HARTFORD, Conn. – UConn junior goaltender Rob Nichols (Dallas, Texas) made 34 saves but the Vermont Catamounts kept the Husky offense in check on the way to a 2-1 win Friday night in game one of a Hockey East Opening Round series at the XL Center. Vermont got the game-winning goal from Rob Darrar in the second period to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three playoff series.
Vermont junior goaltender Mike Santaguida gave up a first period goal but kept a clean sheet the rest of the way, stopping 32 UConn shots to pick up the win in goal. The Catamounts held a 36-33 edge on shots in the win.
The Catamounts struck first and early in the first period as senior defenseman Alexx Privitera found the back of the net just 1:28 into the game. Off a face-off in the UConn zone, Craig Puffer won the draw back to Trey Phillips who sent the puck cross-ice to Privitera on the blue line. Privitera let go a wrist shot from just inside the blue line that crossed-up Nichols, beating the goaltender five-hole to give UVM a 1-0 lead.
The Huskies knotted the game at 1-1 just over midway through the period. Sophomore Jesse Schwartz (Toronto, Ontario) sent classmate Spencer Naas (Minnetonka, Minn.) up the left wing on a 2-on-1 break-out. Naas elected to shoot on the odd-man rush and got enough on his shot to beat Santaguida five-hole for his ninth goal on the season at 13:45.
UConn looked as if they would head to the locker room up 2-1 thanks to some late heroics by senior Shawn Pauly (Bellingham, Wash.). With the clock running down, Pauly burst through the left circle and got a shot on net. Santaguida made the stop, but Pauly flew around the net and stabbed the loose puck rebound in as time expired. After a review, the goal was overturned as it did not cross the line before the period ended, keeping it tied 1-1 at the first break.
UVM got the only other goal they would need at 13:42 in the second as sophomore Rob Darrar found the back of the net for the first time this season. Kevin Irwin fired a shot on Nichols who made the stop but Darrar was waiting at the right post to clean up the rebound for a 2-1 advantage.
From there, Santaguida and the Catamounts kept the Husky offense at bay. UConn pulled Nichols with 1:03 left in the third for the extra skater and had several looks but couldn’t sneak the tying goal pas the junior netminder.
Both teams finished 0-for-2 on the power play Friday night.
The Huskies will host Vermont Saturday night at the XL Center for game two of their Hockey East opening round series. Opening face-off is scheduled for 7:05 pm.
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