Men’s Ice Hockey: Cats Top Huskies in Hockey East Opener 3-2

Courtesy Vermont Sports Information

BOSTON, MA. —¬†Sophomore Craig Puffer scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner with 5:05 remaining in the third period, to lead Vermont past reigning Hockey East champion Northeastern 3-2 on Sunday afternoon in the teams’ league opener at Matthews Arena.

UVM won its third straight game and improved to 4-1-1 (1-0-0 HEA) after wins over the 16th-ranked Huskies and No. 11 Michigan this weekend. NU dropped to 3-2-2 (0-1-0 HEA) and saw its 13-game home unbeaten streak come to an end.

“We found a way to win as a group in the third period,” said head coach Kevin Sneddon.¬†“Puff’s obviously been great for us offensively in the early going but he’s done a lot of things well for us. He’s played well at both ends, on the penalty kill, blocking shots and taking faceoffs.”

Adam Gaudette opened the scoring for Northeastern just 45 seconds into the game as he deked into the left wing circle and beat Stefanos Lekkas (24 saves) with a wrist shot blocker side.

The Catamounts answered back on their second power play of the period when Max Daigle fired a wrist shot on target from the top of the left circle. Puffer was camped out at the edge of the crease and deflected the puck as it trickled under the pads of Ryan Ruck (26 saves). South Boston native Liam Coughlin collected the second assist at the 5:05 mark.

NU recaptured the lead exactly a minute later on an individual effort from Dylan Sikura. The junior stick-handled around a pair of Vermont defensemen through the left circle and out-waited Lekkas before burying a low shot from a weak angle.

UVM out-shot Northeastern 13-6 in the first period but trailed by one heading into intermission.

Near the midway point of the contest, Matt Alvaro tied the score once again with his second goal of the weekend. Kevin Irwin sent a blind backhand pass to the left doorstep for Alvaro, and the rookie finished past a sprawling Ruck for a 2-2 deadlock. Mario Puskarich picked up the secondary assist on the play and led the team with seven shots on goal in his season debut.

With 8:09 left in the third, Lekkas robbed the Huskies of the go-ahead goal on a spectacular glove save to deny defenseman Eric Williams, whose shot was labeled for the upper right corner.

Puffer gave the Catamounts the lead for good later in the third as he collected a breakout pass from Jarrid Privitera at neutral ice. Puffer gained the NU line with speed, skated wide around the defense below the left faceoff dot, and beat Ruck five-hole with a low wrist shot. The game-winning tally gave Puffer his first career multi-goal game and a team-high seven points on the season.

UVM finished the afternoon 4-for-4 on the penalty kill and closed the weekend a perfect 9-for-9. The Cats have now won six of their last seven games at Matthews Arena, while Lekkas (3-0-1) remained unbeaten in net this year.

Vermont continues a four-game road swing with a two-game Hockey East series against fifth-ranked UMass Lowell next weekend at Tsongas Center. The Catamounts and River Hawks face off on Friday (Nov. 4) at 7:15 p.m. and Saturday (Nov. 5) at 7 p.m. Pre-game radio coverage begins 30 minutes prior to faceoff on WVMT 620-AM with live audio via Sports Juice.