BURLINGTON, Vt. — Viktor Stalberg’s two goals in the second period of Vermont’s 4-1 win at Gutterson Fieldhouse over Merrimack helped the Catamounts keep pace in the Hockey East standings Friday.
Vermont dominated Merrimack all night and very well could have won by much more if not for an anemic power play that didn’t produce any results in nine chances. The Catamounts outshot the Warriors 31-16.
With seven regular-season games to go, Vermont remains tied with Boston University for fifth, three points out of the final home ice playoff spot, behind Northeastern, Providence, and Boston College, all tied for second.
The Catamounts (9-11-7; 8-7-5 Hockey East), who got goals from three different lines against the Warriors (10-14-3, 4-14-2), are 5-2-2 in their last nine games.
“I thought we played a real good game tonight,” said UVM coach Kevin Sneddon. “I thought our team did a nice job mentally staying focused and doing what we needed to do to be successful tonight. Obviously, scoring four even-strength goals was good for us, we don’t do that often.”
A sophomore from Gothenberg, Sweden, Stalberg has at least one point in eight of the last nine games. He has five goals and six assists in that span.
“Two beautiful goals,” Sneddon said of Stalberg’s sixth and seventh of the season. “I mean, he’s got an unbelievable shot and I think tonight was great that he was picking the low corners so well.
“As I’ve said, over the last couple weeks now, he’s starting to play that power forward with speed and skill type of role for us, which we’ve been trying to get out of him for a little while now.”
The Catamounts got on the board at 8:35 of the first when Reese Wisnowski lifted the rebound of a Jay Anctil shot from the slot over Merrimack goaltender Andrew Braithwaite (27 saves).
Vermont had 53 seconds of a five-on-three at 12:14 of the first, but with a combination of solid play from Braithwaite and a UVM power play that had difficulty moving the puck with precision, the Cats went scoreless.
Joe Fallon (15 saves) kept his team in front with four minutes left in the period, making a wraparound save at the left post on Merrimack’s leading goal scorer Matt Jones, and a glove save on Francois Ouimet at the right post.
Stalberg’s goals in a penalty-filled second period staked Vermont to a 3-1 lead heading to the third.
First, Merrimack sophomore Pat Bowen beat Fallon with a point shot through traffic while skating four-on-four, tying the game 1-1, at 6:49.
Stalberg put the Catamounts back on top at 8:50, beating Braithwaite cleanly stick side. Brian Roloff set up the play, again four-on-four, finding Stalberg in the middle of the ice from the right-wing boards.
Stalberg made it 3-1 at 18:36. He dug the puck out of the corner, went to the net and fired a wrister by Braithwaite.
“I think it was good effort from our entire line,” said Stalberg. “It was two hard-working goals, I thought.”
Peter Lenes rounded out the scoring at 4:54 of the third. He took a feed from Colin Vock at the side of the net and tallied his eighth goal of the season, tying him for the team lead.
Nine more penalties were whistled on both teams in the third, five on Merrimack. Stalberg got six minutes stemming from an after-the-whistle altercation at 9:03 of the period.
In all, Merrimack took 12 penalties for 35 minutes, and Vermont had 10 for 20. Merrimack was scoreless in seven power plays.
Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy didn’t see his team do much right Friday.
“I think I heard somebody [say] the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When you don’t establish a forecheck, you take stupid penalties, and you don’t shoot the puck, when you have the opportunity, it’s a recipe for disaster; doesn’t matter who’s on your team.
“And so there’s a level of insanity that set in, because, if we think we’re going to play that way, and then have the results be different than they were tonight, then we are crazy.”
The Catamounts and Warriors finish their season series Saturday at 7 p.m.
“Right now, I kind of look at [the win] as hey, that’s phase one of an important series,” said Sneddon. “So, [there's] no time to really rest on this one. We’ve got to start to think about how we can be better tomorrow night.”