Courtesy Vermont Sports Information
BURLINGTON – Defenseman Trey Phillips broke a 1-1 tie with his first career goal midway through the third period and 13th-ranked Vermont swept Bentley with a 3-1 non-conference victory on New Year’s Eve at Gutterson Fieldhouse. Senior co-captain Mario Puskarich became the 43rd member of the program’s 100-point club with a third period assist.
The Catamounts improved to 12-6-2 (5-3-1 HEA) heading into 2017, while the Falcons dropped to 4-10-4 (3-6-3 AHA). UVM finished the night with a 46-18 edge in shots on goal and closed the weekend with more than 100 shots.
“I give a lot of credit to Bentley. They played extremely hard and they played aggressive,” said head coach Kevin Sneddon. “Those games can get extremely frustrating. We saw it in the second period. I think our guys were getting a little bit down, a little bit rattled and came out of our structure at times just trying to find a way to manufacture a goal. We just said stay positive, stick the course, good things are going to happen and we found a way to net two to get the job done.”
Vermont started the contest in similar fashion to Friday night’s 7-1 blowout, taking a 1-0 lead in the first period that carried into the locker room. Just under five minutes into the opening frame, Mike Lee fired a shot toward goal from the right point and Brady Shaw deflected the puck over Aidan Pelino’s blocker. The goal was Shaw’s second of the series and fourth in his last four games.
Eight minutes into the second period, Bentley tied the score on just its sixth shot of the game. Junior Kyle Schmidt skated along the right wing and unloaded a slapshot that beat Mike Santaguida (17 saves) low through the five hole. Andrew McDonald recorded the lone assist on the play.
The Catamounts dominated the Falcons with a 25-5 shot advantage during the second period, setting a new season-high for shots in a period, but the teams entered the third deadlocked at one.
UVM regained the lead at 9:57 of the final frame when Phillips cashed in for his first career tally. The junior controlled a pass from Jarrid Privitera and took a shot from the low left slot that found its way under Polino’s legs, trickling over the goal line for the eventual game-winner.
Vermont doubled its lead on an insurance goal with just 1:24 remaining. The Catamounts put two shots on target, and Privitera found the loose puck at the left doorstep to pick up his fifth of the year. Assists on the play went to Craig Puffer and Puskarich, who recorded his 100th career point on the game’s final goal. Privitera closed the series with four points.
“It’s a relief. It’s something that’s been talked about the last couple of weeks. It’s nice to finally reach it and look past it,” said Puskarich. “I’ve been fortunate to play with some great linemates who made my job a lot easier the past four years. As much as it is an individual award, the credit really goes to those guys.”
UVM continues a stretch of four games in nine days next Tuesday (Jan. 3) when it hosts former ECAC rival St. Lawrence at Gutterson. The Catamounts then close their eight-game homestand on Saturday (Jan. 7) as they return to Hockey East play against Northeastern at 7:05 p.m.