BURLINGTON, Vt. — Maine scored three unanswered goals in a span of 74 seconds in the third period to snatch victory from Vermont 3-1 at a packed Gutterson Fieldhouse Friday.
What was a promising start for the No. 12 Catamounts, with a 1-0 lead through two periods, turned into an outright debacle for the hosts in the third. The No. 14 Black Bears seized the game, scoring once on the power play off a fortunate bounce in front to run away with the win, tallying twice more with UVM back on its heels in the minute that followed.
The win for Maine (19-10-0, 12-8-0 Hockey East) moves it into a tie with Providence for the final home-ice playoff spot with seven games remaining.
“A lot of swings of momentum there, but it was great hockey game,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “It’s easy to say that now that we won, but I thought it really was for both teams. I thought both teams should be proud of the way they played. In the end, we got the last surge of momentum which is fortunate.”
The first period was about as defensive as expected. The teams only managed 10 shots on goal between them. Maine, though, had the better of the offense in the period. Vermont (17-9-3, 9-8-3) got a great chance in the early stages of the opening 20 minutes on the power play but was unable to convert. Stationed in the left circle, Jeff Corey put it wide after some good puck movement, getting Maine goaltender Ben Bishop (18 saves) to dive to his left 13 minutes in.
Maine’s best chance came late in the frame. Senior captain Greg Moore and the biggest scoring threat for the Black Bears struck a one-timer that Vermont goaltender Joe Fallon (20 saves) did well to keep out.
Vermont got on the board 3:38 into the second on a five-on-three power play. Jeff Corey cleaned up a rebound of a Brady Leisenring initial shot. Corey Carlson had the first whack at the puck. Keith Johnson hooked down a Vermont player charging to the net to create the two-man advantage. It was Corey’s team-leading 13th of the season.
On the Black Bears first power play midway through the period, Fallon had to make a couple of nice saves to keep the visitors from lighting the lamp. But perhaps his best stop of the period, and the game, for that matter, came with a little more than two minutes left. To quell a Maine threat, he robbed Keenan Hopson with the glove to help Vermont head into the third with the lead.
That lead wouldn’t last.
First, Moore was credited with the tying goal – his 21st of the year – that found the back of the net off defenseman Jaime Sifers. Josh Soares and Michel Leveille got the assists on the play that got the Black Bear train rolling at 6:47.
Then, Brent Shepheard found Rob Bellamy alone in front 30 seconds later 2-1.
To cap the scoring, with Vermont still not recovered from letting up two quick goals, Fallon lost the third behind him as it came fluttering in from Bret Tyler at the point at 8:01. That was the game as Vermont was unable to mount a comeback.
“I thought we had a complete breakdown,” said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. “I’m pretty disappointed right now in the team. I thought we played a great first and second period and most of the third, but they score a little bit of a lucky goal on their power play, bounced off (Sifers’) shin pad and in and we had no response.
“We let them come into our building and walk all over us for the next two minutes. It’s just not the way we play.”
“I thought we did a pretty good job of playing team defense,” Whitehead said. “I thought our forwards really helped out our defensemen tonight and our goalie. They just worked hard tonight was the most important thing that helped our defensemen play well.”
The Cats are now 31-2-3 in their last 35 games when leading after two periods.
Whitehead came away raving about the ambiance of Gutterson.
“I love the atmosphere here,” he said. “Oh, it’s fabulous. What a great addition to the league, I mean unbelievable. (I) really enjoyed the event.”
The squads rematch tomorrow at 7 pm.