Men’s Hockey: Vermont Storms Back to Take 4-2 Win Over RPI and Claims 2018 Catamount Cup

Courtesy Vermont Sports Information

BURLINGTON –– The Vermont Catamounts erased a two-goal deficit and took a 4-2 win over the RPI Engineers behind three power play goals Saturday night at Gutterson Fieldhouse.

With the win, Vermont claims the 2018 Catamount Cup, presented by TD Bank and Delta Hotels by Marriott, with a 2-0 record and +5 goal differential. Northeastern is the tournament runner-up, finishing the tournament unbeaten but with a +3 goal differential.

The Catamounts win their third straight game and improve to 7-8-1 overall (1-6-1 HEA). RPI drops to 4-13-0 (3-5-0 ECAC) with its seventh straight loss.

“Obviously we got those two quick ones and sometimes that’s all you need is for those one or two to go in, then the confidence comes back,” head coach Kevin Sneddon said. ” “I don’t know if something just clicked. The first power play we had, we didn’t score early on in it but if we could draw it up, it was exactly what we should do.”

The Engineers opened the night’s scoring at 16:43 of the first period. Kyle Hallbauer kept the puck in the Cat zone on the blue line and moved the puck across the middle of the ice to Chase Zieky in the right circle, who fired a low shot past Lekkas.
RPI doubled its lead with 3:26 remaining in the second period as a bouncing puck found Ture Linden in the slot for the Engineer goal.
Tommy Grant picked up a tripping penalty with 2:59 left in the second to give the Cats life. Just over a minute later, Jake Johnson was penalized for cross-checking to give Vermont 41 seconds of 5-on-3 play. Owen Grant fired a snapshot from the top of the circle into the back of the net with 1:06 left in the period.
Not to be outdone, Max Kaufman tied the game with half a second left on the clock during a delayed RPI penalty, its third penalty in the short span. Kaufman crashed the net and potted a Craig Puffer rebound for the equalizer.
Matt O’Donnell scored his second goal in as many nights 3:16 into the third period for Vermont’s third power play goal of the game. The captain ripped a one-time slap shot off a pass from Vlad Dzhioshvili. Sophomore Alex Esposito picked up the secondary assist on the man-up goal.
After nearly scoring an empty net goal from the Vermont end seconds earlier, Kaufman tallied his second of the game to seal the win and tournament for the Catamounts. His empty-netter came with 30 seconds left on the clock and was assisted by Joey Cipollone and Derek Lodermeier.
Vermont wins its seventh Catamount Cup under Kevin Sneddon and first since the 2015-16 season. UVM is 19-7-2 all-time in the Catamount Cup under Sneddon.
Vermont put 52 shots on goal, marking the most pucks on net since Vermont put 49 shots up against Merrimack in a scoreless tie at Gutterson Fieldhouse in February 2015.
After scoring four power play goals in its first 15 games, Vermont exploded for
Kaufman’s goal with a half second left in the second period was the second such goal scored by Vermont this season. Ace Cowans accomplished the same feat in overtime against UConn at Gutterson Fieldhouse in early November.
O’Donnell, Puffer, and Lekkas earned spots on the Catamount Cup All-Tournament team and O’Donnell picked up tournament MVP honors. RPI’s Patrick Polino and Northeastern’s Zach Solow and Jeremy Davies joined the trio of Cats on the tournament team.
UVM improves to 12-12-2 all-time in games played on December 29. The Cats have won four of their last six games on this date.
Lekkas moved into sole possession of fifth in program history with 2,413 saves. He is less than 400 stops shy of passing Tom Draper ’87 for fourth in Catamount history.
With the victory, the Cats Win, Community Wins campaign and Vermont Mutual Insurance Group will donate another $100 to the Boys and Girls Club of Burlington, bringing this year’s total to 118 wins and $11,800.
Vermont remains in Burlington and hosts its final non-conference opponents next weekend at Gutterson Fieldhouse. Sacred Heart and Vermont meet next Friday (Jan. 4) for a 7:05 p.m. start before former-ECAC foe Clarkson returns to Gutterson for a 5:00 p.m. start on Sunday (Jan. 6). Tickets for both games are available by clicking here or calling the UVM Athletic Ticket Office at 802-656-4410