Orono, Maine -- It wasn't the prettiest game for either team, but three goals in the second period helped salvage a weekend split for Vermont. The Catamounts survived a late Maine rally to hang on for a 4-3 victory.
"I liked the way our team competed for most of the night. I give a lot of credit to our guys for building a 4-1 lead after going down 1-0," said UVM head coach Kevin Sneddon.
Maine head coach Red Gendron was displeased with the complacency and lack of urgency his team displayed Saturday night. "You can't win if you don't play for 60 minutes."
Maine took a 1-0 lead with a power play tally by freshman Eric Schurhamer at the 8:14 mark of the second period. The St. Paul, Minn. native took a wrist shot that cleanly beat Vermont goaltender Michael Santaguida who was screened on the play.
"I got the puck off the boards, walked to the middle, looked up and saw I had a clear lane to the net. I shot and hoped for the best," said Schurhamer of his first collegiate goal.
The Black Bears fell into complacency after taking the lead, according to Gendron. "We thought we had it won. That's how we played for the rest of the second period, and that's essentially how the game was lost.
It took Vermont less than a minute to respond to the Maine goal. Freshman Chris Muscoby picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and carried it over the Maine blue line. His pass attempt deflected off Maine defenseman Bill Norman's stick and into the back of the net past Martin Ouellette.
It was the first collegiate goal for Muscoby who was playing in just his second game of the season after being a healthy scratch the last four games.
Just a few minutes after the Catamounts tied it, they took the lead on a power play tally of their own. Another freshman, Brady Shaw, scored his first collegiate goal. Robert Polesello and Mike Stenerson assisted on the goal coming at the 11:49 mark of the second stanza.
If all the momentum wasn't clearly headed Vermont's way already, the Catamounts extended their lead to two with 43 seconds to play in the second. Rookie Mario Puskarich picked up the puck along the end boards and skated out in front. When Ouellette tried to pokecheck the puck away from him he made a quick move around the goalie's stick and stuck the puck in the five-hole.
Sneddon emphasized how big the goal was to give his team an extra cushion, but also for how demoralizing it can be for a team to give up a goal late in period. "It was a big time goal. Puskarich has an unbelievable stick. It was a nice strong move coming off the line and tucking it like he did."
All three Vermont goals in the second period were scored by freshmen. "Looking at the sheet here, our goals are freshman, freshman, freshman," said Sneddon who seemed to put the majority of the blame on his upperclassmen when things went wrong on the weekend.
Chris McCarthy sent the home fans to the exits when he picked off a puck at his defensive blue line and raced the other way in on Ouellette. Instead of trying to be fancy or make a slick move, the senior from Collegeville, Pa. rifled a wrist shot that beat Ouellette on his blocker side.
The goal gave Vermont a 4-1 lead with 11:15 to play in the third period, but Maine was intent on making it interesting. Mark Anthoine cut the lead to two with 7:05 to play in the game. He took a nice feed from Stu Higgins and quickly wristed it past Santaguida.
Freshman Blaine Byron's goal with 1:58 left in the game sent the Alfond Arena crowd into an absolute frenzy. A nice passing sequence involving Bill Norman and Cam Brown left the puck on Byron's stick. The Pittsburgh Penguins prospect deposited the puck into the net to give Maine one last-ditch effort to tie the game.
The Black Bears had a few near misses, but couldn't complete the comeback. "In the third period we played our tails off, but it wasn't enough," said Gendron.
Sneddon was none too pleased with his how team handled the large lead in the third period. "I didn't like how we played in the third period. It wasn't our young guys. It was our seniors taking bad penalties or coughing up the puck and just not getting the job done.
"It's disappointing. We already had some seniors out of the lineup from last night. Tonight we didn't do a good job at the end. We needed the leadership to step up and calm us down, but we just didn't have it," opined Sneddon. "We're lucky to come away with the win," he added.
Gendron felt that his team could have won the game, but it took too long to put the afterburners on. "We needed to push back in the second period. If we had pushed back in the second we might have won this game, but we waited too late."
The loss was the first of the season at Alfond Arena. "I'm angry and the people in our room are deeply disappointed. We let one get away," said Gendron.
One of the major factors in the game each night was the battle for loose pucks. Maine certainly had the edge Friday night and in the first period on Saturday, but Vermont took over for much of the second period.
Sneddon believed it was some game film from Friday night that motivated his team. "You show the video of the first period [Friday] over and over again. Our guys were tired of seeing us lose one-on-one battles over and over. That was a point of emphasis tonight."
Vermont improves to 3-3-1 on the season, and will host Providence for a pair next weekend while Maine falls to 4-4-1. The Black Bears will host Boston University for a single game next Friday night.