Courtesy Vermont Sports Information
HARTFORD, CT. – Rookie Brian Bowen followed up a blocked pass for the game-winning goal with just 1:19 left in the third period to snap a 3-3 tie against 8-seed UConn on Saturday night and send 9-seed Vermont into the Hockey East Quarterfinals for the third straight season.
UVM (14-20-3) swept UConn (11-21-4) at the XL Center in two games to clinch the first round series and will play either 1-seed Boston College or 2-seed Providence next weekend on the road. The Catamounts’ opponent depends on the result of Game 3 between 7-seed Merrimack and 10-seed UNH on Sunday.
Senior captain Yvan Pattyn scored his first goal of the season midway through the third period to knot the game at three before Bowen’s late winner. Mike Santaguida stopped 24 shots and picked up his 25th career win in the Catamount net.
“Sometimes in playoffs, everyone has a role to play, but with line matching and so much at stake, it might be the third line that does it,” said head coach Kevin Sneddon. “Friday night, Rob Darrar gets the winning goal. Tonight Bowen does, and Yvan’s goal, talk about a laser beam.”
Karl El-Mir struck first for UConn after a lengthy offensive shift below the UVM goal line from UConn’s checking line. Joey Ferriss fed El-Mir as he cut above the right goal line and spun a low shot under Santaguida’s pads to open the scoring.
Shortly after a 5-on-3 power play expired with heavy pressure, Vermont kept the puck in the offensive zone and tied the game on a 5-on-4. Brendan Bradley ripped a pass across the zone to Mario Puskarich, who beat Rob Nichols (28 saves) high short side for his 10th of the year to tie the team lead.
Three minutes later, Conor O’Neil gained the UConn zone along the right boards and deked toward the right doorstep. The rookie threw the puck in front, and it deflected through the five-hole of Nichols off a UConn defenseman to give UVM its first lead. Craig Puffer picked up the only assist on the play at 15:13.
The Catamounts out-shot the Huskies 10-4 in the opening 20 minutes, but Connecticut took the lead back with a pair of goals in the first eight minutes of the second. El-Mir dangled around a UVM defenseman in the right faceoff circle and wristed a shot into the upper left corner at 2:18 to tie the score with his second goal of the night.
UConn then went on a two-man advantage and capitalized through Tage Thompson at the 7:35 mark for a 3-2 cushion. Max Letunov faked a shot in the high slot and dropped a pass into the left circle for Thompson, who beat Santaguida blocker side with a heavy one-timer.
The Huskies kept Vermont at bay for the first half of the third period until Pattyn collected the puck after a collision at neutral ice. The captain gained the middle of the zone before firing a shot high blocker side to beat Nichols into the upper left corner.
The teams traded chances but the game remained tied heading into the final 90 seconds. Bowen won a puck battle along the left wing boards and tried to throw a backhand pass to Kevin Irwin in the slot. UConn blocked the feed, sending Nichols the wrong way, and Bowen capitalized by roofing a shot for the decisive goal. Linemate Rob Darrar picked up the lone assist on the game-winning tally, Bowen’s third of the season.
“That line was just put together this weekend and they came up with two of the goals this weekend,” added Sneddon. “We were trying to find a little more offense and they played a great weekend for us.”
The Huskies pulled Nichols for an extra skater down the stretch, but UVM held on to sweep the series and advance for the third straight year under the new Hockey East playoff format.
All the action in the quarterfinals will be streamed live on a pay-per-view basis at HockeyEastOnline.TV. Radio coverage begins 30 minutes before faceoff on WVMT 620-AM, SportsJuice.com, and the TuneIn app with Alastair Ingram on the call. Check back to UVMathletics.com for opponent information and game times.