Durham, NH- The race for the Hockey East Tournament is among the most fascinating in the whole country. Eight of the eleven teams make it. Entering the weekend, New Hampshire sat in ninth place but was only five points behind the first placed teams. A Friday night win over Vermont boosted their standing. Saturday night gave the Wildcats a chance to sweep the Catamounts and they did.
The first two periods felt rather slow. UNH did have some offensive punch in the first, outshooting UVM 14-8, but relatively few shots felt like high danger chances. The second period saw an 8-6 shot counter for UNH. The teams also combined for ten penalties through the first forty minutes of play that slowed the pace down to a crawl.
UVM capitalized on a UNH power play mistake in the second for the first goal of the night. Derek Lodermeier and Corey Moriarty combined for a smooth transition play with Moriarty recording his first goal of the season.
Early in the third, New Hampshire benefited from a major penalty on Vlad Dzhioshvili. Seventeen seconds into the major and 30 seconds into the third, Max Gildon ripped home his seventh goal of the season to tie the game. New Hampshire peppered the Vermont net with an 18-3 shot majority. Stefanos Lekkas held his own in the net until the 15:14 mark. Eric MacAdams feathered a pass from behind the net to Filip Engaras in the slot. The sophomore from Stockholm, Sweden, deposited the puck in the net for his seventh goal of the year and a 2-1 Wildcat lead. New Hampshire held on through the final minutes to secure the win by that 2-1 margin.
Vermont drops to 3-20-4 (0-15-2 HEA). They sit in last place in Hockey East with only two HEA points.
“I thought our team played hard tonight,” commented UVM Head Coach Kevin Sneddon. “I thought we played a pretty good game until the third. But the better team won this weekend for sure.”
Stefanos Lekkas stopped 38 of 40 shots.
The Catamounts return home next weekend to host the Providence College Friars. Puck drops at 7:05 pm ET at Gutterson Fieldhouse for both the Friday and Saturday night games.
New Hampshire improves to 15-11-2 (9-8-1 HEA). They jump from ninth to a tie for fifth with Boston University in a crowded Hockey East field. The gap from first place to out of the Hockey East playoffs completely is seven points.
“It’s the first time all year we’ve swept a Hockey East weekend,” observed UNH Head Coach Mike Souza. “We knew it was gonna be tight. We knew Lekkas can steal a game. He almost did. Especially with the power play advantage tonight. Tight weekend, but we saw it through. I was proud of my guys.”
Mike Robinson stopped 16 of 17 shots faced.
UNH plays a home and home series with BU next weekend. Puck drops at 7 pm ET for games at the Whittemore Center on Friday night and at Agganis Arena on Saturday night.