PROVIDENCE — Chris Rooney scored twice, including a tying goal with seven minutes left, to help the Providence Friars rally from two goals down to tie Vermont at Schneider Arena. Freshman Anthony DeCenzo and Connor Brickley both scored their first collegiate goals for Vermont.
“To come back in this league from 3-1 against a team as good as Vermont, you take the point,” said Providence head coach Tim Army. “Five-on-five we played pretty well. They scored two power-play goals but after that we got our legs. Towards the end of the first we started to push back and we came out and played real well in the third.”
Vermont was in desperate need of a win going into their Saturday night showdown with Providence College, a team that had not beaten them since 2008.
The Catamounts were winless in their first five games, their worst start in three seasons, entering the game. Vermont was 0-3-2, 0-2-1 in Hockey East, while the Friars were riding a three game unbeaten streak, 2-0-1.
Going into the third period, Vermont held a two goal lead but for the second night in a row gave up the lead when the Friars got a pair of goals from Rooney and Derek Army as the teams skated to a 3-3 tie.
“We were very frustrated,” said Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon. “When you have a two goal lead going into the third, you expect to win a hockey game. But to Providence’s credit they played very well in the third and didn’t get down about being down two goals.”
Capitalizing on power-play chances was the key to Vermont’s early success. The Catamounts scored on two straight opportunities, goals coming 29 seconds apart, to take the 2-0 lead in the first period. But went 0-for-5 the rest of the way.
The first marker came with 35 second left on their second man-advantage as Wahsonitiio Stacey wristed the puck past Alex Beaudry, who made 31 saves, from just inside the blue line to give the Catamounts the 1-0 lead.
DeCenzo tallied the second goal for Vermont as he stuffed home a loose puck in the crease for his first career point. The Friars had been called for interference immediately after the first goal which put Vermont back on the man advantage.
The Friars had chances to get back into the hockey game in the first frame with three power-plays but managed three shots and could not get a good offensive rhythm.
These opportunities included two separate 5-on-3 chances in which the Friars controlled the puck and had excellent rotation but could not find the twine as they went to the break down, 2-0.
The Friars frustration was attributed to Vermont’s physical play on the penalty kill. Which was most evident on the first Providence power-play when the Catamounts broke up Providence breakouts in the neutral zone and prevented the Friars from setting up in the offensive zone.
After going down 2-0 the Providence Friars turned up the pressure up on Vermont out shooting the Catamounts 24-19 through two periods and limiting their chances on offense despite the inefficiency of the power-play.
The Friars managed cut the lead in half, at 2-1, just 37 seconds into the second when a bouncing puck off the stick of Rooney found its way into the net. Tim Schaller took the initial shot that Rob Madore lost track of and Rooney, crashing the net, directed it into the goal.
Vermont retook a two goal lead when Brickley back-handed his first goal in a Catamount jersey past Beaudry after taking a pass from Kyle Medvec and captain Kevan Miller at 17:29 of the middle frame.
In the third, Army’s goal at 2:39 came on a rush into the Vermont zone by the Friar freshman. Rooney notched the tying marker after a Vermont player went down after a slap shot to the ankle giving the Friars a temporary advantage.
“The kids were poised,” said Army. “We talked about just getting one back and trying to bring it to one. The give us a chance to get the tying goal.”
Vermont’s late game struggles on the power-play was high-lighted by a missed chance following the Army goal after a pair of Providence penalties.
The 5-on-3 power-play that lasted 1:27 gave the Catamounts a chance to pull away from the Friars, but the Providence penalty kill did its job, keeping them in the game.
“We wanted to take advantage of that [5-on-3 power-play],” added Sneddon. “One if not two goals. But they kill it off and score shortly thereafter. It was a tough one to swallow.”
In overtime, Providence outshot Vermont 3-1. Both teams traded offensive rushes but no one could net the game winner. For Providence, the tie continued their unbeaten record at home this season. For Vermont, it was another missed chance to get into the win column for the first time.
“The strength of our character will get us through this tough stretch,” said Sneddon. “If we didn’t have the kind of character we have in our room guys would be questioning stuff. Every team goes through adversity. We’re just getting it out of the way early.”