BURLINGTON, Vt. - Matt Willows' power play goal early in the third period held up as the game-winner as Vermont's comeback effort fell short in a 4-3 Hockey East loss to No. 5 New Hampshire on Friday night at Gutterson Fieldhouse. The Catamounts snap their three-game winning streak and fall to 10-15-4 (7-11-4 HEA), while the Wildcats improve to 17-8-4 (12-7-3 HEA).
"The fourth goal was probably the tough one. I thought we did a great job of coming out in the third period and putting pressure on them," said head Kevin Sneddon. "Our guys showed great resilience. They played extremely hard and had some good looks 6-on-5 at the end of the game. We just couldn't find the equalizer."
The Catamounts opened the scoring less than two minutes into the night as Robert Polesello fed Matt White down the left wing boards. White fired a slap shot that was kicked out into the slot by the left pad of Casey DeSmith, but H.T. Lenz was waiting to bury the loose puck at 1:52.
UNH answered with less than a minute left in the period when Trevor van Riemsdyk wristed a shot toward goal from the left point. The rebound found Austin Block on the right doorstep and he whipped the puck into the empty net as Brody Hoffman couldn't get back in position.
New Hampshire seized control in the second period and took a 3-1 advantage with a pair of power play tallies. John Henrion's wrist shot from the top of the left circle was tipped home by Dalton Speelman at 8:43 to put the Wildcats in the lead for the first time. Block then added his second on a partial breakaway at 16:23 as he beat Hoffman low glove side.
UVM cut the lead down to one 55 seconds into the final frame on an individual effort from Nick Bruneteau. The junior slapped the puck away from a New Hampshire forward at the point in his own zone and skated in on a 3-on-1. Bruneteau delayed at the left doorstep and slipped a quick low shot short side on DeSmith.
Less than five minutes later, Willows netted the difference-making goal as UNH went on its sixth power play of the night. Van Riemsdyk slid a pass through the left circle for Willows, who quickly snuck a backhander under Hoffman's pads at 5:18 to restore the two-goal advantage.
Vermont made things interesting once again with exactly nine minutes to go. Brett Bruneteau started a strong cycle shift in the offensive zone before Michael Paliotta's shot was blocked. Jonathan Turk picked up the loose puck and curled around the right circle before firing a shot over DeSmith's left shoulder into the upper corner.
Sneddon called timeout with 1:02 left in the game and pulled Hoffman for the extra skater, but UNH blocked several shots in front of DeSmith to preserve the win. Hoffman stopped 19 shots in a losing effort, while DeSmith made 11 saves to grab his 16th victory for the Wildcats.
The Catamounts will host "Gold Out The Gut" tomorrow as the schools conclude their two-game series at Gutterson Fieldhouse in an early 4 p.m. start. All fans are encouraged to wear gold to the game and cheer on the Cats in front of a national TV audience on CBS Sports Network. Pre-game radio coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. on WVMT 620-AM and SportsJuice.com.
"GOLD OUT THE GUT" (SATURDAY, 4 P.M.) | Gold Out The Gut
Vermont Athletics is holding a Twitter photo contest for fans with the best gold attire on Saturday. The winner will receive an instant seat upgrade for two rinkside seats as part of the Cabot Mooooooving on Up Seat Upgrade. To enter, tweet a photo in your best gold attire and add the hashtag #GoldOutTheGut. Entries will be accepted until 3:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
NOTES: Entering the night, Vermont and New Hampshire had met exactly 100 times in the all-time series, which dates back to 1963 ... Nick Bruneteau scored his second goal of the season while skating in his 99th career game on Friday and is scheduled to hit the century mark tomorrow ... H.T. Lenz has netted four goals in his career against UNH at Gutterson Fieldhouse ... The Catamounts held New Hampshire to nine shots on goal in the first and third periods combined.