BURLINGTON, Vt. - Freshman Stephane Da Costa scored the game-winning goal with 1:29 left in the third period to lead Merrimack to a 3-2 come-from-behind victory against No. 17 Vermont at a sold out Gutterson Fieldhouse in Hockey East action on Saturday night. The Warriors scored two goals just 19 seconds apart in the final 2 minutes to earn the victory.
"We lost as a team in a very heartbreaking way," Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon said. "I'm just disappointed that two games in a row we just couldn't close it out."
Vermont (13-10-5, 7-9-5 HEA), who also lost the lead in the third period in Friday's 2-2 tie against Merrimack (11-15-1, 7-11-1 HEA), got a season high 42 saves from sophomore Rob Madore (Pittsburgh, Pa.). Juniors Jack Downing (New Canaan, Conn.) and Kyle Medvec (Burnsville, Minn.) each had power-play goals for the Catamounts.
Vermont took a 2-1 lead at 4:46 of the final period on Medvec's fifth goal of the season. With the Catamounts on the power play, Medvec sent a shot from the high slot through traffic past Merrimack goalie Joe Cannata (18 saves). Junior Dan Lawson (Oak Forest, Ill.) and freshman Chris McCarthy (Collegeville, Pa.) both assisted.
Trailing by a goal with less than 2 minutes left, the Warriors pulled Cannata for an extra skater on an offensive zone face off. After a time out by both teams, sophomore Jesse Todd found a loose puck at the bottom of the right circle off the draw and sent a high shot past Madore to tie the game at two with 1:48 left.
Then off the ensuing face off Da Costa maneuvered straight down the Vermont slot and stuffed the puck inside the right post for the dramatic game-winning goal. It was the 13th tally of the season for the nation's leading rookie scorer.
"We weren't able to get it done," Vermont co-captain Brian Roloff said. "It just kind of took us by surprise."
Sophomore Jeff Velleca gave Merrimack a 1-0 lead 29 seconds into the second period before Downing answered with a power-play goal at 5:21 to tie the score at one. Downing's goal was his ninth of the season.
Medvec gave Vermont the lead early in the final period but the Warriors out shot the Catamounts 21-6 in the third and rallied for the win. Vermont finished 2-for-3 on the power play while Merrimack was 0-for-3. The Warriors out shot the Catamounts 45-20.
Vermont returns to action next Friday (Feb. 19) and Saturday (Feb. 20) against Hockey East leading New Hampshire at the Whittemore Center. Friday's game is a 7:30 p.m. start and will be televised on NESN. Saturday's game is a 7 p.m. start.
NOTES: Check back to www.UVMathletics.com for game highlights and postgame comments from Brian Roloff ... Merrimack won the season series against Vermont 2-0-1 ... The win was the first on the road for the Warriors this season ... David Pacan had a team-high four shots for Vermont ... The Catamounts dropped to 6-2-2 in the second game of a two-game weekend this season.