AMHERST, Mass. — As the old adage goes, hockey is a 60-minute game.
The University of Massachusetts took that to heart on Saturday night, capitalizing in both the first minute and last minute of a period in beating the University of Vermont, 3-1, at the Mullins Center, in front of a crowd of 6,421.
James Marcou, the nation’s leading point getter, and Casey Wellman, tied for the nation’s goal-scoring lead entering the game, each contributed two points in the win.
“For us, obviously, giving up a goal on the first shift of the game and then, I thought the real turning point was, obviously, giving up a goal with five seconds to go in the second period,” said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon.
Massachusetts did not extend a warm welcome to their guest. With just 21 seconds expired in the first period, on the first shot of the game, Marcou delivered an early lead for the home team. Skating just across the blue line, he used the Vermont defense to screen goaltender Rob Madore, sneaking a shot from the right side into the net for the 1-0 lead.
Motivated by the early strike, Massachusetts carried the play through the first half of the period, highlighted by their strong play killing off Vermont’s lone power play.
A defensive miscue turned the tide though, enabling the Catamounts to get back in the game. In the 12th minute, UMass coughed up the puck just inside their blue line, leading to a Jay Anctil goal. His shot, from the top of the slot, slipped through the pads of UMass netminder Paul Dainton and tied the game at 1-1.
The Hockey East foes traded chances in the final 90 seconds. UVM forward Wahsontiio Stacey blocked a shot at the point, springing a partial breakaway. His shot from the right side clanged off the crossbar.
Moments later, a crisp, cross-ice pass provided Marcou with an open lane; his slap shot was swallowed by Madore.
Vermont’s final opportunity of the period dribbled through a maze of legs in front of the goal, but did not cross the goal line.
The second period belonged to the Minutemen. Were it not for the play of Madore, UMass would have generated a commanding lead. The heaviest pressure came in the ninth minute, with a flurry of shots from all angles turned away by Madore and the defensive play of the Catamounts.
UMass outshot UVM 13-6 in the middle stanza.
The teams seemed headed to the locker rooms locked at 1-1 after the puck slid harmlessly through the Vermont crease with under a minute to play, but the Minutemen took advantage of a late Vermont line change, allowing Casey Wellmen to prove his scoring prowess.
The sophomore from California led the final charge, rushing into the attacking zone, and slid a shot low and hard that went in at 19:55.
Due to some strong goaltending by Dainton in the third period, it was a lead the Minutemen would not relinquish.
Midway through the frame, Chris McCarthy danced around the UMass defense but was stymied by Dainton. In the 16th minute, UVM generated more chances, including a puck that bounced through the crease. A minute later, McCarthy led another round of chances, but still could not tie the game.
With just over a minute left, Vermont pulled Madore for the extra attacker, but turned over the puck as he skated to the bench. UMass did not let the opportunity go to waste. Wellman closed the game, tipping a pass from Marcou into the empty net.
“The game was a difficult game as we expected it to be,” said Massachusetts coach Don ‘Toot’ Cahoon. “I, obviously, think that there was good goaltending at both ends and certainly Dainton gave us our good goaltending when we needed it. And Wellman and Marcou are two very special players that made big plays at big moments. And that, maybe, was the difference in the game.”
The two teams return to the Mullins Center for a matinee matchup on Sunday.