AMHERST, Mass. — Vermont was just a mere 12 seconds from suffering a damaging weekend and a series sweep at the hands of seventh-place Massachusetts Saturday.
That was until freshman Peter Lenes came to the rescue.
Lenes scored the game-tying and winning goals in a span of 1:20 to lift the Catamounts to a thrilling 3-2 win over the Minutemen at Mullins Center.
With goalie Travis Russell (13 saves) out of the net for the extra skater, Lenes tallied the tying goal and then in overtime scored his second of the game and tenth of the year, curling out from behind the net and stuffing it by UMass’ Jon Quick (29 saves) for the win.
“I thought it was a good hockey game,” said Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon. “I thought our guys really battled through at the end. I’m really proud of the way they persevered. We kind of look up at the clock thinking, ‘Geez, we just don’t have a shot at this one.’ We looked down the bench and thought, ‘Who do we put in for the goalie around the minute mark?’ We gave the ball to a freshman, Peter Lenes. He obviously made the right play on the tying goal, and then the winning goal he just made a beautiful play. He stood up tall to the challenge there.”
The win for the Cats is just their second in the month of February, going 2-4-2.
“This was a huge win for us,” said Sneddon, whose team is now 18-10-4 and 10-9-4 in Hockey East. “We’ve been struggling, kind of felt like we did everything but put the puck in the net tonight. Quick played great in net, we hit some pipes, we had some great rebound opportunities, and we just couldn’t buy a goal. So (it’s) huge for us to be able to, in a minute-and-a-half span, put in two on them.”
Vermont had its chances on two power plays in the first period, but UMass killed both. As was the case in the 3-0 UMass victory, the penalty killers were able to keep the UVM power-play shots to the perimeter in the period.
Shortly after the second penalty to Matt Anderson expired, the Minutemen (12-18-0, 9-14-0 Hockey East) opened the scoring. Russell, starting in place of Joe Fallon, gave up a big rebound on an Anderson shot, and junior Mark Matheson buried his second of the year for the 1-0 lead at 12:20. The second assist on the play went to Jaime Solon.
The Cats didn’t pick up the pace until the latter half of the second period. Energized by P.J. Fenton’s hitting-from-behind penalty with 2:17 left, UVM leading-goal scorer Jeff Corey tied the game at one.
Ryan Gunderson started the play with the puck already in the zone. He worked it down to Brady Leisenring on the goal line to the right of Quick. Leisenring then fired a rocket of a pass to Corey camped at the left post. Quick got over, nearly getting enough of the puck to keep it out, but it snuck past him. It was Corey’s 14th of the season, eight of which have come on the power play. Vermont’s first goal of the weekend at 19:43 of the period left 2:43 on the man advantage for the start of the third.
The Minutemen killed the remainder of the major to start the third and retook the lead midway through the period. Stephen Werner finished off a three-on-one odd-man rush with assists from linemates Chris Capraro and Chris Davis as it began to look increasing like Vermont would suffer the sweep.
With 2:17 to go, UMass was whistled for a bench minor for too many men. Although the Cats couldn’t find the equalizer, thanks to some tremendous goaltending from Quick, Lenes battled in front in a scrum to tuck it home with Russell pulled.
As if that wasn’t enough, the UVM sparkplug did it again on a wrap-around goal just over a minute into overtime to ensure a happy bus ride back to Burlington.
Lenes’ game savers, his ninth and tenth of the season, were his first two goals since Nov. 11 against Providence.
“A real tough one to swallow simply because of the way it unfolded,” lamented UMass head coach Don Cahoon. “Carelessness on the bench at the end. A couple of years ago we had real problems in this regard. People so excited and not paying attention to detail. We had a lot of too many men on the ice penalties. .We just struggled with that at the end of the game. Made a bad decision. No explanation. It just got away from us, and it’s a real sick feeling.
“It’s gonna destroy everybody’s Saturday night,” Cahoon continued. “.People on the outside will dwell on it, people that aren’t in on it will dwell on it and try and make it more than it needs to be. It hurts us because we just lost a couple of points, it really hurts us. The sting of it is really painful.”
Vermont faces Boston University to close out its home slate next weekend, while UMass plays a home-and-home series with Northeastern, starting on Friday in Boston.