BURLINGTON, Vt. — After defeating nationally-ranked Michigan State, Clarkson and Alaska, and taking Boston College, Michigan and North Dakota to overtime, the U.S. Under-18 Team was not underestimated by Vermont.
Instead, the No. 14 Catamounts prepared for a tough game. Vermont controlled the contest from start to finish, steamrolling Team USA, 7-1 in exhibition action Saturday.
“I thought our guys played like it was any other game on the schedule which is sometimes a challenge during exam period and for an exhibition game,” UVM head coach Kevin Sneddon said. “I thought we played 100 percent across the board. I thought our focus on ‘D’ was great, I loved our finish tonight on offense. … All in all, it was just a really good game for us.”
The Vermont coaching staff juggled the lines some, to see if it would spark some offense, and it did. Peter Lenes moved to the first line to play with Torrey Mitchell and Dean Strong, while Viktor Stalberg skated with Brayden Irwin and Corey Carlson on the second line.
Both sophomore Lenes and freshman Vock led the way with two goals apiece as 12 different Cats tallied at least a point.
After playing on Friday at Williams and not getting to Vermont until the wee hours of the morning, Team USA was unable to get much of anything going all night. The Cats, on the other hand, were sharp offensively and defensively and after giving up the opening goal of the game, made quick work of the visitors.
C.J. Severyn got Team USA on the board, just over two minutes into the first. Severyn surprised goaltender Mike Spillane with a well-placed wrister that found room over the freshman’s shoulder from the left circle. Michigan recruit Matt Rust assisted on the goal at 2:12.
The lead didn’t last long — 2:26, to be exact — as Vock knotted things at one, when Brian Roloff found him in the right circle, after a nice rush up ice.
Vermont opened a two-goal bulge in the second period.
The Cats took the lead just 52 seconds into the middle frame on a shot from the left circle on the power play. Lenes deflected an Irwin shot from the point for the go-ahead score. Ryan Gunderson also assisted on the play.
Then, at 6:45 Irwin finished off a pretty 2-on-1 with Carlson. Stalberg started the play, getting the puck up to Carlson who was busting down the left wing. The sophomore then dished to the freshman Irwin to make it 3-1.
The Cats dominated play in the period, outshooting Team USA by a 9-3 margin. The visitors, in fact, only mustered eight shot attempts in the period.
Vermont blew the game wide open in the third as Team USA began to tire. The Cats scored four more goals in the final period.
Lenes tallied his second of the night on a tap-in from the top of the crease, finishing off a nice passing play between himself, Torrey Mitchell, and Dean Strong at 1:07.
Stalberg converted a rebound at 3:33 to make it 5-1. Vock notched his second of the evening, as he blasted a shot in past goaltender Brad Phillips from the slot for a 6-1 score. Senior defenseman Arthur Femenella lit the lamp at 7:26 to cap the scoring.
“We played with some good offensive confidence tonight,” said Sneddon. “Games like this are important for us because we’re playing against future NHL stars across the other room. They’re young right now, but there are some dynamite players on that team, we just had a lot more zip in our legs tonight than they did.”
Both starting netminders were replaced at the 4:50 mark of the period.
Spillane finished with 11 saves; Phillips had 15.
In relief, Jeff Hill made five stops, while his counterpart, Josh Unice made two saves, and gave up the final goal.
Team USA coach Ron Rolston wasn’t too pleased with the lopsided result. “No, certainly not,” he said. “I thought for the most part we had a lot of guys going and battling. … [The Catamounts] are an excellent hockey team, probably top-ten team in the country.
“We just didn’t have enough jam, basically, to stay in the game. It was a 1-1 game after one. We took an undisciplined bad penalty to give them a power play to start the second. They scored, and then they scored right after that. At that point, the game was over.”
Vermont jumps back in regular-season play, traveling to renew acquaintances with past ECAC foe St. Lawrence next Saturday before a break for the holidays.