BURLINGTON, Vt. — The Northeastern Huskies erased a 3-0 Vermont lead and wound up tying the Catamounts in the opening game of the season for each team.
Freshman Brian Swiniarski scored the game-tying goal with just 2:02 left in the third period when he took the puck from Scott Selig and caught Vermont goaltender Shawn Conschafter out of position as a Husky power play was ending.
“I was disappointed that it was a come-from-behind tie, but I think they feel pretty good that they can play,” said Vermont coach Mike Gilligan.
“I thought we didn’t skate real well in the second and we didn’t come to play,” said Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder. “We had some great chances down the stretch and we knew it was going to be a dogfight coming in here. They had a tough year last year and they had a lot of kids coming back and I guess they wanted to erase what had happened last year.
“We could have folded the tent, but we came back and they guys kept plugging at it.”
The goal capped a comeback for the Huskies after Vermont had taken a 3-0 lead. Jeff Miles started the scoring for the Cats just 1:22 into the game as he came in on a three-on-two and wrested one off the glove of Husky goaltender Keni Gibson.
Early in the second period John Longo made it 2-0 on the power play. He tipped a wrister from the point by Jamie Sifers past Gibson.
The Cats made it 3-0 when Greg Zemple came in on a two-on-one and as Baron Becker was heading towards the net, Zemple put it past Gibson.
The Huskies began the comeback with a shorthanded goal by Joe Mastronardi. As Eric Ortlip came out to meet Gerard Miller at the point, the puck was sent by Ortlip to Mastronardi, who broke in alone on Conschafter. Mastronardi chose the low stick side and broke the ice for the Huskies with only 34 seconds left in the second period.
“That gives us a little bit of, ‘Hey, we’re not that bad’, and we got a little bit of a break there,” said Crowder.
It took 15 minutes of the third period for the Huskies to come within one goal. Freshman Mike Morris put the puck into the net after the Huskies forced a turnover at the Vermont blueline and Jason Guerriero and Mike Ryan found Morris in front for the score.
After that Morris’ fellow freshman Swiniarski tied the game.
“We had two freshmen score tonight, so it was nice for them to get that off of their backs,” said Crowder. “It was your typical first game, passes were going into skates and under sticks, and those are the things you’re concerned with in starting out so quick, and we’re happy to get our of here with a tie.”
Said Gilligan, “I was really happy with a lot of things. I thought our second period was our best period and then we got a little bit away from our forecheck. We gave up that goal on the power play from the middle point on a tough bounce and that hurt. But not as much as in the third period when we turned the puck over at their blue line and we couldn’t get it deep into the zone and I think we ran out of a little bit of steam.
“The second period defense was the best team defense we have played in two years. We felt comfortable in our own zone and we didn’t chase. We played solid team defense and that’s what we’ve got to do.”
The Huskies will host Connecticut on Friday evening, while the Catamounts will host New Hampshire next Saturday.
“I felt great about the first and second and I was real happy,” said Gilligan. “Now we’ve got a place to start from and we can go to work on Monday and feel real good about our week.”
Said Crowder, “We got a lot of work to do. And at the same time as a staff we have to be patient, Rome wasn’t built in a day.”