BOSTON — The No. 8 Vermont Catamounts (13-5-3, 8-4-2 HEA) had struggled against the No. 3 Northeastern Huskies (15-5-2, 11-3-1 HEA) so far this season, dropping the first two affairs between the teams, but on Saturday night, they battled back to earn two big points against the Hockey East leading Huskies.
Viktor Stalberg paced the Catamounts with two goals, giving Vermont the 4-2 win. The game took a decidedly different feel that the previous games, with significantly less physical player, fewer penalties, and a lot of end-to-end rushes, a style of play dictated by Vermont.
For Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon, it was a slight change of philosophy.
“We didn’t use our speed last night; we held onto the pucks too much. We talked to our defense about just using our speed on counter-attacks and moving the puck quickly to our forwards. I thought our forwards did a great job of getting space for our defensemen and using our speed to attack their zone.”
Viktor Stalberg got Vermont on the board at 18:37 of the first period. Taking a pass from Kevan Miller deep in his own zone, Stalberg raced up the boards, taking the puck to the corner on Huskies’ goalie Brad Thiessen’s right hand side. Trying to center the puck, Stalberg’s pass deflected off a Huskies’ defensemen and went in five-hole.
Vermont had several good chances early in the second, but were unable to capitalize. Dean Strong had three straight shots from the slot that Thiessen turned away, and Jack Downing rung a shot of the far side post from the top of the circles to keep it a one-goal game.
The Huskies tied it up at 16:31 of the second period when Rob Rassey scored a power-play goal in front of the net. Defensemen David Strathman took a shot from the point that was initially saved by Rob Madore, but the puck stood still just a moment too long for the Catamounts, as Rassey got his stick on it and poked it to the back of the net.
Vermont struck back just 15 seconds later. Kyle Medvec had the puck at the top of the Huskies’ zone, right inside the blue line, and fired it towards the net. The puck took a funny deflection that threw Thiessen off. Thiessen tried to glove the wobbly puck, but missed as it floated to the back of the net. For Medvec, it was his first goal of the season.
“We told our guys tonight that we had to shoot from everywhere and that the way to beat Thiessen is to sometimes score the ugly goals and I know our second one was very strange, but we told our guys to just try and get as many pucks to the net as possible with traffic.” Sneddon said of the odd goal.
At 6:19 of the third, the Huskies tied the game again on a power play. Alex Tuckerman took a shot on net that was easily kicked away by Madore, but it went right to the stick of Mike McLaughlin, who put it into the wide open net for the first goal of his career at Northeastern.
“It’s nice to get a chance on a power play.” McLaughlin said. “Basically it’s a lot of weight off the shoulders [to score my first goal].”
Vermont battled back to take the lead when Peter Lenes scored his tenth of the season. Dan Lawson set the play up behind his own net, hitting a streaking Brayden Irwin in stride up the boards. Irwin quickly fed to Lenes, who came racing in on Thiessen. Lenes took a shot that Thiessen saved, but the rebound went right back to Lenes. With Thiessen already down in the butterfly, Lenes moved around him to score into the open net.
Stalberg added an empty net goal with 31 seconds left in the game to clinch the win.
“Robbie [Madore] is just in a groove right now. He’s played so well.” Sneddon said about his goalie, “We felt Rob was a little bit more focused and Mike [Spillane] had lost a little bit of confidence through some tough days of practice; that can be the difference.”
It was a rough night for Thiessen, who saw one goal go in by his defense and another one get deflected in front and take a weird hop on its way to the back of the net.
“Goalies get bad games too, but I don’t blame him; [Vermont] controlled the pace of the game, and to me they won all the battles,” Northeastern coach Greg Cronin said.