CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Boston College got off to a strong start in the quarterfinal round of the Hockey East Tournament on Friday night at Conte Forum, but the job isn't done.
Behind a season-high 36 saves from junior Thatcher Demko and three-point efforts from juniors Adam Gilmour and Austin Cangelosi, the Eagles earned a 3-0 win over Vermont and move within one game of clinching a 23rd all-time Hockey East semifinal appearance.
"We understand that last year we had a similar situation," BC head coach Jerry York said after his team improved to 25-5-5 on the season. "Vermont is not going to roll over and just let us go to (TD) Garden by winning tomorrow night. We have to earn that."
The Catamounts came alive in the final two games of last year's series and advanced to the Garden for the first time in five seasons, but will have to play from behind once again if they hope to keep BC out of the conference's final four for the third straight year.
Current UVM junior goaltender Mike Santaguida allowed all three BC goals on the evening and was pulled thereafter. The exact same scenario occurred in the opening game of last year's series ― a 4-2 Eagles victory ― as Brody Hoffman entered in Santaguida's place and proceeded to earn back-to-back victories.
This game was decided right at the start.
"I think the story for us was, unfortunately, just getting off to a tough start in the first period," said UVM head coach Kevin Sneddon, whose team swept UConn in straight games last weekend to draw the Eagles. "(It was) really based on detail-oriented things, which was frustrating."
The Eagles jumped ahead just 4:14 into the first period as Gilmour flicked a wrister home from just outside the left circle. Cangelosi fed the Hanover, Mass., native Gilmour a pass that led to an open opportunity on Santaguida.
Cangelosi notched his second point of the game and doubled BC's lead himself at the 10:58 marker, catching Santaguida out of position for a perfect right-to-left wraparound.
The Eagles held a 12-8 shots on goal advantage in the opening frame and had a hold on the game they would never give up.
BC's lead would only grow as junior Ryan Fitzgerald scored his team-leading 19th goal of the season just 3:20 into the second period. Cangelosi dropped the puck for Fitzgerald on the right wing, where he fired a shot that broke through Santaguida.
Santaguida's third goal allowed on 17 shots ended his night and signaled freshman Packy Munson's entrance into the game for the 19th time this year.
"The second goal was kind of a gift between our goaltender and our defensemen misplaying the puck," Sneddon said. "The third, we just felt that after that one, we needed to make the change in our goaltending. Obviously, we weren't thrilled with our play at that point."
Although UVM pushed the offensive tempo in both the second (17 shots on goal) and third (11) periods, very few of its opportunities were of the high-quality variety.
One of the best chances for the Cats to break Demko's shutout bid came with less than four minutes to play in regulation.
After making a point-blank save on a shot from just outside the crease, the puck landed right on the stick of senior defenseman Yvan Pattyn who sent a golden rebound bid just wide of the left crease.
"I thought they got some better scoring chances in the second (and third) compared to the first," Demko said. "I thought my D did a really good job of boxing guys out. I don't think there was one play I was questioning whether or not the puck was going in the net or not."
No Eagle stopper has pitched more shutouts in a single season than Demko as he finished off his tenth by stopping all 11 shots he faced in the final frame.
The Cats are on the brink of elimination once again, but Sneddon's club is certainly hoping for a déjà vú scenario in a must-win Game 2 on Saturday night.
"Packy came in tonight and did his job," Sneddon said. "He's been a great goaltender for us as well, so we're fortunate we have two guys we feel confident in. We'll go with Packy tomorrow, and see what happens."