Men’s Hockey: Catamounts Move Into Friendship Four Final With 4-2 Over UMass

Courtesy Vermont Sports Information

BELFAST, Northern Ireland – Down 2-0 to UMass within the first four minutes on Friday afternoon, 20th-ranked Vermont stormed back with four unanswered goals to beat the Minutemen 4-2 in Hockey East play for a spot in the Friendship Four Championship Game.

UVM will play third-ranked Quinnipiac on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. (ET) for the Belpot trophy after the Bobcats beat No. 19 St. Lawrence in a shootout following a scoreless tie in the nightcap at SSE Arena.

Craig Puffer scored a pair of goals in the victory, including the important game-tying and game-winning tallies which both came on the power play. Rob Hamilton assisted on both of Puffer’s power play tallies. Vermont killed off all six UMass power plays on the night to push its consecutive kill streak to 31 in a row.

The Minutemen struck twice in the first three and a half minutes for a quick 2-0 lead. Griff Jeszka ripped a snap shot high blocker side to beat Stefanos Lekkas (33 saves) just 2:06 into the game, and defenseman Shane Bear converted a centering pass from Steven Iacobellis at 3:12 to double the lead.

The Catamounts finally drew one back near the midway point of the game when Brian Bowen andDerek Lodermeier exchanged quick passes in the high slot. Bowen send a feed through the circles for Lodermeier, who tipped the puck inside the left post to beat Ryan Wischow (30 saves).

UMass also took a hooking penalty on the play to put UVM on its second power play of the night. With nine seconds remaining on the man advantage, Hamilton back-pedaled to the center point to wrist a shot on target, and Puffer deflected the puck high glove side into the upper right corner.Ross Colton collected the second assist on the play.

The Cats took their first lead of the night at 3:46 of the third period as they earned a third power play chance. Hamilton’s right point shot was deflected at the near right post by Mario Puskarichacross the goal mouth, and Puffer was waiting at the back door to convert for his second goal of the night.

UMass pulled Wischow with under a minute remaining, and Lekkas made a trio of saves to preserve the one-goal cushion. With only seconds remaining on the clock, rookie Matt Alvaro sent a shot into the open UMass net from inside his own blue line to seal the win and pick up his second point of the night.

Vermont faces third-ranked Quinnipiac on Saturday (Nov. 26) at 2:30 p.m. (ET) in the Friendship Four Championship Game. Pre-game radio coverage begins 30 minutes prior to faceoff on WVMT 620-AM and Catamounts All-Access with Alastair Ingram on the call.

Saturday’s Championship Game in Northern Ireland will be televised live on NESN as part of an ASN production. The game will also be available online via ASN as well as TSN GO in Canada. Fans in the United Kingdom and Europe can watch the tournament online via the BBC.

Ri Ra Irish Pub and Restaurant on Church Street in downtown Burlington will be hosting the Official Watch Party of the 2016 Friendship Four. Ri Ra will show the consolation game at 11 a.m. and the title game live on Saturday afternoon. Fans can also enter a raffle to win free tickets, a jersey, and signed poster.