BURLINGTON, Vt. — Despite being outshot 26-19 and surrendering eight power-play opportunities, seventh ranked Vermont hung on to defeat Massachusetts, 2-1, before a sellout crowd of 4,003 at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
Freshman goaltender Rob Madore made 25 saves to pace the Catamounts while senior assistant captain Corey Carlson scored the eventual game winner on the power play midway through the second period.
The conference victory improves Vermont to 14-5-3 (8-5-2 HEA) on the season and extends their record to 10-2-1 in their last thirteen games. The Minutemen fall to 10-11-2 (5-7-2 HEA).
I told our team, I thought we didnt play very well tonight and if it wasnt for Rob Madore I think the outcome could have been different, said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. I thought UMass did a very nice job of using their speed against us. We were pretty bad in our own zone tonight. Rob Madore was sensational tonight. He was a big difference in the game and the reason why we got two points.
Theyre a tough team defensively to spot two goals, added Massachusetts coach Don Cahoon. I was pleased with our guys third period effort. I thought we generated a lot of offense. I thought we had an opportunity to make a game of it, which I guess we did in the end, but I thought wed maybe get that equalizer and see what happens in overtime.
After being hemmed in their defensive zone for the first few minutes of the opening period, Vermont battled back shorthanded to take a 1-0 lead at 7:55.
Initially, Vermont secured the games first power play at 5:53 but a holding call to sophomore Brian Roloff just 26 seconds later negated the early man advantage. However, after 4-on-4 play transitioned into an abbreviated man advantage for UMass, Vermont caught the Minutemen off guard when sophomore Justin Milo secured a feed from linemate Wahs Stacey near the left dot and roofed it by goaltender Paul Dainton for his ninth goal of the season.
I thought we got off to a good start and then we made a real bad play on a change and left a defenseman out to dry with speed coming at him in a 2-on-1 situation, said Cahoon.
Vermont extended their lead to 2-0 on the man advantage at 12:36 of the second period. Adding a new wrinkle to his teams already dominant power play unit, Sneddon elected to use defenseman Dan Lawson (63, 252 lbs) down low in an attempt to screen Dainton. The decision worked to perfection as Carlson unleashed a wrister from the left point past Lawson in front and through Daintons pads for his fifth tally of the season.
We were going to try to simplify things this week and put a big body in front and get a screen because we know they like to pack it in, explained Carlson. I just rolled up the wall there and stepped to the middle and I could see Danny was right in front of [Dainton] so I just kind of floated one in and I dont think the goalie ever even saw it and it just went right by.
After failing to cash in on four separate power play opportunities during the third period, UMass clawed back to make it 2-1 with just over three minutes remaining in the game. Before the goal, it appeared that the puck crossed the blue line to force an offsides call but the referees thought otherwise.
Taking advantage, Minutemen defenseman Doug Kublin split the circles and then fed Alex Berry down low to Madores left. Forcing the Vermont goalie to commit, Berry faked a forehand shot near the crease then slid around Madore and lifted a backhand into the empty net for his eighth tally of the year.
Massachusetts would pull Dainton in favor of an extra attacker with 53 seconds left but Madore (8-3-2) willed his team to victory and denied the Minutemen a shot at overtime.
Hes just in a groove right now, said Sneddon of his young netminder who also stopped 46 of 50 shots last weekend in a split with Northeastern. Hes playing with a lot of confidence, a lot of poise. He settles us down, quite frankly. He ends plays for us. I think for a freshman to play with that kind of poise is special. He just doesnt play like a freshman.
With Carlsons eventual game winner coming with the man advantage, Vermont has now scored at least one power-play goal in eight straight games. Entering the game, Vermont ranked first in Hockey East and third in the nation on the power play, clicking at a rate of 23.5% and 21.8% respectively.
In turn, Vermont held Massachusetts to 0-8 with the man advantage, surrendering just nine shots total. The Cats also shut down the super line of Casey Wellman, Will Ortiz and T.J. Syner. The trio had combined for eight goals and 12 assists over the previous six games, 42% of the Massachusetts offense during that span.
I think they were particularly effective on their penalty kill, concluded Cahoon. Theyve got some big bodies out there that knock down pucks. If youre not executing extremely well and not making precise decisions as to where you should go with the puck its easy for the puck to get bobbling around and the next thing you know [they clear the puck].
Despite his teams success on the penalty kill, Sneddon emphasized how taxing it was to be down a man for much of the game.
I was really pleased with how our penalty kill functioned tonight but at the same time it just wears you down to a point where guys were out of sync. I just felt like that really took us out of our game and the ability to sustain any pressure on them.
Failing to register a point, Vermont Hobey Baker candidate Viktor Stalberg had his 11-game point streak snapped. Dainton finished with 17 saves.
We recovered, concluded Sneddon. I call that mistake management: We made a lot of mistakes but we managed them well.