Boston College, the top-ranked hockey team in the country, added another honor to its résumé last night, earning the Hockey East regular-season title with a 4-0 victory over Vermont at Conte Forum.
Junior Parker Milner (26 saves) earned his third career shutout and second of the season as the Eagles won their 11th straight overall.
It was BC’s second straight conference crown and record 12th overall, the sixth under coach Jerry York. The Eagles will host eighth-seeded UMass in a best-of-three series in the league quarterfinals beginning Friday.
It seemed fitting that on Senior Night, BC’s senior class celebrated its 102d career victory as the Eagles improved to 25-10-1, 19-7-1 in league play.
“I think it’s always special to win trophies,’’ said York. “We don’t hide from that fact. We’re always talking about, ‘Hey, let’s win championships.’ We started with the Ice Breaker way back in October [beating Michigan State and North Dakota], we failed to win at the Great Lakes Tournament [losing to Michigan], but the Beanpot [title] and now the regular-season championship, it’s something that we take great, great pride in. It’s a remarkable feeling, I think, to achieve a goal you point toward.’’
York praised Vermont (6-27-1, 3-23-1), which was playing for nothing but pride.
“I guess it speaks to the strength of our league,’’ said York. “Maybe the ability of [coach] Kevin Sneddon to say, ‘Hey, these are our last two games of the year but we’re going to go out hard and go out playing very, very competitive hockey.’ They pushed us to the limit here. It was a hard weekend.’’
BC got into some penalty trouble in the opening period, allowing Vermont three power plays. But the Eagles’ penalty killers were terrific and the Catamounts had just six shots in the first 20 minutes and only three total during their time on the man advantage.
The Eagles’ lone goal of the frame came with 53.5 seconds remaining as a result of a neutral-zone turnover. Freshman left wing Destry Straight’s shot from the left circle beat senior Rob Madore (28 saves). It was Straight’s second goal of the season.
Vermont had two more power plays in the second but again couldn’t capitalize. Instead, the Eagles extended their lead to 2-0 at 6:50 with junior right wing Chris Kreider potting his 20th of the year.
Straight figured in that one, too. He attempted to jam the puck in past Madore from the doorstep but was denied. However, Kreider popped in the rebound from just outside the right post.
The Catamounts had their opportunities. During a power play midway through the second, junior center Sebastian Stalberg fired a shot from the right circle that Milner snared with his glove.
As the man advantage was about to expire, freshman center Mike Montagna dished a centering pass to sophomore right wing H.T. Lenz in the slot. Lenz looked for an opening but Milner blocked the bid with his chest.
Less than a minute later, Lenz had another chance at the right post but Milner again held him at bay.
BC had its first power-play chance at 16:31 of the period but couldn’t cash in.
The Eagles added another goal at 14:31 of the third when junior center Pat Mullane buried a shot from just outside the right post, tallying his sixth strike of the season. Sophomore center Bill Arnold sealed the victory with an empty-net goal with 49.8 seconds left.
Now, the Minutemen are on the agenda, which won’t necessarily be a cakewalk since they beat BC in two of three regular-season meetings.
“As we prepare for them, it’s not going to be a typical 1-8 matchup,’’ said York. “This is a team that is playing very, very strong hockey these last three or four weeks. That wasn’t a sure thing for them to get that eighth spot. They had to battle. They’ve played very well against us. That wasn’t a fluke that they took two out of three from us. Not many teams have done that this year.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.