BURLINGTON, Vt. - Kyle Reynolds netted a pair of goals for the second time in three games and Brody Hoffman made 19 saves for his second career shutout as Vermont picked up a 3-0 Hockey East victory over Maine on Saturday night at Gutterson Fieldhouse. The Catamounts improve to 8-14-4 (5-10-4 HEA) with the win, while the Black Bears fall to 8-15-5 (4-10-5 HEA).
Vermont snapped Maine's four-game unbeaten streak with the shutout and clinched the regular season series with the Black Bears, taking five of a possible six points in three meetings. With eight games remaining, the Catamounts take over the league's eighth and final playoff spot by one point over Maine and earn the tiebreaker by winning the season series.
"This is definitely our biggest win of the season. We just won a series against Maine (2-0-1), which is the first tiebreaker," said Reynolds. "We just did the little things, out-hit them, out-blocked them, out-chanced them. You've got to give a lot of credit to Hoffman. He kept us in the game. If they score in the first 10 minutes, it's a whole different game."
Maine had the first 10 shots of the game but Hoffman kept the game scoreless in the early stages of the contest. The Catamounts used the momentum from a penalty kill to close the first period with the final seven shots, but they couldn't solve Black Bear goalie Martin Ouellette. UVM dominated the second, out-shooting Maine 14-1 in the frame, and took the lead with less than a minute to go. Caylen Walls sent a puck into the right wing corner of the Maine zone for a potential icing whistle, but Chris McCarthy skated in to break up the call. The junior quickly centered a pass to Reynolds at the top of the crease, and the sophomore stuffed it past Ouellette at 19:12 to open the scoring. Walls picked up his first career assist with the secondary helper.
Less than thirty seconds into the third, Reynolds nearly made it 2-0 but hit the left post on a partial breakaway. He wouldn't be denied again at the 3:58 mark as Walls lobbed the puck down the left wing boards. Reynolds toe-dragged inside a Maine defenseman onto his backhand in the slot and buried a shot through Ouellette's five hole for his second of the night.
"Kyle was sensational tonight. We had a total effort," said head coach Kevin Sneddon. "Brody early on for us and then Kyle was the difference maker for us. He was one of the best players on the ice if not the best."
Vermont went on a power play less than five minutes later and added to its advantage. Ouellette tried to clear the puck with a pass near the right post, but it deflected to McCarthy in the low slot. The junior waited patiently, deked to his backhand, and lifted a shot past a sprawling Ouellette at the 8:30 mark.
The Catamounts killed off two separate 5-on-3's for roughly two minutes combined shortly after as McCarthy and Nick Bruneteau each blocked several shots. UVM shut down the Black Bears in the final minutes and sealed the victory, finishing the night 4-4 on the penalty kill. The final shots were 32-19 Vermont, including a 32-9 edge to close the night.
"Maine's got a lot of confidence right now and they poured it on trying to get the first goal and I think the turning point was the first kill," said Sneddon. "We seemed to get better after that penalty kill. It inspired us all night, that double 5-on-3 we killed in the third, guys blocking shots, doing whatever it takes to win the hockey game."
Vermont travels to Boston next weekend to face Northeastern at Matthews Arena on Friday (Feb. 15) and Saturday (Feb. 16) at 7 p.m. The Catamounts beat the Huskies 3-2 at Gutterson Fieldhouse on Sunday, Nov. 18 for their second Hockey East win of the season. Pre-game radio coverage begins each night at 6:30 p.m. on WVMT 620-AM and SportsJuice.com with Alastair Ingram on the call.
NOTES: Saturday marked the 40th all-time meeting in men's hockey between Vermont and Maine in a series that dates back to 1979 ... The Catamounts took the season series from Maine for the first time since 2009 ... UVM's penalty kill has been successful on 21 of the last 23 power plays it has faced and has killed off 14 straight ... Reynolds has six goals in his last six games, including the second and third multi-goal games of his career ... McCarthy posted a three-point night with a goal and two assists ... Walls collected the first multi-point game of his career with a pair of assists ... Hoffman's other shutout this year came on Nov. 3 against Providence at Gutterson ... From the midway point of the first period to the end of the second, UVM out-shot Maine 21-1.