Courtesy Vermont Sports Information
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Mario Puskarich netted a pair of goals and Mike Santaguida registered 24 saves as Vermont blanked No. 8 Minnesota 3-0 in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game at Mariucci Arena on Saturday night. The Catamounts begin the season 1-0-0, while the Golden Gophers drop to 0-1-0.
“That’s a good win for the guys,” said head coach Kevin Sneddon. “I thought we got better as the game wore on. We played a really smart third period. We played to win. We had a lot of first-year players in key situations and our returning players stepped up and showed them how to win in the third.”
UVM killed off two consecutive Minnesota power plays in the early minutes against the nation’s top power play unit from last season.
Puskarich opened the scoring with just 10 seconds remaining in the first period. Linemate Brady Shaw deflected a pass into the left side of the Minnesota zone, and Puskarich wristed a shot that deflected off the chest of Eric Schierhorn and trickled over the goal line.
After making 10 first period saves, Santaguida stopped 10 more Gopher shots in the middle frame to preserve the one-goal lead. The Catamounts absorbed some Minnesota pressure and killed off an additional power play as Puskarich nearly buried a shorthanded chance at the left doorstep.
Brendan Bradley came inches away from doubling the lead late in the period, but the junior missed the net high to the left with a wrister from the low slot.
Less than five minutes into the third, Puskarich took a pass down the left wing from Trey Phillips and added an insurance goal. The junior’s initial effort was gloved away by Schierhorn, but Puskarich followed up and finished his own rebound from a tough angle along the left doorstep. Phillips posted his first career point with the assist.
Led by four blocked shots, including two from last year’s team-leader in blocks Alexx Privitera, UVM killed off a fourth Gopher power play and held its two-goal cushion into the closing minutes.
Minnesota pulled Schierhorn for an extra skater with less then 90 seconds to play, and Jonathan Turk tapped in a rebound off a Liam Coughlin shot for an empty-netter to seal the victory. The assist was Coughlin’s first collegiate point.
Vermont finished 4-for-4 on the penalty kill and out-shot Minnesota 27-24 on the night. Santaguida was only forced to make four saves in the final period as the junior picked up his fifth career shutout.
“Mike was great. He didn’t see a ton of Grade A shots other than on the power play but he looked so calm and poised in the net and that gave our guys a lot of confidence,” Sneddon said.
Vermont returns to Gutterson Fieldhouse next weekend to host 2015 Frozen Four participant Nebraska Omaha for a two-game series on Friday, Oct. 16 and Saturday, Oct. 17 at 7:05 p.m. Both games will be streamed for free on CatamounTV.com, and pre-game radio coverage begins each night at 6:30 p.m. each night on WVMT 620-AM and SportsJuice.com.