Catamounts prove they are legit, but is finishing a problem?

The Vermont Catamounts, the majority pick to finish among the bottom of Hockey East, proved this weekend they can play with the best, earning a split at home with No. 2 Notre Dame. But the Catamounts also showed that finishing a game is still a challenge, coming minutes away from a sweep of the Irish. That is the first of three things I learned this weekend:

1) Seven minutes from heaven

Vermont, a club I said in the preseason would be better than most predicted due to its mostly upperclassmen squad, showed signs of brilliance this weekend. In the end, the Cats earned a weekend sweep with a very good Notre Dame squad. But given the fact that Vermont owned a two-goal lead on Saturday, only to squander it late in the game and lose in regulation shows this team may need to learn a thing or two about finishing a game. And while Kevin Sneddon was disappointed that his team squandered a lead on Saturday, letting Notre Dame take a 3-2 advantage with less than six minutes remaining, his biggest concern was his team’s lack of response in the waning minutes of the game.

“Notre Dame got a tough, off-angle goal to tie it up, and out next shift out we just coughed up a really bad turnover,” said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. “From that point on we just didn’t have a response. We started to play as individuals. We played five periods and 13 minutes of pretty good hockey. It’s disappointing because we felt we could’ve come away with four points.”

2) Welcome back, River Hawks

A couple of weekends ago I was writing about Massachusetts-Lowell’s early season struggles after a two-game sweep at the hands of Quinnipiac led to a 1-3-0 start for the River Hawks. Since that time, Lowell has responded well. Four straight wins have this team playing with the confidence that a preseason No. 1 should. A major part of Lowell’s success in the last four games has been the power play. After beginning the season 1-for-25 with the man advantage, the River Hawks are 6-for-16 in their four wins and scored two power play goals, including the overtime game-winner, on Saturday to complete a weekend sweep of New Hampshire.

3) Providence response earns split with Terriers

When you spot the Providence Friars a 3-0 lead, the prospect of winning aren’t good. With sophomore Jon Gillies in net, the odds of scoring four goals simply isn’t strong. But Boston University proved that hypothesis wrong on Friday, scoring the final four goals of the games to earn a 4-3 win over the Friars.

Impressively, Providence responded the next night at home and earned a hard-fought 3-1 victory for a weekend split with the Terriers. In that game, Gillies made 28 saves and Ross Mauermann, currently second in the nation in scoring, scored twice in the third to break a 1-1 tie.

I’ll talk about this and more, including BC’s response after a tough weekend at Minnesota, in this week’s Hockey East notes column this Wednesday.