BURLINGTON, Vt. — Vermont’s Oriel McHugh scored an unassisted goal in overtime to lift the Catamounts to a 4-3 win, their first of the season, over Connecticut at Gutterson Fieldhouse Saturday night.
The win, which came after the Catamounts spotted the Huskies a three-goal lead in the first period, erased a 13-game winless streak that started first-year coach Kevin Sneddon’s tenure behind the Vermont bench.
“Excitement and relief,” Sneddon said of his feelings after McHugh’s heroics. “This has never been about me or our staff. It has been about the 26 guys in that locker room. They feel pretty good about themselves right now. We didn’t play very well at all in the first period and I challenged the guys between periods, and I thought the guys really responded with a lot of energy in the second and third periods.
“I thought UConn played a heck of a game,” Sneddon continued. “They are a young team and they are going to be a really tough team in the future. I’m just so proud of how our guys bounced back. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
Connecticut (4-8-3) took a 1-0 lead in the opening minutes when Beau McLaughlin scored from in front after a Vermont giveaway in the defensive zone. Cole Koidahl and Eric St. Arnauld assisted on the goal, McLaughlin’s sixth.
The Huskies added to their lead in the final two minutes, getting goals from Marcus Baxter and Chris Uber to take a 3-0 lead after one period. Baxter and Alan Stevenson completed a 2-on-1 with Baxter scoring his second of the year at 18:15.
Uber then skated from center ice and down the lane before beating Travis Russell with a wrist shot high to the glove side. McLaughlin and Adam Rhein assisted on the goal, which came at 18:58.
Vermont (1-11-2) charged back into the game with two power-play goals in 30 seconds midway through the second period. Senior Jeff Miles scored his fourth goal of the season and recorded his 100th career point at 12:19 while Vermont was skating 5-on-3. Ryan Gunderson made the nice cross-ice pass to Miles, who was camped on the doorstep to the right of UConn goalie Scott Tomes. Brady Leisenring picked up his 12th assist of the season on the goal.
Thirty seconds later, sophomore Baron Becker recorded his first goal of the season, also on the power play. Tim Plant and Jeff Corey got the assists on the goal, a ripping wrist shot that beat Tomes high to the stick side.
The Catamounts tied it at 3-3 just 18 seconds into the third period when sophomore Jeff Corey scored after splitting the UConn defense. Scott Mifsud left the puck for the speedy Corey at center ice, and he got a full head of steam up before deking Tomes and bringing the 2,690 Catamount fans to their feet. Gunderson picked up his second assist of the game on Corey’s goal, his fourth of the season and the 12th of his career.
On the game-winner, McHugh poached at the UConn blueline, picking off the clearing pass up the middle and walking in alone on Tomes.
“I saw he was back in his net a bit, so I just shot it,” the soft-spoken captain said.
Russell finished with 17 saves for Vermont, while Tomes had 29 for Connecticut.