BURLINGTON, Vt. — Vermont’s Torrey Mitchell completed a hat trick with one second left, lifting the streaking Catamounts to a 5-4 win over sixth-ranked New Hampshire Saturday in front of a wild, sold-out Gutterson Fieldhouse.
Vermont (8-4-3) extended its nation’s-longest unbeaten streak to 10 games, during which time they are 7-0-3. The No. 15 Catamounts have not lost since Oct. 23.
Mitchell’s third goal of the game — and fifth in the last two games — capped an improbable comeback by the Catamounts, who had earlier come back from a two-goal deficit to take a 3-2 lead in the second period.
After tying it at 3-3 late in the second period, UNH took a 4-3 lead on Mike Radja’s goal at 12:22 of the third, but Vermont pulled goalie Joe Fallon with 1:10 left in the third period and got a 6-on-5 goal from Jeff Corey with 58 seconds remaining to tie it before Mitchell’s dramatic game-winner.
“We showed great character, we showed great composure throughout the whole game,” an emotional Mitchell said. “The only thing I can really say about this performance is just hard work.”
On the game-winning goal, Mitchell took a pass from linemate Scott Mifsud, who had a goal and three assists on the night. Mitchell said he looked at the clock when he got the puck and there were six seconds remaining.
Five seconds later, the puck was behind UNH goalie Jeff Pietrasiak.
“We weren’t going to sit back, especially with this opportunity that we had against UNH,” Mitchell said of the team’s mindset after Corey’s goal. “Things are falling into place now. The fans were awesome. It’s just unbelievable.”
New Hampshire (8-3-2) took a 1-0 lead in the opening two minutes of the game on Brett Hemingway’s eighth goal of the season at 1:40. Preston Callander took the original shot after skating down the slot, and Fallon made the save. Hemingway jumped on the rebound and threw it toward the net, where the puck caromed off a Vermont skate and into the net.
The Wildcats made it 2-0 at 6:13 of the period on Josh Ciocco’s sixth goal of the season from the slot, Matt Fornataro and Michael Hutchins assisted.
Vermont answered with the first of three from Mitchell, who took a pass from Corey at center ice and burst past the UNH defender down the right wing before cutting to the net and beating Pietrasiak with a low backhand.
Mitchell worked his magic again later in the period, tying the game at 2-2 with his second of the period and fifth of the season. Tim Plant and Andy Corran started the play with a two-on-two which resulted in a shot on net by Plant. Mitchell followed up in the corner before Plant joined the mix and came up with the puck.
In the meantime, Mitchell was curling to the slot, and Plant found him with a soft pass on the tape. Mitchell one-timed a shot along the ice that slipped into the far corner.
Pietrasiak was sharp to begin the second period, making terrific saves on shorthanded bids by Joey Gasparini 1:10 into the frame and then on Corey at 4:40 of the period. Fallon was also sharp in the second, helping keep the Wildcats off the scoreboard during a pair of power plays in the first nine minutes.
At the 12:50 mark, Pietrasiak again made a key stop on another shorthanded effort by the Catamounts. Chris Smart stole the puck at the blue line and carried in for a shot, which the UNH netminder stopped.
Moments later, Vermont took its first lead of the game when Mifsud scored his 11th goal of the season, skating 5-on-3. Corey took the original shot from the left of Pietrasiak, and Chris Myers redirected the rebound to Mifsud, who made no mistake on his 36th goal of his career. Time of the goal was 13:56.
Two minutes later, the Wildcats tied it at 3 with a power-play goal of their own. Senior captain Tyson Teplitsky took a pass from Daniel Winnik, skated in from the blue line and ripped a low shot past Fallon at 16:03.
Midway through the third, Radja scored to give UNH the lead, setting up the dramatic finish.
“This was a fantastic game,” Sneddon said. “We got some key plays by some of our great players. Scotty’s play at the end right there when he found Torrey in the slot and Torrey had enough sense that he knew he had to get it off quickly, but he had enough time to try to get around that guy and finish the play. He had as good a game as I’ve ever seen a freshman play tonight. He looked like a veteran player.”
Sneddon said the win was a nice piece of payback to Fallon, who has carried his team throughout most of the streak.
“The nice thing tonight is I don’t think Joe had his best game and we bailed him out,” Sneddon said. “He’s bailed us out … several times this year, so it was nice for the team to put up enough offense to beat a tremendous team.
“You know what, it’s a resilient bunch,” Sneddon continued. “They play to win every shift. I’m just so proud of the guys. It was just a great effort tonight.”
And Sneddon was thrilled for the fans.
“I’m pleased for them that they are getting to experience this kind of hockey,” he said of the Catamount faithful. “They deserve it more than anybody. I’m happy for our guys, I’m happy for our fans, I’m just happy!”