CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- It was the hardest game of the season.
Sixty minutes (or more) to move on to TD Garden.
It took more on Sunday afternoon at Conte Forum, but Boston College is going back to the Hockey East semifinals.
Junior Ryan Fitzgerald's shot from the middle of the slot at the 9:47 mark of overtime changed directions on its way to the net, lifting the Eagles to a 4-3 win over Vermont in a deciding quarterfinal matchup.
"It was like a knuckler. It kind of hit and went up," BC head coach Jerry York said. "He's got that in his repertoire now, so that's pretty good. A knuckler from the slot area."
It was a cruel way to end the Catamounts' season. Fitzgerald's 22nd goal of the season fooled rookie goaltender Packy Munson with a change of directions off his own defenseman's stick.
Munson, who stood even taller than his 6-foot-3 inch frame all weekend, made 31 saves in the contest as UVM fell to 15-22-3.
"It was one of the best college hockey games I've been involved with in some time," Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon said. "Unfortunately, it was a game of inches and we were on the wrong side of it. Certainly a lot of excitement at both ends of the rink, throughout the course of the game."
With the win, BC breaks its two-year Garden drought and will play Northeastern in Friday night's 8 p.m. semifinal on Causeway Street.
Another year without a semifinal appearance would have made the drought feel that much longer for York.
"We had a stretch there where it seemed like we went to the Garden every year," York said, "so when you don't go for two years in a row, it seems like a decade."
The Eagles got off to yet another fast start, taking a 1-0 lead just 4:02 into the contest. Sophomore Zach Sanford netted his 13th goal of the season, placing a backhander home from just outside Vermont goaltender Packy Munson's crease.
Craig Puffer responded quickly for the visitors, tying the game at 8:51. The Connecticut native rookie converted on his third goal of the season, tipping Rob Hamilton's initial shot from the top of Thatcher Demko's crease.
The primary assist marked Hamilton's third in two games after he helped out on the Catamounts' first two goals in Saturday's victory.
Freshman Colin White scored his first goal in nearly a month at the 1:56 mark of the second period, giving the Eagles their second lead of the game at 2-1. White jumped through the middle of the offensive zone and redirected freshman J.D. Dudek's beautiful cross-ice pass.
The Catamounts looked to have tied the game shortly thereafter as senior defenseman Yvan Pattyn crashed the net and poked a loose puck past Demko. A lengthy review negated the goal as Pattyn was deemed to show a distinct kicking motion in sending the puck home.
"I looked at it from our angle, and I don't have the same angles that the referees are looking at, but what I saw was the puck went under his skate, that he never really made contact with the puck," Sneddon said. "When it goes to review, you have to just trust the officials. They spent an appropriate amount of time to look at it, for sure."
There was no denying Conor O'Neil's fifth goal of the season at the 16:28 mark, which lifted the Catamounts back even. Puffer took the initial shot on goal, but the puck led right to O'Neil in the slot where he was open for a rebound.
O'Neil put UVM in front just 4:37 into the third frame, following up another try from Puffer.
BC tied the game at 10:30 as J.D. Dudek picked a key spot to light the lamp for the first time in his collegiate career. The Auburn, N.H., native deflected home classmate Casey Fitzgerald's slapper from the center point.
The Cats had seven of the ten shots put on net in overtime, but it was BC emerging victorious in its first playoff game that went to extra time since 2010.
Fitzgerald tallied the game-winner just before the halfway mark of the first extra session. Junior Adam Gilmour picked up the puck and fed the North Reading, Mass., product and Boston Bruins prospect.
"It was one of those shots where you just throw it on net and say a quick prayer," Fitzgerald said.
The hardest game of the season will certainly help the Eagles in the long run.
"This game will make us better as a team, players, and as people just because of the chance to go to the Garden, (play) in an elimination game, it just pushes you to your limit," York said. "There's a lot of benefits, much more so when you win the game."
The biggest benefit is the continuation of "Trophy Season" for York and the Eagles. Two more wins to another.