BURLINGTON, Vt. — Northeastern junior Dennis McCauley put away the rebound of a David Strathman shot 3:33 into overtime as the Huskies defeated No. 19 Vermont, 2-1, in Game 2 of the Hockey East Quarterfinals Saturday at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
UVM defenseman Patrick Cullity took a penalty at 2:33 of the extra session when he interfered with an NU player and was able to beat goaltender Brad Thiessen (34 saves) for what the Catamounts and their fans thought was the game winner.
It wasn’t, as referee Jeff Bunyon immediately ruled no goal.
On the ensuing power play, McCauley who, playing his 27th game, has been in and out of the lineup all season for the Huskies, tallied his fourth goal from the slot.
“We made a decision to put him in there, because he’s got a big body and he’s able to protect the puck down low, get to the front of the net,” said Northeastern coach Greg Cronin of McCauley. “I thought he did a really good job of that tonight. Give him huge credit, because he went from not playing (I think it was [the last] three straight games) to playing a huge role in a playoff win for us.
“Obviously, it was a wild game. Wild for the players, the coaches, fans. I know a lot of the frustrations from the fans came at the end when there was a disallowed goal, but I think when you watch the videotape, the referee made a right call.”
“It’s obviously disappointing,” said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. “We think we go from winning the game to all of sudden now we’re shorthanded. As I said to the guys, this is what we all grew up with, playing junior hockey, playing our driveways. I mean, you’ve got a chance [to play in a] Game 7-style [game] right now.”
The Catamounts (15-14-7) got on the board at 15:29 of the first on a power play. Dean Strong was the recipient of a fortunate bounce off an officials’ skate. The puck came to Strong, who fired a backhander off the post, and Colin Vock was there to clean up the rebound for his eighth of the year and second in as many nights.
Vermont seemed to gain momentum from the goal and nearly extended its advantage late in the period on another power play. Thiessen was up to the task, though, making four saves on that chance.
The Huskies (16-17-3) knotted the game at one with a power-play goal of its own at 2:17 of the second. Kyle Kraemer put it past Vermont goaltender Joe Fallon (31 saves) low from the left faceoff dot. Kraemer’s third of the year was assisted by Louis Liotti and Ryan Ginand.
“As the game wore on, we had plenty of chances but couldn’t seem to get pucks to the net,” Cronin said. “We just kept hacking away. I think that goal gave us a lot of confidence. We looked a little down after they scored the [first] goal. But after we scored our first goal, I think there was some confidence that went into our players, and I think they played with a lot more enthusiasm.”
Vock had two golden opportunities while the Catamounts were shorthanded midway through the period. He collected a UVM clearing pass off the glass and shot a wrist shot from the left wing that Thiessen saw all the way.
Seconds later, he got behind the defense at the red line and was all alone. Thiessen stood his ground, making the save, as Vock went to the backhand.
Vermont took three penalties in a little under five minutes in the second and allowed Northeastern eight power-play shots, as the Huskies went one-for-four on the power play in the period and two-for-nine in the game. Vermont was one-for-five.
“We took some undisciplined penalties tonight’ that was certainly not a key to success, including the one in overtime,” said Sneddon. “Those things are mental lapses, and we’ve got to make sure we don’t have those tomorrow.”
The game stayed tied through the third. Both teams had chances to win it, late in the period.
Fallon made a nice pad save on Rob Rassey from right on top of the crease with 4:17 left. Wade MacLeod followed with a bid from the top of the slot with 3:15 remaining.
Vermont’s Brayden Irwin split the Northeastern defense but chipped the puck wide with less than three minutes to go.
The Catamounts squandered a power play with two minutes left, but Strong just missed the cage from the left circle in the waning seconds, ensuring overtime.
“I think it’s going to be a real punch, scrap, kick, claw game,” said Cronin of the rubber match slated for 7:05 p.m. Sunday. “I think we’re going to have to try and play with the same energy we played with tonight.”
Strong summed it up nicely, adding, “We like playing the game, so why not make it three?”