BURLINGTON, Vt. — New Hampshire came back from a 4-2 deficit midway through the third period to stun Vermont, 5-4 in overtime on Saturday.
A Garrett Stafford shot from the point deflected off Matt Swain in front and into the net for the game-winner. The finish ruined what would have been a storybook season opener for UVM, which cancelled its season last year because of a hazing scandal.
“Anytime you go into Gutterson Fieldhouse, it’s tough, especially tonight with all the emotion they had here,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “A lot of good things happened and we were fortunate to win it. The guys stayed with it and found a way to win the game.”
At 10:16 of the third, Jim Abbott started the comeback with an unassisted, shorthanded goal to narrow the gap to 4-3. Abbott picked defenseman Thomas Hajek’s pocket at the offensive blue line, broke in all alone, deked goaltender Andrew Allen and put it high into the net.
Two minutes later, top scorer Darren Haydar picked off another turnover at the blue line, made a multitude of fakes on Allen, but this time the netminder made the big stop.
The Wildcats (2-0-1) tied the game at 18:11 on the power play. With the UVM penalty running down and time running out, the UNH man advantage moved the puck from down low to Abbott at the point. He one-timed it to Lanny Gare at the right side of the net and the sophomore tipped it in.
Another Vermont (0-1) penalty at 18:43 drew the ire of the Gutterson crowd, but this time New Hampshire could not capitalize. At the 2:18 mark of overtime, however, Stafford’s shot into a cluster of players in front caromed off Swain and the Wildcats had escaped with a win.
“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” said UVM coach Mike Gilligan. “It wasn’t that [UNH] took the game from us. It was that we gave it up.”
The game saw an abnormal number of major momentum shifts.
New Hampshire grabbed a 1-0 lead just 1:50 into the game. Jeff Haydar tipped a Kevin Truelson shot from the point and David Busch put in the rebound.
Later in that same shift, Busch had a glittering opportunity to deliver another blow, breaking in all alone on Allen. Busch’s shot, however, went over the net.
Having dodged that bullet, the Catamounts changed the momentum seconds later when J.F. Gamelin took the puck off a UNH stick, broke in on UNH netminder Ty Conklin and roofed a backhander over Conklin’s shoulder. It was Gamelin’s first collegiate goal, coming in the sophomore’s 14th game.
UNH held a territorial edge over the rest of the period, finishing with a 14-6 shot advantage, but could not convert that to an advantage on the scoreboard.
The tide turned the Catamounts’ way in the second and they almost delivered the knockout punch.
At 3:09, Andreas Moberg, one of the ECAC’s top offensive defenseman, walked in unmolested from the point and fired point blank. Conklin made the stop, but Moberg knocked in the rebound.
Vermont took a 3-1 lead at 8:33 on a J.F. Caudron unassisted goal. Jeff Miles intercepted a UNH pass at center ice and after a scrum, Caudron carried it into the zone, got a half step on Stafford, cut in and stuffed it around Conklin.
Less than a minute later, the biggest momentum shift of the game developed. Bryson Busniuk appeared to have staked Vermont to a 4-1 lead, but the potentially back-breaking goal was waved off because it had been illegally put into the net, apparently gloved in by Busniuk.
Just 29 seconds after the scoreboard had almost read in Vermont’s favor, 4-1, Darren Haydar scored a huge tide-turner, roofing it far side to narrow the gap to 3-2.
“That was a big swing,” said Gilligan. “It would have been tough for them to come back from [4-1].”
Umile seconded Gilligan’s assessment of the key 29-second interval and, in particular, Haydar’s strike to the UVM heart.
“That was a huge goal,” said Umile. “Anytime you get within one, you get them back on their heels.”
The momentum appeared to have been lost, however, when Catamount freshman Jeff Miles scored his first goal at 1:13 on the power play. Caudron controlled the puck, circling behind the net. When Miles got his stick on the puck in the slot, he buried the chance for the 4-2 lead.
What appeared to be a safe lead, however, turned out to be anything but.
Prior to the game, Vermont’s 1969-70 ECAC Division II Championship team was honored.
Truelson suffered a chest contusion and head injury on a big hit along the boards. Early indications are that he will be out for 10 days.