BURLINGTON, Vt. — After falling behind 1-0 midway through the first period, seventh ranked Vermont clawed back to score four unanswered goals Friday night en route to a 4-1 victory over Providence before a sell-out crowd of 4,003 at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
Viktor Stalberg led the way with a goal and an assist for Vermont while senior captain Dean Strong pitched in with two assists. Freshman goaltender Rob Madore made 25 saves, including 12 in the third period, to better his overall record to 9-4-3 on the season.
The Hockey East victory improves Vermont to 15-6-4 (10-5-3 in the conference) while Providence falls to 7-15-3 (4-11-1).
I thought it was a good college hockey game, said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. We were slow to start. I thought Providence did a good job really coming out and forechecking us hard. We really struggled to kind of get anything going early on. I thought our second and third period was some of the best hockey weve played. I really liked our intensity at both ends of the rink.
Taking advantage of an early interference penalty to assistant captain Peter Lenes, the Friars jumped out to a 1-0 lead on the power play at 8:58 of the first period. After cycling along the endboards with linemate Matt Bergland, Friars forward Nick Mazzolini went wide on Vermont defenseman Kyle Medvec near the bottom of the left circle and then carried the puck toward the back of the goal.
However, instead of attempting a wrap around shot, Mazzolini spotted an uncovered Pierce Norton near the hashmarks and promptly backhanded a centering feed in front. Norton did the rest, ripping a wrister between the left post and Madores blocker side for his seventh goal of the season.
Although the shots were even after the first period (8-8), the visiting Friars kept Vermont on their heels by dominating the neutral zone with an aggressive forecheck.
Providence did a good job of slowing us down in the first period with just really good disciplined play and it took us a while to really get going, said Sneddon.
Vermont responded by pouring it on the Friars in the middle frame, outshooting Providence 16-6.
Setting the tone early, the Catamounts tied the score 1-1 just 3:45 into the second period.
Parked at the bottom of the left dot near the sideboards, Strong threaded the needle to Medvec for a blast from the point. Although Friars goaltender Alex Beaudry made the initial save on Medvecs slapshot, the rebound squirted into the air and hung dangerously inside the crease. Scavenging for loose pucks, senior assistant captain Peter Lenes pounced on the goal mouth and hammered home the rubber on the backhand for his 11th goal of the year.
It wasnt a matter of making adjustments just reiterating some things, said Sneddon about shaking things up after a lackluster opening period. The bottom line is we just played with a lot more energy and passion. We were getting shots from the point [in the 1st period] but we had nobody going towards the net. I thought second period in particular we made it difficult for them because we got shots and we also had guys for rebounds and screens and tips.
Continuing to surge, Vermont took a 2-1 lead just 11 seconds into the third period. After Strong won the opening draw at center ice, defenseman Patrick Cullity chipped the puck to assistant captain Corey Carlson who led a 2-on-1 with Lenes wide. Closing in on the goal, Carlson elected to shoot and ripped a wrister that deflected off of Beaudrys left shoulder and trickled into the net for his sixth goal of the season. The assist was Strongs second of the game and his team-leading 18th of the year.
I knew we were in so tight that if I gave it to Petey he probably wouldnt have much room to do anything so I figured I might as well take a shot, said Carlson of his eventual game-winner. [Beaudry] left a little opening there high, glove [side] and I got lucky and it hit his shoulder and went in.
We made a bad mistake to start the third period, said Providence coach Tim Army. We had a [defenseman] caught up ice and we gave up a two-on-one and thats a recipe for disaster.
Less than a minute later, Vermont opened the door for Providence to get back in the game when Cullity was called for hooking at 1:09. With the Catamount faithful holding their breath, Madore made two sparkling saves to keep Vermont in front, first stopping a slapper from the point by Matt Taormina and then flashing his left pad on Norton who attempted to bury the rebound.
It was kind of an unnecessary save, admitted Madore was named Hockey East Rookie of the month for January after going 4-2-2 with a 1.72 GAA and .932 save percentage. I felt like my rebound control could have been a little better tonight and I think that would have helped out the team. But its all about making the saves when your team needs it and Im glad I could make that one for them.
Thats what good goaltending will do, said Army. Its like scoring a goal, obviously, because it keeps a goal out. We moved the puck well on the power play and he made a good initial stop and then [another one]. Thats what good goaltending will provide.
We were a little too nice to the shooter on that one, added Sneddon. Our defensemen needed to come out and get in the shooting lane and we kind of gave the shot and [the] rebound came right out in front. Thats not the guy you want to get the rebound there, [Nortons] got a hot stick right now.
Capitalizing on another Providence defensive breakdown, Vermont extended their lead to 3-1 midway through the final period. Leading a three-on-one break against Taormina, Stalberg carried the puck along the left sideboards and then fed linemate Wahs Stacey near the hashmarks. After settling the centering feed, Stacey ripped a wrister between the left post and Beaudrys blocker side for his sixth goal of the year.
Providence would pull Beaudry for an extra attacker with 1:06 remaining in regulation but the Friars were unable cut into the deficit before Stalberg scored an empty net goal from center ice to secure the 4-1 victory.
Beaudry finished with 28 saves in the hard-luck loss. Despite facing the nations worst penalty kill (72.3%), Vermont went scoreless on the power play (0-3). The Friars finished 1-3 with the man advantage.
The Catamounts are now 6-2-2 in their last 10 games.
That first shift in the third period really said a lot with our senior leaders out there mounting the attack and getting that goal on the first shift, added Sneddon. I thought that set the tone for the period. Obviously we finished strong and stayed aggressive right till the final buzzer.