the face off.

Yet, Vermont is not about to make excuses.

As the Catamounts are well-aware, the game of hockey is full of swings.

“It was a fun game to play, there was no question about that,” Stalberg said. “It’s a game of momentum and I thought they really took it to us in that first period. We came in the second period and changed things up. The third was pretty even. It was a great college hockey game and even though its tough right now I’m proud of how we played against BU.”

Sadly for Vermont, the final swing of their season took a unusually heartbreaking turn at a time when all-eyes were on them.

“We always feel like we are going to comeback,” Lawson said. “Everyone had confidence we were going to score. We never get down. We always survive. Unfortunately, it just didn’t go our way [Saturday].”

The Catamounts moments after defeat are already ready to spin this disappointment into future excitement.

“Everyone is going to come back ready to get that trophy next year,” Lawson said.

“The kind of confidence the guys are going to come back with is going to be unbelievable. Everyone is just waiting for the puck to drop.”

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