BURLINGTON, Vt. – UConn sophomore Tage Thompson (Orange, Conn.) scored a pair of goals but the Huskies came up short, falling at No. 12 Vermont, 5-4, Friday night in a Hockey East match-up at Gutterson Field House. The loss drops the Huskies to 9-9-6 overall and 5-5-2 in Hockey East play this season.
Vermont’s Matt Alvaro scored twice for the Catamounts, including the game-winner, as UVM improves to 16-7-2 overall and 8-4-1 in the league. Freshman goaltender Stefanos Lekkas made 30 saves to earn the win in net. Alvaro was joined by Mario Puskarich, Jarrid Privitera and Brian Bowens on the scoresheet.
The Catamounts built a 3-0 lead early in the second period and never trailed as the Huskies twice pulled within down a goal. Sophomore Karl El-Mir (Montreal, Quebec) pulled the Huskies to within 3-2 in the second and Thompson’s second got UConn within 4-3 in the third.
Sophomore Maxim Letunov (Moscow, Russia) scored late for UConn, getting the Huskies to within 5-4 in the closing minutes. The Huskies held a 34-32 edge on shots in the loss and both teams finished 1-of-2 on the power play.
UConn’s Adam Huska (Zvolen, Slovakia) got the start in goal and made 10 saves but allowed three goals before being pulled in the second. Senior Rob Nichols (Dallas, Texas) came in and stopped 17 in relief.
Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh – “The disappointing part of the game is we spotted them a three goal lead. I actually thought the game was pretty even, so may ebbs and flows. We carried the play, they carried the play. The got the three goals and then we turned it around and pulled within 3-2. We came out in the third and were all over them put couldn’t find that tying goal. It was just a back and forth game but they just got one more goal then we did tonight.”
Vermont extended their lead in the all-time series to 22-2-1 and have now won five-straight against the Huskies. The two teams will meet again next Friday, January 27th at the XL Center in Hartford.
Thompson had his sixth multi-goal game of the season, and ninth of his career. Friday’s loss marks the first UConn loss when Thompson scores two or more in a game (7-1-1).
El-Mir returned to the UConn line-up for the first time since the UMass game on December 9th and scored his seventh goal of the season. He missed five games due to illness.
Letunov had a goal and an assist, his team-leading ninth multi-point game this season. Senior Evan Richardson (Nanaimo, British Columbia) had a pair of assists in the loss, his fifth multi-point game on the year.
The Huskies had a 13-11 edge on the shot chart but Vermont ended the first period with a 2-0 edge on the scoreboard. Puskarich gave his team a 1-0 lead at 7:49 of the first period, taking advantage of a UConn turnover in their zone. Freshman Ross Colton caused a turnover on the right half boards and chipped the puck to Puskarich who beat Huska with a back-hander from the right circle for his eighth.
The Catamounts went up 2-0 at 17:06 of the period. UVM won a puck battle in the neutral zone and Puskarich broke up the right wing setting up a 2-on-1 chance. A center pass found the hard charging Alvaro who put it home over Huska’s right shoulder for his sixth on the year.
UVM pushed their lead to 3-0 just 2:28 into the second period. Taking advantage of another UConn turnover in their own zone, Liam Coughlin sent a cross-ice pass to Privitera who one-timed it past Huska for his seventh of the season. Following the goal, the Huskies went to Nichols in net in relief of Huska.
UConn tacked two quick goals on the board, just 46 seconds apart to get back in the game. Thompson crashed the net and chipped home a shot by Miles Gendron (Shrewsbury, Mass.) for his 15th goal on the season. The Huskies went on the power play just 12 seconds later and El-Mir made it 3-2 at 4:48, backhanding a shot over the glove of Lekkas at the right post, his seventh this season.
Vermont pushed their lead back to two goals with a power play goal of their own at 9:53. Bowen got his sixth of the season, from Brady Shaw and Matt O’Donnell.
Thompson pulled UConn to within 4-3 with his second of the night just 2:39 into the final stanza. The Huskies got a quick transition with Jesse Schwartz (Toronto, Ontario) carrying into the zone and feeding Thompson trailing in the slot. The sophomore ripped a shot past Lekkas for his 16th on the season.
UVM again had an answer, making it 5-3 with just over five minutes to play. A 2-on-1 chance saw Alvaro break up the right wing and beating Nichols at the right post for his second of the game at 14:55.
UConn pulled Nichols with just under two minutes left for the extra attacker and it payed off with 1:17 left as Letunov buried one in front, his sixth on the season, to pull within 5-4. UConn got Nichols off again with just under a minute left, but couldn’t find the equalizer.
UConn will head to No. 10 Boston College on Tuesday, January 24th. Opening face-off is scheduled for 7:00 pm.