BURLINGTON, Vt. — Senior goaltender Joe Fallon made 31 saves, helping Vermont to a 3-2 victory over No. 16 Mass.-Lowell, at Gutterson Fieldhouse Sunday.
The Catamounts, who had three different players score, won for the third time in six games after having a four-game unbeaten streak broken Friday against New Hampshire.
Fallon, who is currently rotating with sophomore Mike Spillane, made 22 saves in the final two periods to keep Vermont in front.
“I thought Lowell, from the second period on, really had some great moments of play, and I thought Joe was spectacular tonight for us,” said UVM head coach Kevin Sneddon.
“We knew it was going to be this kind of game. Lowell does a tremendous job of keeping the puck to the outside and pressuring you, and it makes it really tough for our defenseman to make clean plays on the breakout. But, I thought our guys did a tremendous job of being poised and using the chip pass if we didn’t have a play off the glass and out.”
The Catamounts’ offense was in high gear to start the game. Reese Wisnowski put the Catamounts up 1-0, just 2:35 into the first, on a wrister from the top of the slot. Chris Atkinson set the play up with a pass out of the corner. Wisnowski’s goal was just the senior’s second in 92 career games at Vermont.
In the early going, Lowell sophomore goaltender Carter Hutton (18 saves) kept his team in it. He made nine saves in the period, including several good ones, when the Catamounts came out with extra jump.
As the period progressed, though, the River Hawks came on, nearly knotting the game at one, with 5:15 left. Freshman defenseman Maury Edwards rang the left post hard, from above the right circle.
Sneddon and his staff shook up the lines for the game, moving Peter Lenes and Brayden Irwin to the top line while shifting Dean Strong to the wing.
In the second period, the changes paid off. Lenes scored a highlight-reel breakaway-goal for a two-goal advantage. Strong sprung Lenes with a home-run pass, and Lenes came in on Hutton with speed, pulled up, and roofed a backhand at 5:03.
Then, after UML’s Ben Holmstrom cut the UVM lead in half to 2-1, with a tip-in, power-play goal at 12:26, UVM’s hottest forward line of Viktor Stalberg, Brian Roloff, and Wahsontiio Stacey put together a great rush for a 3-1 lead. Roloff fed Stalberg cutting to the net, who tipped the puck just inside the post at 12:34. The trio has combined for eight goals and 17 points in the last six games.
“[We wanted] to try to spark something between Lenes and Strong. We’ve got to get those guys scoring goals,” explained Sneddon. “When Petey [Lenes] starts scoring goals, his whole confidence level just goes up, and he’s playing so well but just not getting any rewards for it. So, it was real nice for him to cash in on that opportunity. He doesn’t miss many of those.
“I thought the difference in the game was obviously the Stalberg goal,” Sneddon said, “[It was a] textbook, middle-lane drive, offensive play that we work on a lot, and Roloff, with just a beautiful feed. But Viktor, driving that net, just creates a lot of offense with his speed. So, I thought that was the turning point in the game for us.”
Lowell had almost four consecutive minutes of power-play time to close the period. Slavomir Tomko took a contact-to-the-head minor at 16:05, and Irwin went off for cross checking at 18:00. The Vermont penalty kill and Fallon did a nice job to keep the River Hawks off the board. Fallon stopped eight power play shots in the period.
“That was big because it allowed us to gain some momentum back,” Sneddon said. “We weren’t playing great, going into that. They had some great momentum going. They had just scored a power-play goal, not too long [before that]. Now, we were able to gain some momentum back, off some great shot blocks, some great saves, some just really smart puck decisions — textbook Catamount penalty kill there.”
Sophomore Kory Falite pulled Lowell within one again, at 10:49 of the third, having poked it home after a scrum in the goalmouth. But that was as close as UML would get, despite a few close calls, as the game wound down.
The River Hawks outshot the Catamounts, 24-12 in the second and third periods, and, 33-21, for the game. Lowell was one-for-three on the power play; Vermont was scoreless in two chances with the man advantage.
“I thought UVM came out in the beginning of the game and showed their speed, skill, grit and determination and really put us on our heels for eight minutes of the game,” said UML head coach Blaise MacDonald.
“I thought we did a pretty good job, thanks to Carter Hutton. Then, as the next 52 minutes progressed, I really liked our team,” said MacDonald. “The execution wasn’t where it needs to be to beat a good team like Vermont, but, all in all, playing on the road with a young team, I just liked the way we competed and hung in there. That locker room is shocked that we didn’t score at the end, and that’s a good sign.”
The Catamounts (7-10-7, 6-6-5 Hockey East) pulled into a tie with Boston University for sixth in Hockey East with 17 points with a game in hand. They are on the road next weekend for two with Providence. The River Hawks (12-9-4, 7-7-4) are fifth in the league with 18 points and host BU Friday.