Courtesy Vermont Sports Information
HARTFORD, CT. – Sophomore Rob Darrar batted a rebound out of mid-air in the second period for the eventual game-winner as 9-seed Vermont grinded out a 2-1 victory over 8-seed UConn in Game 1 of the Hockey East First Round at the XL Center on Friday night. The Catamounts improved to 13-20-3, while the Huskies dropped to 11-20-4.
Mike Santaguida stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced for the win in just his second appearance back from an 18-game injury absence.
Vermont took the lead just 1:28 into the night as Alexx Privitera‘s right point wrist shot beat Rob Nichols low through a screen. Trey Phillips and Craig Puffer collected the assists on the opening goal of the game.
UConn answered at the 13:45 mark as Spencer Naas broke up the ice on a 2-on-1. Naas deked inside the left faceoff dot to improve his shooting angle and wristed a shot under the armpit of Santaguida to knot the score.
Santaguida made his best save of the night during a UConn power play in the second period, flashing out his right pad to deny a point-blank chance on the doorstep.
The Catamounts killed off the remainder of the penalty and struck shortly after to recapture the lead. Kevin Irwin gained the UConn line down the left wing boards and dangled into the circle before firing a shot on target. Rob Nichols (34 saves) punched the save to the right side of his crease, and Darrar followed by whacking the puck out of the air into the back of the net at 13:42 for a 2-1 cushion.
UVM kept UConn at bay for the first half of the third period, limiting the Huskies in transition and keeping pucks in the offensive zone. Max Kalter nearly knotted the game from the left doorstep but grazed the crossbar after a stuff attempt from Karl El-Mir.
UConn called its timeout and pulled Nichols with 1:03 remaining in regulation, but Vermont kept the Huskies to the outside and held on to take Game 1.
The teams return to the XL Center on Saturday (March 5) at 7 p.m. for Game 2 of the best-of-three series. All the action will be streamed live on a pay-per-view basis at HockeyEastOnline.TV, and radio coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on WVMT 620-AM, SportsJuice.com, and the TuneIn app with Alastair Ingram and Jim Connelly on the call.