BOSTON — In their first-ever Hockey East contest, the Vermont Catamounts opened up a 5-0 first-period lead over host Northeastern. How’s that for a first impression?
Jeff Corey and Peter Lenes scored two goals apiece after Dean Strong made it 1-0 a minute into the game and Vermont held on to win its first dip in Hockey East play, 5-3.
“It’s a special occasion,” said coach Kevin Sneddon, his team still undefeated at 7-0-0. “I think it means a lot to them but it means a lot more to players past and present. It’s a historical moment for Vermont hockey. It’s certainly nice to get the first one in the first game on the road.”
Strong scored Vermont’s first-ever Hockey East goal 1:03 into the contest, taking a pass in the right slot and waiting for Northeastern goalie Adam Geragosian to commit before sliding the puck to the far left post.
Four minutes later, the Catamounts added to the lead on Corey’s first goal. Northeastern freshman defenseman Steve McClellan tripped as he started to make a rush up ice, coughing the puck over to Brady Leisenring and Torrey Mitchell. The two cycled the puck behind the net before it popped out to Corey, who fired it between Geragosian’s legs for a 2-0 lead.
Three minutes later, on one of 11 UVM power plays, Corey took a pass from Leisenring in the right slot and five-holed Geragosian again. With eight minutes left in the first, Lenes corralled a puck at the left edge of the crease and ripped a high shot over Geragosian’s left shoulder to make it 4-0.
With 6:54 left in the first, the rebound of a Kenny Macaulay shot came to Lenes in front with Geragosian out of position and out of the net. Five-zip. Geragosian’s night was finished.
“We looked pathetic at first,” first-year Northeastern coach Greg Cronin said. “That was a joke. We skated harder in practice than we did in the first period. It was pathetic. I told them I was actually nervous because they were so nervous. I don’t know what they were nervous about. You would have thought they were at home the first 10 minutes. They killed us.
“We’re so young. We’re so fragile, we react to the score. So we get out of our game. Guys get tense. It was like, honest to god, one of those Twilight Zone games. I said to (assistant coach) Brendan Walsh, ‘What the heck is going on here?’ I turn around, it’s three-nothing. I turn around again, it’s five-nothing. The bench looked like they were all on Vicodin.”
Vermont was as energized as Northeastern was asleep in the first 20 minutes. “They’ve been waiting for this moment for two years, if you think about it,” Sneddon said. “I think we were definitely excited about this game and it certainly showed with the way we came out. We just didn’t finish as well as we would have liked to.”
Neither did Northeastern, really.
Freshman Joe Vitale cut into the deficit with his second goal of the year in the second period, tapping a loose puck through Vermont goalie Joe Fallon (21 saves) halfway through the frame.
In the third period, Northeastern senior Brian Swiniarski grabbed a loose puck and snapped a quick wrist shot over Fallon’s right shoulder to make it 5-2.
The Huskies made it a two-goal game with 6:30 left, as Vitale roofed the rebound of a Matti Uusivirta into the Vermont net.
However, as was the theme of the night, Northeastern negated any possible comeback with its continuous parade to the penalty box.
With 2:23 left in the game, Aaron Moore was whistled for hooking in the offensive zone. All told, Northeastern took 13 penalties for 48 minutes, including two checking from behind game misconducts.
“It’s embarrassing to me,” said Cronin, still seeking his first win at 0-4-1 overall, 0-1-1 HE. “If they don’t have enough pride within themselves (to) realize the sabotaging they’re doing to themselves … they’ve got to be numb. They’ve got to be emotionally numb or they’ve gotta be brain-dead. Seriously. We just keep taking them, taking penalty after penalty. It’s painful to watch.”
Vermont visits Boston University Friday night for a 7 p.m. tilt, while Northeastern has a home-and-home series with New Hampshire Friday and Saturday. Both NU games, Friday’s contest from Boston and Saturday’s showdown in Durham, N.H., start at 7 p.m.