VERMONT HOLDS OFF UMASS LOWELL TO SPLIT WEEKEND, 3-2
Freshman forward Mario Puskarich scores game-winning goal for Catamounts
BURLINGTON, Vt. - 7th-ranked Vermont skated past seventh-ranked UMass Lowell 3-2 on Saturday in the Hockey East regular season finale on Senior Night at Gutterson Fieldhouse. The Catamounts close the season at 18-12-3 (10-10-0 HEA), while the River Hawks fall to 21-9-4 (11-6-3 HEA).
Vermont earns the seven-seed in Hockey East and will host 10-seed Massachusetts at Gutterson Fieldhouse next Friday (Mar. 7) at 7:05 p.m. in the first round of the playoffs. The Catamounts will be hosting a home postseason game for the first time since 2009. Ticket information for the playoff matchup with Massachusetts will be released on Sunday (Mar. 3) at UVMathletics.com.
Before the game, Vermont hosted its annual Senior Night ceremony to honor its senior class of Connor Brickley, Nick Bruneteau, Anthony DeCenzo, H.T. Lenz, Pete Massar, Chris McCarthy, and Matt White, along with assistant director of hockey operations, Ryan Jordan. The class has combined to skate in more than 800 career games for the Catamounts.
"We played hard for 60 minutes tonight, physical; it was a grind. They're (UMass Lowell) an excellent team and we feel fortunate to come out with the win," said head coach Kevin Sneddon.
The Catamounts jumped out to a 1-0 lead just under nine minutes into the contest. Connor Brickley pushed the puck into space along the boards where Anthony DeCenzo gained control at the right circle. DeCenzo skated towards the net and dished the puck to the top of the crease where Brickley one-timed it past goalie Connor Hellebuyck's right pad. Nick Luuko picked up the other assist on the tally.
Vermont extended its lead to 2-0 just five seconds later, with the quickest back-to-back goals in program history, breaking a record set back in 1968 by Jack Semler, who scored two goals in a span of eight seconds. Chris McCarthy won the faceoff clean to his left to Brendan Bradley. Bradley slid a pass back to Rob Hamilton, who sent a cross-ice pass to Michael Paliotta. Paliotta skated towards the center ice line near the boards and fired a wrist shot that beat Hellebuyck blocker side. Hamilton and Bradley picked up assists on the play.
UMass Lowell got on the board early in the second period on a powerplay opportunity. The Riverhawks cycled the puck in the zone and got it to Michael Kapla at the right point. He sent a cross-ice feed to Derek Arnold at the top of the left circle, and Arnold got off a slapshot that beat Brody Hoffman, who was partially screened. Kapla and Ryan McGrath were credited with assists on the goal, as UMass Lowell cut its deficit to 2-1.
A little over three minutes later, A.J. White tied the game, 2-2, off a feed from Michael Colantone. Colantone gained control of the puck after a rebound and made a pass off the boards around a UVM defenseman. White skated onto the puck and pushed it into the upper left corner, beating Hoffman blocker side to even the game.
The Catamounts regained the lead a little over a minute later with a goal from Mario Puskarich. The freshman gained control of the puck down low in the offensive zone and skated between the faceoff cirlces. Puskarich fired a wrist shot just under Hellebuyck's glove inside the right post to give UVM a 3-2 lead. Caylen Walls and McCarthy picked up assists on the goal, which proved to be the game winner.
The Riverhawks' best chance to tie things up came early in the third period. At the conclusion of their powerplay, UMass Lowell kept the puck in the zone and had a flurry of close shots, including two from the left side of the crease from White. Hoffman kept the Riverhawks off the board, as UVM held onto their one-goal advantage.
UMass Lowell pulled their goalie late in the third for an extra skater, but couldn't find the back of the net, as Vermont closed out the 3-2 victory in the regular season finale.
Friday's Hockey East First Round playoff game between Vermont and Massachusetts can be heard live on WVMT 620-AM and SportsJuice.com beginning at 6:30 p.m. with Alastair Ingram on the call. Live high definition video is also available for free via CatamounTV.com.