Men’s Hockey: Vermont Rallies For 2-2 Tie at Maine

Courtesy Vermont Sports Information

ORONO, ME.  Ross Colton‘s two goals just four seconds into consecutive power plays in the third period helped Vermont claw back and earn a 2-2 tie against the Maine Black Bears on Friday night. A 41-save effort from Stefanos Lekkas to tie his career-high helped UVM secure a point in the Hockey East matchup at Alfond Arena.

The Catamounts move to 4-9-2 (1-5-2 HEA) on the 2017-18 campaign, while Maine pushes its record to 5-7-1 (3-4-1 HEA). Vermont extended its unbeaten streak over the Black Bears to five (3-0-2) with the comeback.

“Stef was sensational,” head coach Kevin Sneddon said. “He was unreal. His positioning was excellent. He tracked the puck extremely well. He swallowed a lot of things that were potential rebounds and made some huge saves. He was very composed.”

The conference foes skated to a scoreless first two periods with Lekkas making 28 saves in the opening 40 minutes.

Goals finally came in the third period when Peter Housakos opened the scoring for Maine with 14:34 left in regulation. Black Bears’ winger Cedric Lacroix burst into the Vermont zone before lifting a pass across the crease to a streaking Housakos, who batted the puck out of the air past Lekkas for the 1-0 lead.

Less than four minutes later, Canon Pieper doubled the lead for the hosts. Tim Doherty fed Pieper down the right wing during 4-on-4 action, and the forward found a gap in the Vermont slot before firing a low wrister inside the left post.

Colton, who led all players with nine shots on goal, started the comeback for UVM on the power play with 6:34 left in regulation. Max Kaufman flew by a Black Bear defender and drew a penalty that led to the man-advantage. Craig Puffer won the faceoff back to Matt O’Donnell, who hesitated before dishing the puck to Colton. The sophomore quickly fired a one-time shot from the high slot off the crossbar and in to beat Jeremy Swayman (22 saves).

With 1:43 left in regulation, the Catamounts were awarded another power play and elected to call their timeout and pull Lekkas for a 6-on-4 advantage. Brian Bowen and Derek Lodermeier combined to win the ensuing faceoff directly to Colton at the right point. Colton then fired a low shot through traffic to tie the game on his seventh power play goal of the season and 10th overall, both of which lead Hockey East.

“We’re down two and the guys did a pretty good job on the power play,” added Sneddon. “Maine is pretty aggressive and we moved the puck and got the key shots both on the 5-on-4 and the 6-on-4.”

Colton nearly capped off his second hat trick of the season in overtime, but Swayman made a sprawling right pad save on a 2-on-1 to preserve a point for Maine. The teams combined for nine shots on goal during a back-and-forth extra session.

Lekkas registered a career-high 41 saves for the third time this season and pushed his NCAA-leading total to 467.

Vermont returns to Alfond Arena on Saturday (Dec. 2) to finish the weekend series with Maine at 5 p.m.