BURLINGTON, Vt. — Dean Strong scored the game-winning goal for Vermont at 19:35 of the third period, as the Catamounts pulled out a 4-2 victory over No. 10 Massachusetts Tuesday at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
With the game knotted at two in the final minute, Peter Lenes held the puck behind the Minutemen net. He found Strong in the slot and the junior from Mississauga, Ontario buried it behind UMass’s Paul Dainton (25 saves) for his second goal of the season and the win.
“I found myself in the slot. [Peter] Lenes had a bunch of time back there, which was nice and he knew where I was the whole time and … I just tried to get some wood on it and it went in, luckily,” said Strong who figured in all four UVM goals, adding three assists.
Strong’s wingers on the Catamounts’ first line, Colin Vock and Corey Carlson each had a goal, while contributing three helpers among them.
The win for Vermont (3-5-1, 3-2-1 Hockey East) gives it a modest two-game winning streak after losing, 9-1, to Boston University Friday. The loss for UMass (5-3-4, 3-2-4), coming into the game with its highest national ranking since 2003, is its first in six games. The minutemen were 3-0-3 in that span.
“I thought we played a very complete hockey game,” said UVM coach Kevin Sneddon. “I thought we did a very good job for 60 minutes tonight. We were better defensively; we were better offensively; we had great jump in our legs. We had very few moments where we felt we lost the momentum in the game.
“I think we just had a lot of energy going late in the game, which was a real positive sign for us to see coming off a two-game, hard-fought battle against BU. For us to come back with that much energy on Tuesday, I thought that was a real good sign for our guys,” he said.
The first period was scoreless as Vermont staved off a pair of early power-play chances for the Minutemen, before gaining some steam. The Cats held a 14-8 advantage in shots through the period, turning it on a bit to get a few good chances on a power play of their own in the final minutes.
Lenes had three of his four shots in the period with the man advantage. Vermont had four shots in the low slot in front of Dainton.
“I thought they kicked our butt in the first period and a good part of the second period,” said UMass coach Don Cahoon. “I thought we were lucky enough to keep the shot total probably pretty close, but I thought the quality of the chances and the territorial edge and the commitment to winning battles was all UVM. I think at they end of the day, we got what we deserved.”
The teams traded goals in the first 10 minutes of the second, before Vock gave the Cats a 2-1 lead going into the third.
Vermont broke on top at the 6:03 mark. Freshman defenseman Kevan Miller scored his first collegiate goal from the right circle. The puck deflected off a UMass defender and past Dainton.
Just 1:47 later, Minuteman sophomore Will Ortiz tied things at one. Ortiz finished an odd-man rush, beating Vermont goaltender Joe Fallon (29 saves) short side off the post. Freshmen James Marcou and Michael Lecomte assisted on Ortiz’s second.
Vock helped Vermont retake the lead at 13:13. He took a home-run pass from Strong and skated in alone on Dainton. He put a move on the freshman, beating him low along the ice.
Cory Quirk tied the game, once again, for UMass at 2:42 into the third. As a power play expired, Quirk deftly tipped a Justin Braun shot over the glove of Fallon.
“It was a beautiful play; it really was,” conceded Sneddon. I mean, we were in good coverage. I think we were almost shocked that [Quirk] was coming through there at that time. … It was perfectly placed.”
“We were in the game and happy to be in the game, but I don’t think we ever thought like we were playing as well as they were playing,” said Cahoon.
With about five minutes remaining, the Vermont offense was buzzing and kept the UMass hemmed in for more than a minute.
“We had probably almost two line changes,” said Sneddon. “I think Peter Lenes and [Viktor] Stalberg and [Brayden] Irwin held the puck in their zone, did a great job on the cycle, and you could kind of feel something was happening.”
Strong’s goal came shortly after, followed by an empty netter from Carlson, with three seconds left.
UMass outshot UVM, 31-29. The Minutemen were 0-for-4 on the power play and the Catamounts were 0-for-2.
Both teams return to action Sunday. UMass hosts Union at 5 p.m., while Vermont travels to Maine for a date with the Black Bears at 2.