MINNEAPOLIS — In the aftermath of Friday night’s season-opening 6-0 blowout loss to Minnesota, Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon did not mince words when evaluating his team’s play.
Sneddon admonished his team saying his “go-to players didn’t show up” and went so far as to say those players, including starting goaltender Rob Madore, were “detrimental” to the team in the loss.
Two days later, Sneddon’s tune changed quite dramatically after the Catamounts (1-1-0) rebounded for a 5-4 win over the No. 8 Gophers (5-1-0) to split the non-conference series in Vermont’s 700th win in school history.
Sebastian Stalberg and Connor Brickley each scored twice and Chris McCarthy lent three points (goal, two assists) to an effort which saw the Catamounts score three times in the final five minutes of the second period to erase a 3-1 Minnesota lead.
“They answered,” said Sneddon of his players’ response to Friday’s loss. “Our guys did a good job of processing what we needed to do to be better and they took full advantage of that opportunity to learn.
“When you get beat up pretty good one night and you can respond the next night, I think that’s a good sign for your hockey team.”
After surrendering five goals on 19 shots in the series opener, Madore bounced back with a 31-save performance and shut down the Gophers when it counted after the Catamounts secured the lead.
Erik Haula’s three assists for the Gophers earned him a share of the nation’s scoring lead with 14 points (5-9-14) while defenseman Nate Schmidt added a goal and two assists for Minnesota.
Playing a physical, in-your-face brand of hockey, Vermont clearly was intent upon getting under Minnesota’s skin. The Catamounts executed the plan effectively as the Gophers repeatedly lost their composure on the way to committing 11 penalties leading to two goals on seven Vermont power-play opportunities.
“I think they knew they had to play a different style,” said Minnesota captain Taylor Matson. “They had a lot more energy tonight. I think we played our whole second period on the penalty kill, so it’s kind of hard to get a lot of offense.”
Minnesota led 1-0 late in the first period when Vermont appeared to have tied the game on a goal by Brickley at 18:49. After review, it was ruled Brickley intentionally directed the puck with his skate past Kent Patterson and Minnesota carried the one-goal lead into the second.
But just 4:07 into the middle period, Brickley one-timed a Matt White pass and beat Patterson up high to knot the game, 1-1.
Patterson finished with 20 saves.
“We relied a little bit too much on Kent,” said Schmidt. “He made a lot of big saves that I don’t think he that should have had to make.”
After three shutouts to start the season at Mariucci Arena, Brickley’s goal was the first allowed by Patterson and the Gophers this season at home and ended a shutout streak of 210:44 dating back to last season.
Prior to Brickley, Mickey Spencer of Alaska-Anchorage was the last opponent to score a goal at Mariucci when he tallied at 13:24 of the third period of UAA’s WCHA first-round playoff win over Minnesota on March 12.
Minnesota wasted no time responding to the streak’s end as Jake Hansen scored just 12 seconds later and Schmidt’s deflected shot got through Madore just 1:07 after Hansen’s goal. But goals by Brickley, McCarthy, and Stalberg just 3:05 apart in the period’s final five minutes gave Vermont a one-goal lead at the second intermission.
“I think they played with our pace rather than us playing with (their pace) last game,” said Brickley. “And it doesn’t hurt to put the puck in the net for once, too.”
Stalberg’s goal off the crossbar at 7:07 of the final period became the eventual game winner after Minnesota’s Kyle Rau scored a power-play goal, his sixth goal of the season, midway through the third.
“We had to turn the page quickly, you know, you can’t sit there and lick your wounds,” said Sneddon. “I really feel like, in college hockey, the quicker you can put away the tough defeats and get back to work the better off you’re going to be.”
“We’re a good team,” said Brickley. “You’ve got to give credit to our guys, it showed the character and resilience we have.”
The Gophers resume WCHA play Oct. 28-29 when they travel to Anchorage to face the Seawolves, who are undefeated in four games in Alaska this season. Both games are scheduled for 10 p.m. CT starts. The Hockey East schedule begins for Vermont Oct. 28-29 when the Catamounts host Merrimack at Gutterson Fieldhouse in a pair of 7:05 p .m. ET games.