LOWELL, Mass. - The No. 8 ranked UMass Lowell hockey team fell in overtime to No. 15 Vermont on Saturday night at the Tsongas Center in front of a crowd of 4,017 fans.
Freshman forward Mario Puskarich scored the game-winner for the Catamounts 5:36 into the extra frame to force a Game 3 in the Hockey East quarterfinal series on Sunday afternoon (4:30pm) at the Tsongas Center.
With the loss, UMass Lowell drops to 22-10-4 overall on the season, while Vermont upped its overall record to 20-13-3.
The game marked the eighth overtime Hockey East playoff game in team history, which includes seven contests in the quarterfinal round.
Vermont's Brendan Bradley gave the 'Cats a 2-1 lead just 5:53 into the period, but UMass Lowell struck back to tied the game on a goal by junior forward Scott Wilson (Oakville, Ont.) just 1:44 later. He got the puck from Joe Gambardella (Staten Island, N.Y.) has he dove at center ice to get the puck to Wilson on a breakaway beating Hoffman low glove side for his seventh tally of the season for the River Hawks. Wilson notched a game-high six shots on net for the River Hawks.
Senior forward Joseph Pendenza (Wilmington, Mass.) broke a 10-game goal scoring drought for his 13th of the season at 8:43 in the second period to knot the game at 1-1 for the River Hawks. He won the faceoff back to senior forward Derek Arnold (Foxboro, Mass.) and his slapshot left a rebound out to the left side and Pendenza put the puck home beating Hoffman low blocker side.
Sophomore forward Ryan McGrath (O'Fallon, Mo.) had a great wrap around backhanded bid for the River Hawks at 5:20 of the second period but Hoffman was there to make the save.
The Catamounts took a 1-0 lead into the locker room scoring with 1:07 left in the first period on Jonathan Turk's third goal of the season, scoring on a wrist shot from the left faceoff dot, beating sophomore goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (Commerce, Mich.) by his right pad after deflecting off Jake Suter's (Lac du Flambeau, Wis.) left skate. UMass Lowell owned an 11-7 shot advantage in the opening frame.
Hellebuyck made 22 stops in his 24th start of the season for the River Hawks. He has now started 10 of the last 11 games for UMass Lowell. Hoffman registered 36 saves for Vermont in his 10th victory of the season. The River Hawks outshot Vermont, 38-25, in the game, including a 11-5 advantage in the second period.
The No. 2 seeded River Hawks will return for Game 3 against the No. 7 seeded Catamounts on Sunday, March 16 at 4:30pm from the Tsongas Center. The game will be streamed live at www.hockeyeastonline.tv. The winner of Game 3 will advance to the Hockey East semifinals next Friday, March 21st at the TD Garden in Boston. Game times of the two semifinals are 5 and 8pm.