College Hockey:
Vermont Loses Big Lead, Ties Maine

— Friday night, Vermont held a one-goal lead into the third period against Maine at Gutterson Fieldhouse but couldn’t hold on for victory. Saturday, the Catamounts had a three-goal advantage halfway through the game and squandered it, tying the Black Bears 4-4.

It was an evenly played game, typical of the season series between the two blossoming league rivals, which saw periodic shifts of momentum. Vermont (17-9-4, 9-8-4 Hockey East) and Maine (19-10-1, 12-8-1) are now 1-1-1 for the season.

Torrey Mitchell paced the UVM offense with two goals and an assist, including the tying marker nearly 12 minutes into the third period, and Chris Myers chipped in a goal and an assist for the hosts. For the Black Bears, Derek Damon had a goal and an assist.

“I thought it was a great college hockey game,” said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. “The thing I just told the team: I’m not happy that we tied, I’m not happy that we came away with one point this weekend, but we could have (come away with no points), very easily, when it got to be 4-3, backs up against the wall much like last night, I liked the response a lot better.”

“It’s tough when you get a tie,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “You don’t know whether to be happy, or not to be happy. To try and put it in perspective quickly after the game, I think you do have to be proud, if you leave it all out there, and if their effort’s there, and I think both teams did that, and I think both teams should be proud of how they played.”

The tie leaves one team — Maine — relatively pleased with its performance in a tough weekend set against a new league rival, and the other, Vermont, looking for consistency in the stretch run in Hockey East.

Vermont hit on all cylinders in the first period, taking the action to Maine and scoring two goals. Torrey Mitchell opened the scoring with his 11th goal of the season, depositing the puck behind Ben Bishop (21 saves) at 3:25 in the period. Assists on the play went to Jaime Sifers and Peter Lenes, who really made the play happen, speeding through neutral ice, creating space for his linemates.

The Cats doubled the lead as the period wound down on the power play. Chris Myers banged home a rebound of a Lenes shot with Bishop lying prone on the ice. Mitchell also got his second point of the night assisting on the goal, Myers’ sixth.

After Corey Carlson’s fifth goal of the year on the power play at 10:31 made it 3-0 for the Cats, Maine stormed back with two goals in 3:30 to cut the Vermont lead to one at the second intermission.

Brent Shepeard scored at 13:08 with his third of the year, sneaking a shot from in tight past Vermont goaltender Joe Fallon (19 saves) off an assist from Jon Jankus. With the momentum seemingly shifting in the Black Bears’ favor, Mike Lundin beat Fallon over his shoulder to make it a one-goal game.

Fallon had to make a few nice saves to keep Maine from knotting the game before the middle frame expired, and he did. The goalie made 11 stops, all told, in the period.

Like the third period of Friday’s 3-1 Maine win, the Bears squared things at 3-3 early in the final period. But this time the visitors grabbed the lead on the second of two power-play goals, which came on a five-minute hitting-from-behind penalty assessed to Lenes.

Damon scored off a face off 59 seconds in, and Billy Ryan added the go-ahead marker at 5:06 on a wrist shot from the top of the circles.

Mitchell then netted the equalizer, taking a pass from behind the Maine net from Chris Myers before putting it by Bishop at 11:51.

“We came out, we got that tying goal, and then we kept going,” said Sneddon. “As a coach you gotta look at those small accomplishments, when the wins aren’t coming as often as you would like.”

The Cats had plenty of quality scoring chances to retake the lead in the second half of the period, highlighted by power plays at four minutes and, again, with less than a minute to go in the period, but Bishop was outstanding. Vermont even had an extended two-man advantage when Matt Duffy was called for throwing the puck in overtime, but Bishop again stood his ground and the teams settled for the tie.

“Would’ve loved to put one home on the five-on-three in overtime there, but they did a nice job on the kill,” said Sneddon. “I thought their goaltender played great, and you need somebody to step up there on the five-on-three late like that, and I thought he made some key saves on guys like Brady Leisenring (and) Jeff Corey on the backdoor.”

Vermont ended up 3-for-6 on the power play, while Maine went 2-for-9.

The Black Bears return to Orono next week for a pair with Boston College. Vermont hits the road for two at Massachusetts.

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