BURLINGTON, Vt. — After trailing 2-1 for much of Friday nights Hockey East battle against UMass-Lowell, sixth ranked Vermont scored a pair of timely goals midway through the third period only to watch their 3-2 lead helplessly evaporate in the final minute of regulation.
With goaltender Nevin Hamilton (22 saves) pulled in favor of an extra attacker, River Hawks defenseman Maury Edwards blasted a one-timer from the left point that Michael Scheu was able to deflect past Vermont freshman netminder Rob Madore (31 saves) with just 26 seconds left.
Neither team was able to score in the extra frame. The hard-fought, conference tie moves Vermont to 17-7-5 overall (12-6-4 in Hockey East) while UMass-Lowell moves up to 14-13-2 (11-9-2).
Ive got to believe that was a pretty exciting, entertaining college hockey game, said UMass-Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald. We come away from that game last weekend against Boston College a 4-4 tie, it felt like a loss. This week, a 3-3 tie feels like a victory for us.
I think any time youre the team that comes back to earn the tie you obviously feel a little better than
the team that was winning the game and that was in control at that point, said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. A point is certainly nice, but again, when you have two points in your grasp and you let it slip away with under a minute you feel like you lost a point, you didnt earn a point.
After failing to cash in on an extended two-man advantage just minutes into the game, Vermont finally took a 1-0 lead at 8:50 of the first period. Surveying his options along the left sideboards, junior Brayden Irwin flipped a saucer pass to sophomore defenseman Josh Burrows near the left point.
Taking advantage of a chaotic frenzy of sticks and bodies in front of the River Hawk goal, Burrows unleashed a sizzling wrister that clanked off the inside of the left post and beat the heavily screened Hamilton high, blocker side. The even strength tally was Burrows third goal of the season.
In an eerie prelude to Edwards game-tying goal in the third period, the River Hawks fought back to tie the score 1-1 in the final minute of the opening period. Streaking along the sideboards into the Vermont zone, forward Patrick Cey snapped off a quick shot near the right dot that Madore was able to steer wide with his right pad.
Unfortunately for the Catamounts, the rebound squirted directly to Michael Scheu inside the left circle who promptly buried a one-timer past the diving Madore for his first goal of the season.
Continuing to surge, UMass-Lowell dominated the first half of the second period as Vermont committed an uncharacteristic string of three consecutive penalties. After failing to convert on either of their first two power plays, the River Hawks finally took a 2-1 lead at 7:06 when Scott Campbells cross-ice feed deflected off the skate of Vermont defenseman Kyle Medvec and past a helpless Madore.
I mean, hey, you cant give a team three power plays back to back literally six minutes in a row of kill, said Sneddon of the demoralizing goal. It takes your energy away, youre obviously not mounting any offensive attack and then, kind of deflating, we did a great job on the kill and then the puck goes off our own skate and in.
It kills our momentum big time, added Vermont sophomore Wahs Stacey. I mean, were coming, were forcing, were pushing on them and then you know, those penalties are just, kills it. Some guys dont get the ice time that they want, same guys are playing over and over again. Its just tough on everyone.
Despite being outshot 13-5 in the third period, Vermont clawed back to take a 3-2 lead with a pair of goals midway through the final frame. Stacey ignited the comeback, burying a second chance rebound from a blistering blast by Medvec at the point at 8:49.
[Viktor Stalberg] sent it down to me, explained Stacey of his seventh goal of the season. I was actually trying to backhand to [Dean Strong] coming into the high slot but I fanned on it and it went to Medvec. Luckily enough, no one took it, he took the shot, and I had a rebound, I stuffed it, it hit his pads, I got another rebound and I put it home.
Nearly three minutes later, sophomore Chris Atkinson appeared to score the game-winner when he tipped in a shot from the point by freshman defenseman Lance Herrington past Hamilton for his third goal of the season. Playing in just his fifth career game, the assist marked Herringtons first career point.
I was coming in with a 1-2-2 forecheck, explained Atkinson. I read it when Lance got the puck and I just went to the net. Low shot, good shot, put the stick down and I was pretty lucky, I got the tip right through his shoulder there.
Trailing 3-2 with time running out in the third period, MacDonald elected to pull Hamilton with 1:06 remaining in regulation and a face-off coming in the Vermont zone to the right of Madore.
The River Hawks won the ensuing draw, however, Stalberg stole the puck and broke free near center ice with a shot at an empty net. In what would prove to be a pivotal defensive recovery, UMass-Lowell suffocated Stalberg in the neutral zone and denied the Hobey Baker candidate a shot at icing the win for Vermont.
Less than half a minute later, Edwards one-timed a sizzling blast from the left point that Scheu deflected by Madore with just 26 seconds remaining in regulation to force sudden death overtime. Edwards entered the game with 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists), good for second-best among Hockey East defensemen.
Thats a goal in any league, said MacDonald. you cant fault [Madore]. That was a great shot and they couldnt get in the shooting lane. The key to playing really good teams like Vermont, for us, is you have to be unfazed. Theyre going to get some great chances. Theyre going to have some puck possession.
Thats ok. Just maintain positional discipline, team discipline and youll get back, itll come your way.
We werent in the shooting lane, bottom line, lamented a visibly disappointed Sneddon. You want to win in this league youve got to be in shooting lanes and pay the price. Maury Edwards can probably shoot the puck harder than any human alive. It was a great shot, Rob didnt have a chance on it through screens. Weve got to be in that shooting lane and thats the difference between winning and tying, plain and simple.
Neither team was able to find the back of the net in overtime as Vermont was able to muster just one shot on goal and UMass-Lowell a meager two.
Michael Scheu finished with a pair of goals for the River Hawks who are now 6-2-2 in their last ten games.
With the tie, Vermont is now 8-0-3 in their last 11 games at Gutterson Fieldhouse. They are 9-2-4 overall at home and have not lost since Nov. 14 when then No. 7 Northeastern upended the Catamounts 5-3.