For a while, it looked like one of those games for No. 13 Vermont. Down 2-1, chance after chance at the Massachusetts goal, but each shot skipped wide or found blocker instead of twine.
With 58 seconds remaining, Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon called freshman goaltender Rob Madore off the ice. Before he could reach the bench the game was tied.
Junior Viktor Stalberg tied the game at two with 56 seconds left in regulation, and senior Peter Lenes scored with 23 seconds remaining in overtime for the 3-2 win.
“Making it 2-1 was huge, but we had trouble creating offense until the last minute of the game,” Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said. “I was really pleased with our guys. In overtime we talked about not being tired after our ninth period of hockey in four days. I thought our guys did a really nice job of playing to win.”
The win for UVM was its fourth consecutive and moved it into a second-place with tie No. 5 Boston College in the Hockey East standings; the teams trail No. 4 Northeastern by four points.
The game was the second consecutive decided in the final minute of overtime for the Minutemen who defeated Boston College, 4-3, last Saturday in Amherst.
“The whole night feels like a wasted opportunity, it would have been a stolen opportunity had we won the game,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said. “We didn’t play well enough to win. We weren’t thorough enough at the end [of the game] to take care of business.”
On the tying goal, Drew MacKenzie, in the left face-off circle, fired a pass across the slot to defenseman Lenes who one-timed the shot past UMass goaltender Dan Meyers, glove side. No UMass defender pressured Lenes or stood within distance of even blocking the shot.
“The ultimate insult to all that we do is we just broke down positionaly, and started running around like a pee-wee team,” Cahoon said. “The positional breakdowns allowed [Vermont] two golden opportunities, that gave them the tying goal and the winning goal. Veterans, who have done a lot of good things in this program over the last few years, were involved in those breakdowns.”
Both Stalberg’s and Lenes’ goals came at the end of prolonged UVM possessions in the UMass zone. The Catamounts controlled play for most of the third period after struggling to find their rhythm in the first two. After outshooting UVM, 17-15, through two periods, the Minutemen struggled to create much offense after taking a 2-0 lead early in the second period.
UVM’s trap kept the Minutemen bottled in for most of the game, offsetting the advantage UMass gains on the Mullins Center’s larger ice surface. Only during its man advantage did UMass find consistent offense.
“Kudos to Vermont coaching staff for setting their trap the way they did,” Cahoon said. “We didn’t solve it as a coaching staff, so we were outcoached on that front.
“They play a very interesting trap and we couldn’t solve it. Speed didn’t solve it, battle level didn’t solve it, decision making didn’t solve it.”
The Minutemen converted on both of their power plays Tuesday; snapping an 0-for-19 streak dating back to a 5-1 win over Providence on Nov. 1. Even without triggerman Alex Berry (undisclosed injury), the UMass man advantage provided its only offense.
UVM freshman goaltender Rob Madore improved to 4-1-1 with the win. The Minutemen didn’t test him much after the first period, but another goal could have clinched for the Minutemen given UVM’s defense-first style.
“He got tested early on. I thought he made some great saves,” Sneddon said. “Our penalty killers did not do a good job tonight, I can’t fault him for those goals. I don’t know how much he was tested in the latter part of the game.
“He kept us in [the game] early on.”
Madore finished with 23 saves. His counterpart, Dan Meyers (2-3-1) made 28 saves in the loss. For the second consecutive game, Meyers played well enough to lead his to victory but received little support from his offense.
UMass takes on St. Lawrence Friday night in Amherst. Tuesday’s loss was its last Hockey East game until Jan. 9 against New Hampshire.
“Last Hockey East game until January, the whole night was a missed opportunity,” Cahoon said.