DURHAM, N.H. — Vermont proceeds to the TD Garden. New Hampshire must wait and hope.
In a game filled with ironies, Vermont defeated UNH 1-0 on a Jay Anctil shot at 15:52 of overtime, giving the Catamounts back-to-back 1-0 wins after losing the series opener 7-4. They move on to the Hockey East semifinals at the Garden, where they will play Boston College.
Vermont outshot the top-seeded Wildcats 41-22 through regulation, but couldn’t get a puck past Brian Foster until the overtime, a period in which UNH had most of the best chances.
Rob Madore, who got yanked from the first game after surrendering six goals on just 21 shots, rebounded to shut out the Wildcats over the next two-plus games, totaling 135:52.
“It’s very nice to win and to be able to come back and have two solid performances after costing the team the first night,” Madore said. “That was as much of an offensive shutout as I’ve ever seen. The forwards were blocking shots and we just out-muscled them in their defensive zone and they couldn’t handle us down low. When they don’t have the puck they can’t score.”
Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon had been surprisingly blunt in calling out Madore after the first game, but the tactic paid handsome dividends.
“I was pretty hard on our goaltender to spark him,” Sneddon said. “He certainly rose to the occasion. He was the difference, especially in overtime tonight.
“There were a couple of saves he made in overtime that I’m not sure how he did it. My shoulders started to drop because I thought we were done.”
Sneddon also echoed Madore’s praise of the Catamounts team defense.
“I’m not sure how we did it, but to keep that team off the scoreboard for six-plus periods is a testament to our defense, because they’re as good a team as we’ve played all year,” he said.
Anctil, a New Hampshire native, capitalized on a UNH defensive zone turnover coupled with a fortunate bounce off the boards to circle into the slot and rip a shot into the top of the net.
“I’d be lying if I say it didn’t mean a lot,” Anctil said. “I grew up coming to UNH games being a New Hampshire boy. It means a lot. Every time I see New Hampshire on the schedule, I get pretty jacked up.”
UNH goaltender Brian Foster finished with 50 saves, a career high.
New Hampshire, the league’s regular season champion, must now wait to see whether its year is over. The Wildcats entered the evening 11th in the PairWise Rankings, but fell to 15th with the loss and thus needs help to make the NCAA tournament.
“There’s a possibility [that our season is over] because we’re not playing anymore [until the selections are made],” UNH coach Dick Umile said. “We can’t control it. We’ll have to hang around for a couple days and wait for next Sunday. We’ll practice with the hope that we’ll play.”
UNH had not lost a Hockey East game at home all year, but lost two in a row at the worst of all times.
“We had our chances to win it in the overtime,” Umile said. “It was our best period by far tonight. It’s a tough one to take.”
The game opened with both teams intent on avoiding mistakes and minimizing scoring chances. After 11 minutes, they had totaled only five shots between them, the only one of significance being Patrick Cullity’s partial breakaway while short-handed after picking Phil DeSimone’s pocket at the right point.
The next big chance, ironically enough, came also while short-handed, this time to UNH. A fortuitous bounce off boards gave Peter Leblanc and Mike Sislo a two-on-one, but Sislo couldn’t control a nice setup pass, taking away the angle while allowing Rob Madore time to react.
Minutes later, DeSimone slickly cut through the Vermont defense, forcing a nice Madore save. Seconds later, he had to make another on a Bobby Butler shot from 10 feet out.
Although the period ended with Vermont holding an 11-8 shot advantage, UNH had generated the best opportunities.
The same did not hold for the second period. The Catamounts once again outshot UNH, this time 14-5, but this time got the best of it, with virtually all of the quality chances, albeit without scoring.
In the opening minute, while playing four-on-four, Brian Roloff forced a nice Foster save on a shot from the slot.
Although UNH defenseman Connor Hardowa countered with a shot from the right point that clanged iron, the rest of the grade ‘A’ chances went Vermont’s way.
Chris MCarthy walked out from the left corner, forcing a big Foster save on the doorstep. Then Sebastian Stalberg got off a clean shot from the slot, followed later by another off Kyle Medvec’s stick.
Once again, the period ended scoreless but this time with an ominous momentum trending for UNH, especially since it would open the third period with a penalty to kill.
The Wildcats, however, came back more strongly in the third period, especially midway through the period when they generated a flurry of shots, finally getting a shockingly docile crowd of 2,531 on their feet and making noise.
Bobby Butler, Mike Sislo, and Paul Thompson created the best chances but to no avail.
In the overtime, Madore stopped Peter Leblanc and Butler on the doorstep, then made a great glove save on DeSimone. For a time, the overtime was all UNH — except for Madore — until Foster stopped a big chance by Vermont’s Josh Burrows.
In the end, though, it came down to Anctil’s shot from the slot to send Vermont on to the Garden.