BURLINGTON, Vt. — For over 38 minutes Friday, Vermont hung with seventh-ranked New Hampshire.
Down, 1-0, late in the second, the Catamounts kept the high-powered Wildcats’ offense in check.
UNH then scored the game’s next four goals, taking a 5-1 decision at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
Matt Fornataro scored twice and Kevin Regan stopped 19 shots for the Wildcats, who have won three straight games and are 16-7-1 overall and 12-4-1 in Hockey East.
The loss for the Catamounts (6-10-7, 5-6-5) snapped their season-best four-game unbeaten streak. UVM was 2-0-2 in that span.
“It’s just a shame,” said UVM coach Kevin Sneddon. “I thought we played a great two periods. It’s disappointing, we held a very strong offensive team to very few opportunities in the first two periods, and then we fell apart. I think we were not very good from the net out, in the third period.”
“UVM’s a good team. They played very hard and there’s no question it was a good-paced game, back and forth,” UNH coach Dick Umile said. “They did a good job of keeping us out of that scoring area. We did a better job as the game went on to get in there, and in the third period, I thought we played very well, down low.”
The first period was scoreless and a defensive battle. UVM outshot UNH, 6-3, in the period and had the better of the play, though most of the chances came from the perimeter.
With 5:12 left in the first, UNH forward Thomas Fortney intercepted a Catamount pass at the offensive blue line and went in on goaltender Mike Spillane (16 saves). Spillane made a deft poke check to halt the scoring chance.
Brayden Irwin nearly put Vermont up, 1-0, three minutes in to the second. He one-timed a Colin Vock pass from the goal line, hitting the left post flush from the slot.
New Hampshire’s Bobby Butler squelched the momentum that Vermont had built. Butler gave the Wildcats the lead, taking a feed from James VanRiemsdyk on an odd-man rush and deposited it into an open net at 5:53.
Spillane made three consecutive saves from close range — two on VanRiemsdyk — to keep the Cats within one, but, just as a UNH four-on-three power play came to a close, Matt Fornataro ripped a perfectly-placed wrister over Spillane’s glove at 18:41 to open a two goal advantage.
You hate to take penalties in the offensive zone. We had great puck possession, we take an obstruction-interference penalty to give them a four-on-three,” explained Sneddon. “Now, you don’t want to give that team anymore space on the ice than you have to; and a four-on-three –they got a great look and buried their opportunity.”
UNH tallied twice more in 29 seconds to push the lead to 4-0 at 5:59 of the third and put the game out of reach. Mike Sislo beat Spillane with a wrister from the left circle. Then, Spillane got a piece of a Greg Manz shot but not enough to keep it out of the net.
Fornataro added his second of the night and 10th of the season, a one-timer from the top of the crease, at 9:10 to make it 5-0. Mike Radja set up the play from behind the net.
Kyle Medvec ended Regan’s shutout bid at 15:20 of the third on a slap shot from the midpoint for his first career goal.
UNH was one-for-three on the power play and UVM was held off the scoreboard on its three chances. The Wildcats had a 21-20 advantage in the final shot count.
“I had no disputes about the way we played,” said Sneddon. “It was a costly freshman mistake on the first goal. We turned the puck over and it created a two-on-one, and then they score a legitimate power-play goal. Other than that, we played a pretty darn good two periods of hockey.”
Vermont is off Saturday before facing Mass.-Lowell at 4:00 p.m. Sunday. New Hampshire is on the road next weekend for two at Maine.